Tag Archives: pitch

Chasing content and dodging cloudbursts in Cannes

Three and a bit days in Cannes for MIPCOM have just come to an end. The Indian summer gave way to dramatic cloudbursts, making the Croisette  look like somebody had gone overboard on the CGI budget.

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Shine International party, Majestic Hotel

Drama subplots were everywhere. Warner International’s semi-open stand on the beach got flooded out; All3Media laid on Tuk-Tuks to their lunch for Lion TV’s 17th birthday, only for their drivers to get arrested. Companies that were big were becoming even bigger.   Shine International had fine Sunday evening weather for their opening drinks by the pool – likely one of their last markets as a standalone outfit before the Endemol-Core merger. Your correspondent can report that Shine’s Espresso Martinis were excellent. May such creativity not get lost in the merger.

The frequent downpours in elegant if overpriced Cannes seemed to echo the rapid changes in the industry. A global industry crammed together in a small space, sent scurrying for cover by unpredictable events.  Digital distribution was once again the talk of the market. Ted Sarandos of Netflix gave a keynote – comin’ atcha, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. HBO announced a streaming service. The stands and posters though were all still about the content – in that sense, little changes at MIPCOM from year to year.

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The market at 0815 on Monday morning

The days were full with half-hour meetings – ‘speed-dating’, as my boss at SBS Peter Andrews called it – and my notebook quickly filled with titles, delivery dates, and conversations to follow up. Being with my new colleagues Peter, Ben Nguyen, Tony Iffland & Andrew Golding  as we were pitched by distributors and producers was a great way to learn about SBS, and my version of the SBS editorial pitch is now flowing a bit more naturally. Our acquisitions wishlist and programme catalogue got held up in French customs for a day, but eventually it became a useful prop to head off the ‘what are you looking for?’ question. Let me know if you’d like a pdf emailed to you  – though it’ll also be online soon.

Wednesday ended with BBC Worldwide Australia & New Zealand’s drinks and dinner on the roof of a chi-chi hotel. Plenty of new contacts to follow up on when I get to Australia in December.

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BBC WW ANZ drinks, V Hotel

It was good to be back in the swim of broadcasting,  and I’m really looking forward to my new role.  Next time I come to Nice airport though, I’m going to remember to pack my helicopter.

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Keeping it in the Nordic documentary family

A few days at the Nordisk Forum in Malmo have given me time to reflect on the documentary business in the Nordic countries. I live part of the time in Copenhagen, and I’m half-German, so I’m part-Nordic I guess. I was there for most (not all) of the doc pitches over the two days, pitched our own YARN project with the team, and observed the ‘Nordic family’ at work – as one of the moderators Mikael Opstrup called it.

The comments around the table are really one-liners giving general interest (or not) – you don’t hear much in 8 minutes, particularly when there’s 25 people round the table. Very few projects elicited a negative reaction (except perhaps the one I was pitching!) – the aim seemed to be to keep a positive supportive spirit around the table. The one-to-one meetings we got afterwards for YARN with Nordic funds and channels felt very good, and a bit different to what I’m used to in the UK. There was a focus on the filmmaking, the craft, and what the director wanted to do. Far less buyer/seller talk about the different TV slots, sometimes highly specific, or the impossibility of getting single docs on TV (language I used all the time as a commissioning editor at the BBC).

The assumption of most of the producers was that festival and cinema audiences would see the films first (in their ‘proper’ long version) and then a few months or a year later they’d go to TV in a ‘TV version’. The gap in Denmark between public TV and the film institute  (DFI) was pretty clear – Mette Hoffman from DR pointedly talked about whether filmmakers really should just focus on theatrical releases to tiny cinema audiences which prevented films – often topical ones – being shown on television to far bigger audiences for up to a year after completion.

The  public funding and significant development budgets available to some filmmakers maybe also means that they don’t try too hard to sell beyond their regional market.  I also don’t recall many projects with mixed teams to make genuine coproductions between countries. Maybe it’s just too complicated, particularly if it might change the film – what’s the point making your film international if you  annoy your principal domestic funder?  Also, if there are three or more Nordic countries onboard, then the Nordisk Film and TV Fund can pitch in with a further 15%-20% of the budget. There’s something of a mutual self-help pact amongst the Scandinavian family – if you take mine, I’ll take yours. 

The elephant in the room of this Forum (same goes for other pitching Forums too) was that the amounts to be had from presales from public channels for these documentaries were becoming less relevant in a financing plan, except to unlock other lumps of money from the EU MEDIA fund or the Nordisk Film & TV Fund. 

But the public money won’t last forever, and once it’s run out it’s an intensely competitive world out there (as the makers know). These films – and Nordic  creativity – really need to be tested on the wider market beyond the prestige film festivals and late-night doc slots. I’m very aware that, as someone who pitched a single arts documentary at the Forum, this very much applies to me too. But working together to create ambitious films and grab new audiences internationally is what we’re all doing this for, isn’t it?