What can the doc industry do to nurture the next Michael Moore?
That question prompted British filmmaker and broadcaster Reggie Yates to launch a new initiative at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest, aimed at guiding the next generation of docmakers.
The inaugural Doc/Dinner, held on Monday (June 12), brought 20 young filmmakers together with execs from networks such as the BBC, Channel 4, The Guardian and Vice to chat about documentaries and some of the challenges of breaking into the industry over dinner and drinks.
The idea stemmed from Yates’ experience at last year’s festival. While he had “the most amazing time” during the day, skipping from cinema to cinema, he recalls not having anywhere to go after the last film finished.
“There were all these parties where everyone was going, but it was all hundreds of people I didn’t necessarily know and couldn’t relate to,” he says.
It motivated Yates to work with festival director Elizabeth McIntyre to develop a way for young filmmakers attending Sheffield Doc/Fest to connect with each other and have face time with some of the leading decision-makers in the industry.
“Credit goes to Liz for her willingness to say that factual and documentary programming are things that our kids are watching,” Yates tells realscreen. “We need to not always talk to the docmakers who we’ve been watching for 20 years — we need to talk to the new guys as well. Who will be the next Michael Moore? How do we find them?”
Yates hopes to make the Doc/Dinner into an annual event, as well as incorporate daily mixers for young filmmakers to meet, network, and generally have a place to show that they’re not alone.
“At Sheffield Doc/Fest, we’re not only surrounded by like minds — we’re surrounded by opportunity,” he says. “I want everyone to take advantage of that.”
Jessica Bishopp, a 26-year-old whose short film Lifespan was at the festival, participated in the dinner. She says while she enjoys meeting new people and networking, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd at some of the larger events.
“I came here (to the dinner) because it’s more relaxed and I knew it was going to be a smaller group and I was going to have the chance to spend a decent amount of time with people.”
Daire Collins, a London-based filmmaker, says the opportunity to sit down in an informal setting with some of the biggest players in the industry was invaluable.
Among the decision makers present were Charlie Phillips, head of documentary for The Guardian, Eloise King, i-D global executive producer and Vice UK digital programming exec and Rita Daniels, executive producer, documentaries at Channel 4.
For Yates’ part, he hopes to continue the conversation outside of the enclosed dinnerspace.
“This is a way to start a dialogue,” he says.