Dogwoof chairman and co-founder Andy Whittaker (pictured) talks to realscreen at SXSW in Texas about the UK company’s plans for American expansion, and the ever-changing market for documentary funding.
How many times attending SXSW is this for you, and what do you think of the festival?
This will be number four. I think it’s really important, actually – obviously everyone goes to Sundance and IDFA, but SXSW had Undefeated last year [which Dogwoof has UK rights for]. The thing that I like about SXSW is that it picks a certain type of film, and I like that – you find something different here.
What do you think about the balance between Interactive and Film at SXSW?
Film was the focus when I first started and it still is, but the Interactive side is crazy now. The year that Twitter launched was the year I was first here, and obviously everyone is trying to be the new Twitter.
You do notice now that there’s a lot more Interactive, but I do think that’s one of the areas that we’re interested in: transmedia or cross-media. We are actually interested in that a lot, so I can see SXSW being a perfect home for that type of film or project.
Are you looking to acquire while you’re here?
Yes, definitely. It’s a mix of two things – we have Dreams of a Life and Girl Model playing here, but also we’re definitely on the lookout for some new titles. We take on around 12 a year, and we’re looking for strong stories, strong characters, and things that will stick in your mind after you watch them. Interesting films.
How many staff does Dogwoof have in the UK, and what do you currently have on your slate?
There are 12 of us. Bill Cunningham New York is out this week, Being Elmo we also have, as well as Dreams of a Life. And we have Undefeated, so we’ll be trying to convince the UK public about American football!
I gather you’re looking at launching a U.S. office at the moment?
Yes, definitely, on the East Coast – New York. Part of our film catalog is coming from the U.S., and we’re also doing global sales now as well, so we’re just trying to build that bridge between the U.S. and the UK. It’s a big country, but we’re looking at it as an adventure – it gives us a chance to expand and it’ll be interesting.
How do you find the market is for documentary financing at the moment?
It’s changing. TV money is less than it was, but other money is stepping in – some brands are coming, as are other grants – things like the Tribeca funds and pitching sessions, like at IDFA. But also, anyone can make a documentary these days. The costs of the cameras are lower – look at Undefeated, Gasland. Those are great examples of just raising a bit of budget and going to make your film.