As many of you read this, chances are high that you’re on a plane, or a train, or some other mode of transportation, en route to an event or just leaving one. October has always been a busy month for non-fiction folk, but this year is exceptionally packed. First MIPCOM in Cannes, then Wildscreen in Bristol, followed by Barcelona’s upstart festival Docupolis, the World Congresses in Berlin (one each for science and history) and the Sheffield International Documentary Festival. And, that’s only a partial list.
For an industry that’s been hurting over the last year, this is a good sign. These events would not be happening unless there was business to conduct among a significant number of players (though the free drinks are good, too). That isn’t to say that the market has fully recovered; it hasn’t and may never again reach its previous heights. But, any industry that can support such a quantity of markets and festivals is at least capably surviving, if not exactly thriving.
Each of the three coproductions profiled in this issue’s mipcom report illustrates the merits of working the events circuit. In several cases, firm financial commitments came only after repeated meetings and pitches (often at events), but they did ultimately materialize, and from international sources.
One of the great ironies of these events is that they offer a perfect opportunity for attendees to commiserate about the sad state of the industry, even as they help to generate business. But, the complaining and the commerce are equally important. The former is a salve, a way to connect in a relatively isolated profession. The latter, quite simply, pays the bills and gives everyone something to complain about. Each is reason enough to pencil in at least a few industry gatherings on your agenda.
Selecting destinations is harder now, since there’s more to choose from, and money is still tight for most of us. A strategy of some sort is essential – perhaps choosing events that are geographically and chronologically close together, or hounding a particular commissioning editor (though respectfully and from a polite distance). The point is to get out there, where you have a fighting chance.
On a separate note, you may have noticed a new name on our masthead. This month, Deanna Wong joins RealScreen as copy chief/writer, completing our tight-knit crew. Jenny Hazan, who filled that role in the interim, is off to Israel as an intern for the Jerusalem Post. They’re both fantastic and we wish them well.