While Reed Midem says a record number of buyers were in Cannes for last October’s MIPCOM – 3,296, or 16% more than 2003 – there’s no way of telling how many of those had a yen for factual. But for those non-fiction distribs flaunting their wares, it mattered little. The factual buyers who were there showed up with their check books open.
‘I got the impression,’ says David Pounds, CEO of Brighton-based Electric Sky, ‘there were fewer buyers [for factual]. But the buyers who were there knew exactly what they were looking for, and were there specifically to do business.’ In fact, notes Pounds, it was the best market he had experienced in six or seven years.
Whether or not that means more money in the system is still up for debate – Pounds believes it’s too early to tell conclusively. What is certain is that buyers weren’t satisfied with one-sheets. ‘There is a lot of paper around in a medium that is clearly not a paper one,’ observes Pounds. ‘[Screening] is becoming more and more important. Buyers need to be shown quite quickly what it is you have.’ Pounds says he had the highest number of requests ever for a screening of The World of Nat King Cole, a one-hour HD special Electric Sky is distributing for the U.K.’s Double Jab Productions. In the future, Electric Sky plans to provide more on-site facilities at the market, and will also improve its online screening capability.
Cologne-based German United Distributors shared a similar experience with its formal screening of Life Behind the Wall (from Looks Film & TV, MDR and WDR). Senior sales manager for docs, Bettina Oebel, says she was unsure about the move, as ‘normally mip isn’t much for screening – there’s not much room and there’s not much time. Many people are doing 15-minute meetings. But, if it’s a program that is really topical and really hot, [buyers] take the time.’ Indeed, about 50 showed up for Life, leading Oebel to consider repeating the experience, providing she has a topical doc that will get attention during the market.
Oebel says it helped that history is still popular, especially ‘living history’ – factual programming spiced up with reenactments. (GUD also had success with another history doc it had at the market for the first time – the 4 x 1-hour History of Medicine from Gruppe 5 Filmproduktion.) Oebel says the genre should remain hot into 2005, as it is the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and several new channels have launched, including The History Channel in Germany.