Sunny Side looks for Eastern opportunities

Sunny Side of the Doc, which kicks off in La Rochelle tomorrow, will this year feature a major focus on the Asian factual sector, with a number of execs from Chinese networks attending the French event for the first time. (pictured: Sunny Side founder Yves Jeanneau)
June 20, 2011

Sunny Side of the Doc, which kicks off in La Rochelle tomorrow, will this year feature a major focus on the Asian factual sector, with a number of execs from Chinese networks attending the French event for the first time.

The 22nd edition of the event will run from June 21-24 and feature commissioners, producers and distributors from across Asia, with attending networks including CCTV, Beijing TV, Sun TV, KBS, NHK and Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

“For the first time we can really see that the Asian documentary market is really working,” Sunny Side founder and CEO Yves Jeanneau (pictured above) told realscreen. “It’s not an idea, it really works – specifically the Chinese market, which is really up now.

“This year I have more than 30 channels coming [from Asia], including CCTV; the documentary channel CCTV9, which was launched in January this year; and CCTV10, which offers science and education.”

Jeanneau said that with the combined CCTV channels serving a potential Chinese audience of some 900 million people, the attendance of execs from the network at his event is crucial. “It’s not only CCTV,” he added, “we also have four major producers coming from China.

“They have a completely different way of working from what we are used to in the West, but they are really keen to work with Western companies. It’s a great opening – they basically don’t have enough domestic stuff to fit their channels. From my point of view, this, in the coming years, will really change the documentary market landscape.”

On June 21, the event will host the majority of its Asian focused events, with a Science & History Programs in Asia session; a New Asian Opportunities panel; a Chinese Language Documentary Market session; and a special screening of NHK’s The Japan Tsunami: How They Survived.

Beyond Asia, this year’s Sunny Side will also feature a focus on the success of documentary films that were made for the cinema but have also transferred to TV.

“In France last year there were four times as many documentary movies in cinemas than the year before,” Jeanneau explained. “And it’s not just in France that we’re seeing this – in Taiwan, Hong Kong, in Latin American countries… not all over the world, but it is a trend I’d say.”

The trend reflects in Sunny Side’s choice of director Jacques Perrin (Océans, Winged Migration) as its special invitee for this year. Perrin will be launching the TV series Le Peuple des Oceans at the market, and his Vietnam film L’Empire Du Milieu Du Sud will also play at the event tomorrow evening.

While the overall number of attendees for this year’s market remains to be seen, Jeanneau is keen to trumpet the fact that there will be a considerable increase in the number of countries attending: 62, up 10 on last year’s 52. “The extension comes mainly from Latin America, Asia and Africa,” says Jeanneau, adding that the new attendees are a sign of the success Sunny Side has had with its spin-off events, Latin Side of the Doc and Asian Side of the Doc.

However, one of the reasons Sunny Side has had to look further afield for new delegates is the newfound competition caused by UK festival Sheffield Doc/Fest’s decision to move from its previous November perch to two weeks before the La Rochelle event – something Jeanneau acknowledges has made this year’s market more difficult.

“Yes, we’ve been affected,” he says. “I would say that some people from Northern Europe – some Germans, Nords, a few Canadians and Americans – have been attracted by the newness of Sheffield. I’m waiting to get feedback from people about their experiences at Sheffield and we’ll see for next year.

“My strategy was to expand the market to new territories and I can compensate – it’s not such a big deal, I think we’ll be at about the same numbers as last year. If I wanted to be positive I’d say that competition is a good thing, but on the other hand I’d say it’s stupid to have two events on at the same time. It’s not very fair, it’s not very friendly, but it’s a reality I have to face.”

One change Jeanneau is positive about is the introduction of telecoms giant Orange as a sponsor of the event. “For me, it’s really important – not just because it brings some more money, but because it’s a way to recognize various new ways of distributing content,” he explained, pointing to the Orange-sponsored Best International Projects Showcase – 3D and Cinema event on June 23, which will see six selected projects pitched to an international crowd of decision makers, with a focus on 3D.

Finally, Jeanneau highlights the event’s focus on new talent, which he says Sunny Side will this year promote “more than ever before.” He explains: “It is something I really check out when I travel the world – new producers, new directors… it’s something we really have to underline.

“Broadcasters are often not so keen to work with new directors – they want to work with experienced doc-makers – but it’s important to have this new talent come through and it is really something we are going to extend year upon year.”

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.