Docstar, the documentary financing and distribution unit of Vivendi Universal’s Paris-based Canal Plus Group, shut down in July, but the factual brand lives on within VU, as does its 400-hour catalog. ‘Documentaries in the group are now concentrated with Point du Jour, the group’s documentary production company, headed by Luc Martin-Gousset,’ says Andrew Solomon, the former commissioning editor at Docstar. The closure became effective with Solomon’s departure in July.
Solomon, now a freelance consultant, notes that all green-lit projects, including The Incredible Hulik (a copro with Austria’s ORF and Vienna’s Cosmos Factory) are receiving the promised funding.
The closing of the office reflects the pressures on Canal Plus’s parent to drastically reduce costs (as disclosed in the summer), as well as ‘the changing nature of the documentary market and the role of distribution in financing films,’ Solomon says.
The end did not come swiftly. Discussions for the takeover of Docstar’s French-territory rights by Paris-based Point du Jour took several months, says Doris Weitzel, head of sales and development at Point du Jour. London-based Explore International continues to hold international rights to the catalog.
Point du Jour and Docstar maintained close relations for years through the Canal Plus Group, says Weitzel. She notes that Studio Canal, Canal Plus’s feature film and television production division with which Docstar was affiliated, remains the owner of Docstar’s entire catalog.
Founded in 1990, Docstar built up its catalog by investing in international documentary copros in exchange for distribution rights. It is a business model that is increasingly unpopular.
Docstar, the brand, ‘has an ongoing life,’ Weitzel says. ‘A label is a label, and people still talk about it.’ Weitzel also notes that Point du Jour is in discussions about possible coproductions with former Docstar partners. She declined to say which ones.
Weitzel is quick to point out that Point du Jour will not replace Docstar. ‘We are the [French territory] distributor of the existing Docstar catalog, but we are not taking over Docstar’s role of financing internationally.’ She adds, ‘Point du Jour doesn’t have the budget for that.’