When Cara Mertes, director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, introduced the afternoon session of the second North American Good Pitch at Silverdocs, she said it was hard to put together, as all of the pitches are so good that it’s a lot of work to make sure the projects get the support they deserve.
This sentiment was reflected in both the quality of the pitches as well as the enthusiasm from participating organizations who were on hand to offer advice and, in the best case scenario, a commitment to get on board with a project.
The most enthusiastic response had to have come from Art Stevens, relationship manager at the Calvert Foundation, when he told filmmakers Megan Gelstein and Rick Butler that he would write them a check for $10,000 after their pitch. Gelstein and Butler were pitching Green Shall Overcome, a feature-length doc following Van Jones, an African-American civil rights lawyer who started Green For All, which advocates for the creation of more ‘green collar’ jobs and a green energy economy. Though Stevens was enthusiastic about the project, he also said he thought Jones was not the real story, calling for more of a focus on the green collar job movement and the youth in the East Bay area who are benefiting from job training, which he feels is more compelling.
The runner-up for most enthusiastic was Ryan Harrington, adviser for the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, who said he had an ‘out of body experience’ after seeing the trailer for Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer’s Out in the Silence. Wilson and Hamer’s doc came about after the married couple posted their wedding announcement in the New York Times, Hamer’s hometown paper, and Wilson decided to post one in the local paper in his hometown, Oil City in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Watching the trailer, which depicts the reaction to gay marriage in this rural town and the stories of homosexuals who are making lives for themselves there, Harrington recognized the town as one in which he’d lived and proclaimed that if this film had come across his desk sooner he would have been all over it. Mertes then passed him a note which read ‘Let’s make a feature’, striking up a conversation about how this one-hour TV doc could grow into a theatrical project.
Other pitches included Stephen Maing’s High Tech, Low Life, which dealt with citizen journalism in the form of a young Chinese blogger who became a source for a New York Times article, and Cape Wind, a doc which follows the contentious fight over installing wind turbines at Cape Cod and which has been picked up by the Sundance Channel for broadcast in North America.