A couple of things are contributing to this week’s 20th Anniversary edition of Sunny Side of the Doc living up to its name. First, there’s the weather – docmakers, broadcasters, distributors and others congregating at La Rochelle have been basking and baking in the heat of the past few cloudless days. But there’s also a perceptible mood at the event, to be found in conversations at exhibitor booths, on the terrace at L’espace Encan, and in the sessions dotting the conference. It’s a spirit of resilience; a belief there will be a ‘sunny side’ to the doom and gloom permeating the current wave of recession-era business.
Indeed, the mood was downright celebratory during last night’s fête for Sunny Side’s 20th anniversary. The floors of the Encan Auditorium were refitted with ‘grass’ as part of a loose green theme (which also involved green onion soup). General commissioner Yves Jeanneau (pictured with the Mayor of La Rochelle, Maxime Bono) was particularly primed to party, calling all members of the Sunny Side staff to center stage for a series of pictures with the 20th anniversary cake, which was decked out with fresh fruit. The dance floor and the adjoining karaoke room were both packed into the wee hours.
Content-wise, organizers have created a schedule of panels reflecting an optimism that not only is there a future for documentary (not coincidentally, the name and subject of one of the panels to be held Friday) but it will be one of opportunity for those willing to embrace change. Emerging media platforms and technologies were the stars of several sessions, with Daily Motion, 3D and YouTube being hot topics in the Digital Agora room. The YouTube presentation, ‘YouTube and You,’ was listed as a must-see by several delegates we polled, and featured a comprehensive overview of the steps the video hosting platform is taking to not be regarded as the ‘dogs on skateboards’ site. The session was predictably packed – with Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Home premiering simultaneously in cinemas, on TV and on YouTube, the site’s concerted foray into long-form content via its ‘Shows’ and ‘Movies’ sections and recent features such as the ability to geo-block content should rights holders require that, professional content creators are increasingly viewing YouTube as a potential partner. Judging from commentary amongst delegates, it’s safe to assume that today’s ‘UK Cable Channels – The Coproduction Future’ and ‘Innovative Funding for Documentaries’ panels will be similarly well-attended.
Also packing them in were the BIPS, or Best International Projects Showcases, in which international docmakers took part in organized, thematic pitch sessions. Categories of projects presented for funding and copro consideration included history, the environment, science, social/political, arts and culture, and series/films for cinema. Winners of each category, to be presented with a prize of 2,000 euros, will be announced tomorrow (Friday) during a press conference at Sunny Side.