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What’s up DOC

Film fest matches doc makers with industry pros

By Nicole Fitzgerald

You would think making a documentary would be the most difficult leg of the race, but trying to find a distributor and broadcaster is another game entirely.

DOC TALK and Pitch Fest West, new additions to the Whistler Film Festival, bring documentary producers and filmmakers together with key industry professionals — people filmmakers would normally have to fly to New York, L.A. or Toronto to get an audience with, providing those people even fielded the call.

The Whistler Film Festival not only guarantees an audience with these key players, but also opens the book on what companies are looking for through up-close-and-intimate panel discussions.

DOC TALK complements Pitch Fest West, the Olympics of documentary filmmaking pitches. Pitch Fest proposals for the juried event are due Wednesday, Oct. 18.

“A lot of people are making films out there, so how do you get your film seen by the right people?” said Bill Evans, festival program director. “It’s all about finding a distributor and broadcaster and that is why events like DOC TALK are important. It allows filmmakers to have direct access to people you normally would have to fly thousands of miles to see. It’s a great opportunity to have access to some pretty senior people.”

DOC TALK and Pitch Fest West, a joint initiative with the B.C. Chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC-BC), is part of the festival’s Filmmaker Forum, a workshop-driven program aimed at arming Canadian producers with the tools needed to compete in the film industry. The forum is part of the Whistler Film Festival’s four-day screening extravaganza Nov. 29 to Dec. 2.

The documentary conference component includes documentary screenings, seminars, one-on-one pitch sessions and networking socials Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 at the Westin Resort. DOC TALK seminar topics include Canadian Documentary Financing, Working with Asia, Financing and Producing Your Film, and Distribution and International Sales.

“We are bringing in six people from China working in co-production with B.C. filmmakers,” Evans said. “They are in a huge market that has just opened up. The co-productions were initiated last year as part of DOC TALK.”

One-on-one meetings take place throughout the two-and-a-half-days. Participants will be rubbing shoulders with representatives from PBS, National Film Board of Canada, CHUM television, Global TV, CBC, Sundance Channel, Life Network, National Geographic Channel, Knowledge Network and Documentary channel, just to name a few.

The Pitch Fest West is the ultimate hook up, with 10 Western Canadian documentary filmmakers chosen to pitch their films to 20 industry professionals. The roundtable of Canadian and international broadcasters will provide feedback, current market advice and potential partnerships for all 10 participants. A jury will choose eight filmmakers beforehand, with the two remaining spots filled by drawing two names from a hat on the day of the event.

DOC TALK, previously held in Vancouver, boasts many success stories over the years. Kirk Shaw of Insight Film and Video secured $6 million in documentary production with four international broadcasters — a direct result of the meetings conducted at DOC TALK 2003. A project from a 2005 DOC TALK pitch forum participant from Mountainside Films was commissioned for The Lens at CBC Newsworld and just wrapped up filming last month. Also from the 2005 DOC TALK, David Vaisborg developed SuperDog for CBC’s main network.

The Filmmaker Forum also features Digital Day Dec. 2 at the Westin. Seminars include Short Script Analysis and Competition; Digital Content Financing and Distribution; and Actor’s Panel & Feature Script Reading. New this year, a digital storytelling panel and interactive workshop explores the growing field of new media production.

Entrance to all DOC TALK activities as well as eligibility for Pitch Fest West is $250 ($200 for DOC BC members). A DOC TALK observation day pass is $100. A dual DOC TALK and Filmmaker Forum pass is $450. (Tickets increase $25-$45 after Nov. 3.) Individual tickets are $25 for panels. A Pitch Fest West observer ticket is $50.