Iikka Vehkalahti writes: Dear Tue and others. I am delighted, that Louise and Mikael took the cat on the table (or how do you say in it real English?).
Anyway, now after one month out from the position of a commissioning editor (who very often has a quite weak position in his or her own organization) and when writing from Finland, the former “heaven of documentaries” here are some few sentences. I have written during the last months so much about melancholy and the situation in Finland and in the world, that I don´t want to repeat what has already been written – and maybe the situation was very much worse some 20 years ago: There are more documentaries produced in the world than ever?
But what kind of future and possibilities do we have for that kind of films Louise, Mikael and Tue have in their minds?
Feature length documentaries. When aimed for the big screen they should also get the financing from the same sources as any film aimed for big screens. It means public funding ( Art Councils, Film Funds etc…) and cinema distribution in co-operation with tv-stations, who will also in the future have interest in having well known, brand products for transmission. The budget for these projects is and will not be huge compared to the fiction films, but big compared to the so called normal docs. But their surviving strategy can not depend on the television.
TV-docs. Television is another platform than festival and cinema distribution. It has to be accepted and seriously considered what kind of docs are best for television (not at festivals or in cinemas). Documentaries were very strongly tied with the television distribution some 10-15 years ago. It has changed when festivals and cinema have become players in that field. We need to go back to television and to make docs, which will conquer the television of today. Instead of using the television as a funding source for films that aim foremost to big screen or festivals.
Personally I would love to see the life and development of the challenging, demanding real documentary films – very often seen only at festivals. The question is; how to arrange the financing of those? Rich patrons, public funding? Or different kind of production process: “returning to the origins”: man and camera? But in every case we need new steps in the area of the distribution.
So many net platforms have been created for the distribution of documentaries. I don´t know any that functions really well. Why? For two years we have developed and tried different concepts and one of the solutions is to build a co-operation with broadcasters the same way as has been done with the co-production of individual documentaries.
Co-operation would make possible to charge the fee when downloading the films (what is difficult or impossible to the public broadcasters in most of the cases) even if the sum would be quite small (my guess is somewhere between 1, 99 -2, 99 euros). If and when by a real co-operation of different partners a global reach of the platform can be build, can also these docs reach a substantial amount of audience.
Iikka Vehkalahti, filmmaker and for many years commissioning editor at YLE, Finland. Famous for his international orientation and pioneer work with for instance Steps for the Future”. Now visiting professor at School of Communication, Media and Theatre at the University in Tampere, Finland. Photo of Viktor Kossakovsky, director of “Belovs”, documentary film favourite of Vehkalahti.