`The truth is beauty and the beauty is truth’ was the motto for the Australian International Documentary Conference in Adelaide, with ‘direct cinema’ creator Albert Maysles stealing the show every time. Albert brought his Sony DVC camera with him everywhere to highlight what can now be achieved in the doc form.
Approximately 550 documentarians, producers, distributors and academics (80 of them international) came together to discuss the form, develop international programs and new technologies, and chew on what it means to be an Aussie.
Maysles described the process of good documentary making as ‘seeing what other people are seeing but not noticing,’ and said the secret to remaining objective is respect for the subjects, something which docusoaps don’t do. Michael Apted, just flown in from finishing the latest Bond flick, agreed, saying ‘docusoaps are the nail in our coffin, as all doco makers are beginning to be tarred with the same brush.’
The conference covered issues such as putting international legs on your doc, indigenous coproduction opportunities, and shooting conflict. Among the screenings were Chasing Buddha (director Amiel Courtin-Wilson), Bush Mechanics (Francis Kelly & David Batty), American Movie (Chris Smith), and the chilling The Specialist (Eyal Sivan).
Globalization (or Americanization) was a hot topic. It was argued by Don Wear, president of international policy for Discovery Networks International, that cable is now becoming the dominant global force. He spoke of Discovery creating a universal media audience with 96% of the broadcasting population located outside the U.S., and believes all companies should seek international collaborations.
A major feature of the conference was the one day pitch/co-financing session Documart (see page 18). Chaired by Pat Ferns, CEO of Banff TV Festival, the feedback was positive. Ten productions were selected for presentations, including one from New Zealand, two Canadian, one British, one from Australia/Belgium and one from Australia/Germany. (For Pitch ‘n Punt see pg. 14)
From a distributor perspective, Paul Black from Regina, Canada-based Minds Eye International says, with niches developing, distribution is becoming an overriding concern, as television remains the money engine. Minds Eye made four deals, contributing CDN$225,000 for top-up funding to one-off projects from five prodcos including Piper Films, Summit Films, Making Movies and Wildberry Films.
In terms of stimulating local production, Australia’s Documentary Foundation announced three AUS$4,000 development grants, and Discovery launched the ‘First-time Filmmakers Initiative’ in Australia. Manny Ayala (VP, Discovery Channel Asia) will commission a series designed to showcase upcoming Australian doc-makers. The six 30-minute films will cost about AUS$30,000 to $50,000 each.
The next conference will be held in Byron Bay, Australia in ’01, and will be managed by the formation of a national body, charged with the responsibility for ongoing operations of the conference.