As SBS Australia’s Commissioning Editor for TV and online for a decade Mark Atkin played a key role in a number of acclaimed films, including Taxi to the Dark Side and Waltz with Bashir. Upon leaving SBS in November, Atkin wasted no time getting involved with new projects. Within a week he was in the Sheffield Doc/Fest MeetMarket, having meetings every twenty minutes – this time as a producer and exec producer for three international documentaries.
He says that the change in position has forced him to ‘turn the kaleidescope around’ and narrow his focus: ‘The biggest difference is I used to be incredibly profligate. My attention was spread out over a hundred thousand things in a day. Now it’s focused on these three projects. It’s kind of wonderful because you get to just work on stuff that you find absolutely creatively compelling.’
His projects include a personal film, where Atkin aims to try to unearth a treasure his grandfather buried in Lodz at the outbreak of World War II. The other two films are lighter fare: The Secret History of the Eurovision Song Contest, about the search for a collective European identity and how it has been expressed through the Eurovision song contest, and Breaking China: The Making of a Western Mandopop Girl Band, which will aim to take a group of Western girls who are fluent in Mandarin, and launch them in China.
He’s also joined forces with Doc/Fest director Heather Croall and Frank Boyd of Unexpected Media to create a company, Crossover Labs, which specializes in offering workshops to bring creative professionals from different disciplines together to collaborate on cross-platform projects.
While it is still early days, he is thus far happy with his move away from the commissioner’s chair: ‘It’s funny – when you go to a market as a commissioning editor, you go with an empty bag and come back with a full one. When you go there as a producer you go with a full bag and try to empty it. The thing I’ll miss most is sitting around with my colleagues having dinner chatting about the industry. But at least I don’t have to worry that somebody is going to follow me down to the toilet and start pitching to me – I’ve lost that haunted look.’