There was a time when most doc-makers could rely on TV broadcasters to fully fund their projects. But as channels continue to cut back, many factual program-makers are left wondering where to find the money to make their shows. Tapping into that concern, the Alternative Financing for Docs conference (a new RealScreen event in New York City, September 24 and 25) attracted 150 doc makers looking for answers, or at least suggestions. They were not disappointed.
Patric Hedlund, head of Pine Mountain, U.S.-based prodco Dendrite Forest and author of The Breadcrumb Trail Through the PBS Jungle: The Producer’s Survival Guide, kicked off the event with her keynote address. ‘Too many producers are willing to accept too little money,’ she said, noting that filmmakers could learn from their counterparts in the music industry, who are waging battles over contractual rights.
From there, session topics ranged from the ultra-practical (Perfect Grant Writing; Working with ITVS & PBS) to the inspirational (Case Studies: Docs Funded by Foundations).
By far the most animated presentation was delivered by Chris Palmer, president and CEO of Reston, U.S.-based National Wildlife Productions (a division of the National Wildlife Federation). Palmer – who presented the Individual Investors: the Untapped, Elusive Market session with the authority of a preacher and the timing of an auctioneer – offered several useful nuggets, such as how to build rapport and the best response to ‘no’ (cheerfulness, tenacity, resiliency and understanding). One female delegate was so impressed she extended him an offer of marriage.
Another popular session focused on corporate partnerships and sponsorship packages. Panelist Dennis Gilliam, VP of sales and marketing for Milwaukie, U.S.-based Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, was particularly helpful, tipping delegates to two companies he thinks might be interested in strengthening their position in the marketplace (Pacific Foods and Kettle Foods). Bob’s Red Mill was one of three corporate sponsors for pbs living history series Frontier House.