IDFA Forum 2007

I was at the IDFA Forum as an observer. Documentary film and tv projects were presented (pitched) to a panel of so called commissioning editors. The pitching time was 15 minutes, 50% to those pitching, 50% to those responding. It was the 15th time that this event was organised.

The venue was new, and there was a new format for the pitching. Some projects, most of them, were pitched in the big auditorium, some in a smaller room with a round-table discussion to follow the pitchings that always consist of a verbal presentation and a visual (= a clip/trailer/demo/pilot).

Also new was that it was possible to enter projects that did NOT have 25% of the financing in place. And projects that were at the rough cut stage.

3 days from morning till night – and what did the observer get out of it:

Originality and creativity come primarily from the new EU countries and the countries outside the EU.

The market in general asks for mainstream formatted documentaries.

The broadcasters (= the commissioning editors) around the table do in general NOT take any chances, they want to play safe, and pitched projects that do not include humour and are just a bit complicated – they meet hesitation and “I want to hear much more”.

Many of the experienced producers pitching are surprisingly weak in their presentations.

Many of the experienced commissioning editors are surprisingly weak in their responses to the filmmakers.

Most of the people around the table can only go for pre-buys and not for coproductions.

Maybe this should be reflected in the set-up of the Forum?

Conclusion: On one side there are so many talented people who want to make documentaries and the interest in documentaries have never been so big as now. Festivals are growing like mushrooms. On the other side – the role of television as the innovator of the documentary genre internationally is minimal both financially and creatively.

Without public funding, where would the creative documentaries in Europe stand today?

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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