The indications were unmistakable – industry professionals dashing about; high-pressure meetings conducted knee-to-knee around cramped tables; and conversations with commissioning editors interrupted by ‘Can I talk to you about my proposal?’ Doc buyers and sellers were keen to get down to business at the Sunny Side of the Doc market in Marseille, France (June 25 to 28), especially after war fears resulted in a lukewarm miptv (March 24 to 28) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (sars) deterred overseas participants from attending Toronto’s Hot Docs festival (April 25 to May 4).
Overall attendance for Sunny Side’s 14th edition was more than 1,500, up from 1,357 in 2002, with 280 broadcaster delegates, an increase from 220 the year before. As for exhibitors, 375 set up shop in the Palais du Pharo, up 60% from 2002.
Part of Sunny Side’s allure is that it’s one of the last international markets before the summer holiday period. That, combined with the knowledge of poor deal-making conditions at MIPTV and Hot Docs, added a sense of urgency to the event, notes Doris Weitzel, head of sales and development at Paris distrib Point du Jour International. ‘It was like, ‘We have to get a decision now or else wait for the fall,” she says.
Anne Roder-Botbol, sales executive for France and Germany at U.K. distrib Channel 4 International, observed, ‘All the French that count in documentaries were there, and quite a lot of Germans as well.’ She noted that C4 had a full slate of meetings over the three days of the market, and that several projects moved closer to being green-lighted. Projects she was representing include those of two London-based prodcos: World of Wonder’s On the Trail of George W. Bush (3 x 50 minutes), and Stone City Film’s one-off Field Hospital.
Roder-Botbol adds that part of what distinguishes Sunny Side from events such as the Reed Midem-operated mips is a ‘kind of family atmosphere, because it’s still a reasonable size.’
Although the event has grown and emerged this year as one of the key must-attend international doc markets, organizers intend to keep that casualness, says Sunny Side spokesperson Vanessa Brouillet. There is no debate-style pitching forum, because Sunny Side attendees ‘prefer to have different ways of talking with commissioning editors and buyers,’ explains Brouillet.
Joan González, head of Barcelona-based prodco Parallel 40, has been attending Sunny Side for more than five years. One criticism he had after heading to Marseille this year is that there weren’t enough overseas buyers. ‘It’s too French, instead of being an international event,’ he explained.
Four awards were handed out on June 26, three in support of works-in-progress and one to a completed documentary. The 10,000 euros (US$11,300) Olivier Masson prize went to In the Darkness (Serguei Dvortsevoi); the Voyage prize went to Paris-Marseille (Sebastián Martinez); and the National Film Board of Canada/France 2 prize went to two feature-doc projects: Tabac (Nadia Colleau) and Yamakasi (Mark Daniels). The Golden Link copro award went to Chavez, a coproduction of Ireland’s RTE, Germany’s ZDF, European channel ARTE and the BBC, among others. Produced by Galway, Ireland-based Power Pictures, Chavez wrapped last winter.