Sheffield Doc/Fest preview: cross-over challenges and pitching possibilities

Ahead the start of the 19th annual Sheffield Doc/Fest on Wednesday (June 13), festival director Heather Croall (pictured) shares details of pitching opportunities and discusses what to expect from the event's Crossover Summit.
June 11, 2012

Ahead the start of the 19th annual Sheffield Doc/Fest on Wednesday (June 13), festival director Heather Croall (pictured) shares details of pitching opportunities and discusses what to expect from the event’s Crossover Summit.

In a first for Sheffield Doc/Fest, the five day festival will this year feature two opening night events, with the UK premiere of Malik Bendjelloul’s feature doc Searching for Sugarman, and the world premiere of Penny Woolcock’s interactive documentary From the Sea to the Land Beyond.

The latter, an interactive film, was coproduced by Doc/Fest and Crossover Labs, and commissioned by The Space. It screens with a live score from English indie rock band British Sea Power.

“It sounds like an experimental thing, but I think it will become quite a landmark example of something people will look to when they want to see what a cross-platform project looks like,” festival director Heather Croall told realscreen.

Doc/Fest, which places a heavy emphasis on interactivity, will continue to do so at this year’s fest with the return of a day dedicated to the form. The Crossover Summit, taking place on June 13, will see film and TV producers learning about production timelines for cross-platform projects, new funding opportunities, and case studies. Croall says the theme of the Crossover Summit will be the future of commissioning.

In addition to the many previously reported pitching competitions taking place during this year’s festival, Croall says UKTV has now joined the fray. The British network, which has channels including Good Food, Eden, Home, Yesterday and Blighty under its umbrella, will be looking for free-form docs and character-led stories about eccentric people at its UKTV Innovation Fund Pitch.

“UKTV is a great partner for us because it’s not a network that has been a documentary opportunity [in the past],” Croall said. “It’s a whole new area for them.” She added that UKTV is looking for short docs outside of the pitch competition, as is Australia’s ABC arts commissioner.

“There’s something in the air at the moment for producers with short documentary that have never had a life on the telly,” she said.

In all, there will be about £200,000 (USD$309,000) on the table for pitch competitions.

As for the film side, Croall said she received a lot of docs in the resistance strand, citing ½ Revolution and We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists as examples, while green docs were also heavily represented, with Phil Agland’s Baka: A Cry From the Rainforest and Alan Ereira’s Aluna screening during the festival.

On the subject of Doc/Fest’s retrospective on Dziga Vertov, Croall added: “People always love to see archive. We’ve had a long term relationship with the BFI, with one or two slots where we show the classics and it’s amazing how popular they are, so that’s why we’re going with the Vertov retrospective.

“Last year we did one on Albert Maysles and it was so popular. I think there’s a lot of focus on premieres and the Maysles retrospective reminded us it was important to look back, as well as forward.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.