The Edinburgh Pitch 2012/2

A small afterthought to the fine pitching session in Edinburgh, see below, related to comments to one of the films presented on this occasion. Comments from a panel with good people from good tv stations and  distribution companies.  But also comments that reflect the limitations of the simplification that is always called upon when film projects are put forward at one of the wide range of pitching sessions all over the world.

The example was ”Cause of Death: Unknown” presented by Manifesto Film. Here is an edited version of the synopsis:

”Norway 2005 – Renate Hoel, sister of filmmaker Anniken Hoel, dies suddenly and inexplicably while being treated with antipsychotic drugs. Her autopsy concludes that the cause of death is unknown. Anniken begins working on a film about Renate, and of growing up with a sister who was schizophrenic. But the circumstances around her death remain a mystery, and Anniken starts investigating the medical treatment her sister received prior to her death…

What begins as a simple investigation into the inexplicable death of a sister soon becomes an issue of global concern. Cause of death: Unknown questions and reveals the practices of the pharmaceutical industry, and exposes how multinational corporations dictate the rules and regulations of our democracies, with one goal: maximize profits at any cost.”

A well made trailer included these two elements – a personal story combined with an investigation by the director. Professionally presented by director and producer, but with the instant reaction from the panel: you have to decide which film you want to make, the personal human story or the more current affair investigation. You can not have both in your film. The comment was echoed by several other at the table.

Understandable if you think about the way television slots are constructed – slots for creative personal stories and slots for the investigative more journalistic documentaries – but totally unfair if you think in artistic storytelling and content terms where emotion and information of course can go together. (Read below the review of the new Danish film ”Free the Mind”, a masterly done example of this). In the case from Edinburgh you have a rich, personal starting point that can catch the interest of us viewers and make us learn about the medical industry. Please let us keep the richness in the proposals and avoid (too much) simplification in the pitches themselves, in the trailers, in the communication between pitchers and panelists, in the training we make! Even if we have lost the battle of having generous documentary slots in television.

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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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