Sevara Pan is in Leipzig for the festival and writes with enthusiasm about one of the so-called industry activities: Spanned over 3 days, Leipzig Networking Days celebrated its finale on the warm Sunday afternoon of October 27th. Initiated by Documentary Campus, Leipzig Networking Days is an annual pitching and networking event that hosts over 200 industry professionals from around the world. This year, the event commenced with the opening keynote, given by Jens Schmelzle, the founder of Simpleshow, a global leading company that helps simplify internal and external communication. “Keep it simple” was the key of his message – the conspicuous precept we are all aware of, yet hardly few of us apply in practice. This advertising principle, Schmelzle reckoned, could be well employed in filmmaking or storytelling in general. Starting off with the essential core, he presumed, gives an opportunity to lay a foundation to build up the narrative, ornament it with nuances, and parlay with luscious minutiaes.
The next two days of the event were dedicated to pitching of 16 documentary projects developed within the Masterschool 2013, 2 guest projects from the MENA programme (the Middle East and North Africa programme: http://www.documentary-campus.com/v2/page/contact/), and 3 guest projects by Documentary Campus Member Companies. The pitches were then followed-up by a number of panel discussions as well as scheduled one-to-one meetings with 30 commissioning editors from promiment broadcasting companies – ZDF/ARTE, MDR, ITVS, LIC China, and Channel 4 – to name a few.
From the lost generation of the bleak Russian garbage dump “svalka,” to the frenetic journey of the LGBT countercultural movement Queercore with its roots in punk, to the backchannel of the Austrian Chancellor Kreisky and PLO-fighter Sartawi, and onto the veil behind the theft of the Chagossian nation – the unbridled diversity of projects was captivating. While some touched and inspired, others intrigued and left wondering. There was room for every shade of emotion, taking turns in the laboratory of mind with the sweeping gait of the 8-minute pitch. But was there “room for a man?” At the brink of solemnity of the event, there was also a leeway for humor and wit. In the company of a 25-year old Lebanese Anthony on his odyssey to seek out an answer to the existential question of manhood, suddenly we found ourselves within a 4m² space, hedged in by Anthony’s outspoken mother Nicole, perplexing older sister Romy, frisky doberman Velvet, and a “handy and virile” construction worker that embodies “the essence of masculinity.”
Leipzig Networking Days culminated with the award for the best pitch, handed out by Chris Black, the marketplace manager of Sheffield Doc/Fest, one of the Documentary Campus long-term partners. The pitch award was genially granted to the polish filmmaker Hanna Polak (project Yula’s Dream) for her 13-year-old commitment to the story, chronicling an extraordinary journey of 11-year-old Yula growing up in the black hole of the metropolis, at the outskirts of the Moscow garbage dump, and her ultimate breaking out to a better life at the age of 25.
To put it in a few words. Leipzig Networking Days was a success. Bright smiles, enthusiasm about the new and the upcoming, but most importantly, a genuine love for documentary films were pivotal for the event to run par excellence.