Dispatches from IDFA 2014: Days 1-6

IDFA 2014 officially opened on Wednesday, November 19 in the jam-packed main hall Amsterdam’s beautiful Tuschinski  cinema. At the opening ceremony, two awards were handed out: Sjoerd Oostrik received the €125,000 Mediafonds Documentary Award towards the realisation of his film Hier is het nooit stil, a plan developed during the IDFA-Mediafonds Workshop. Documentary filmmaker Jessica Gorter received the €50,000 Cultuurfonds Documentary Grant for her entire body of work.

On Thursday, IDFA‘s market Docs for Sale also opened its doors for its 19th edition. Once again, more than 300 TV buyers, sales agents, distributors and festival programmers convened in Amsterdam to watch a selection of the very latest and best documentaries available to the international market.

Check out the Docs for Sale full catalogue.

New events this year included the Meet the Professionals XL sessions. Ten Docs for Sale Participant pass holders were able to sign up for these exclusive meetings with industry leaders. Saturday’s Meet the Professionals XL featured Jeremy Boxer (Vimeo), alongside Salma Abdalla (Autlook Filmsales) and Cara Cusumano (Tribeca Film Festival), among others.

141122087_industry_talks_-_female_gaze_710The question of whether women are under-represented behind and in front of the camera was at the heart of the heated Female Gaze debate on Saturday, investigating the role of women in documentary. “The essential question is whether women are under-represented. Does a glass ceiling exist in the documentary industry and how are women represented in documentaries,” said IDFA director Ally Derks in her opening remarks.

The debate was part of a larger focus on women in documentary by IDFA this year, which also features a sidebar of 28 films by women, selected by 15 of the world’s top female documentarians, including Kim Longinotto, Barbara Kopple and Rakhshan Bani-Etamad, all of whom attended Saturday’s event.

On Sunday, the one-day DocLab Interactive Conference, one of the highlights of the DocLab: Immersive Reality program, came full circle with valuable lessons about how the internet lost its innocence, and how pure escapism is now an art-form-to-be with virtual reality on the cusp of becoming a medium accessible to everyone.

immersive_reality_conference_710The passionate opening words by Monique Simard, head of the SODEC Foundation in Canada, rang through the entire day that followed. As the eminence grise of interactive storytelling she firmly stated we can no longer ignore the convergence of disciplines and genres if we want to change the imbalance in financing for interactive formats. Although everyone present at the conference likely understood DocLab’s joking question if the internet has lost its innocence, digital culture is still treated as an exception by most public funders.

At yesterday’s Industry Talk on branded content, Sub-Genre Media founder Brian Newman urged filmmakers not to shy away from brands to get their films made. His work in distributing DamNation, funded by U.S. outdoor brand Patagonia, showed a best-case scenario.

Industry talks

Branded content offers a host of opportunities for filmmakers at the moment, Newman said, referencing the fact the only in the last few weeks, leading companies such as Starbucks, Marriott, and Capital One have announced their own in-house film divisions. So how do you navigate this emerging field without losing control as a filmmaker?

In our age of abundance of media, filmmakers and brands are facing the same dilemma, Newman said. “For both is important how you engage your audience, how you cut through the noise.” In the right circumstances, filmmakers and brands can complement each other. “In film, we’ve mostly figured out how to deal with technological changes, in terms of storytelling, production, and distribution, but we’re still figuring out the marketing part. Brands know marketing, but they need authentic, quality stories. You’re as valuable to them as they are to you: a brand couldn’t do anything without a filmmaker who knows how to tell a good story.

Stay tuned for our report of IDFA’s second half in the coming days!!

– Steve Rickinson (with additional words by IDFA staff)

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