The lucky number for Israel-based Topia Communications was five at the fifth annual MIPDOC Co-production Challenge. Five lucky producers were selected to pitch their projects to some formidable players: Caroline Behar, France 5′s head of acquisition and international coproductions; Takahiro Hamano, NHK’s senior producer of international coproductions; Tabitha Jackson, editor, More4, Channel 4 Television; and AETN All Asia Networks’ Michele Schofield, director of content, program acquisitions and production. The jury president was Maryanne Culpepper, EVP editorial and new business development at National Geographic Channel.
Topia’s Nisan Katz was the fifth producer up to pitch Locker Room, a documentary that focuses on the human drama inside football locker rooms (or soccer locker rooms, for North Americans). Filming is taking place in three locations: Nepal, where Buddhist monks are not allowed to go to the games and choose to play each other; Zanzibar, following one young man’s hopes of being discovered by a scout; and Nazareth, where Israelis and Palestinians come together to play.
Katz said the project will show footage of the locker room before, during, and after the game and will be available as either a one-hour doc or a 5 x 24-minute series.
The judges awarded Locker Room with the win, which came with prizes like free entry to MIPDOC and 2010′s Realscreen Summit and a one-on-one meeting with a jury member during the event.
Post-MIPDOC, Katz says the judges liked the international scope of the project, which has a strong cross-cultural element. ‘The message is one that says there’s something beyond conflict between countries and religious cultures, that football can be the connection,’ says Katz.
The pitch was also helped by the fact that the doc will be ready for 2010, the year of the FIFA World Cup, when broadcasters will be seeking out football content.
Eyal Zusman, co-producer and co-director of Locker Room, says they’ve worked on the project for two years, which contributed to the power of the pitch. ‘We really understand [the project] and the main issues and on stage, after so much work, you can do [the pitch] very simply and enjoy it,’ says Zusman.
He also adds that the duo has been in conversations with networks from Japan to Europe and the US after winning the Co-production Challenge.
The other docs that had their moment in the spotlight were 1066: The Secrets of the Bayeux Tapestry from UK’s Espresso TV, a historical documentary with dramatic reconstruction; Heavy Metal Islam from France’s Bonne Pioche International and Moxie Firecracker in New York, covering metal in the Middle East; In the Line of Fire from South Africa’s Sojourn Film and Media, about Alan Boesak, the leader of anti-apartheid organization the United Democratic Front and directed by his daughter, and lastly, Prodigy Between the Notes from Estonia’s Baltic Film Productions, which documents a year in the life of Alex Prior, also known as ‘Little Mozart,’ a teen prodigy who has performed on the world’s stages.