The Year that Was

An intro to the year that was
December 1, 2002

Call me a Pollyanna, but I don’t think 2002 was all that bad. The 365-day cycle certainly had its share of depressing moments – okay, more than its share, as is duly noted throughout this issue. However, when I flipped through the year’s installments of RealScreen, I was impressed by all that was accomplished within the factual community during that time. Not sure what I’m talking about? Let me give you my list of highlights based on stories we ran:

- Filmmaker and Berkeley prof Jon Else conducts an experiment with low-cost, high-quality production, to show feature doc-makers how to break the cycle of debt.

- U.S. foundations report that difficult economic times have not seriously hindered their ability to give, leaving the door open to alternative financing for doc-makers.

- The National Film and Video Foundation in South Africa helps raise the profile of the territory’s doc-makers in the international marketplace, in part by providing funds for 20 South African filmmakers to attend the Banff Television Festival.

- Stephanie Boyd and Ernesto Cabello, of Lima, Peru-based Guarango Film and Video, make a documentary that sheds light on a mining company’s culpability for a mercury spill in a small Peruvian village. The program producers are unrepentant about championing the cause of the villagers, despite the label of advocacy filmmaking. They later win a spot at the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam.

- French indie Gedeon Programmes proves that doc companies are desirable investments when it scores US$1.19 million from new partner Millimages, a Paris-based cartoon house. The non-fiction prodco gets the best of both worlds: it continues to make adventure and science-based programs, but gains access to cutting-edge animation techniques.

- Ron Devillier and Brian Donegan regain full ownership of their company (Washington, U.S.-based producer/distrib Devillier Donegan Enterprises) from American network ABC. The move ensures that dde stays as active as it wants in non-fiction.

- The Israel Forum for International Documentary Co-productions stays the course and proceeds as planned, despite political tensions in the territory. Though some participants pull out, the event still attracts international buyers and noteworthy projects.

- A raft of Canadian digital channels settle in, most of them factual. Though license fees are low relative to cablecasters and terrestrials, the digicasters offer a new outlet for doc programming.

These were my observations from the year, read on to see yours. Thanks to the IDA, ITVA-DC and A.G. Dok for their assistance in circulating our survey, and to all who responded. We couldn’t have done it without you. Enjoy your issue.

Susan Zeller


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