Fest Traveler: Sunny Side of the Doc 2012

For the 23rd consecutive year, France’s Sunny Side of the Doc will transform the city of La Rochelle into a nonfiction film market rendezvous. The networking event, which takes place June 26-29, remains a top co-production forum and conference venue.

As of June 13, there were 1,400 registered participants, more than 600 companies, 290 buyers and commissioning editors from 60 countries.

Execs from U.K. commercial channel ITV, Franco-German web Arte, Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, Finland’s pubcaster YLE, Belgium’s pubcaster RTBF, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, National Geographic Channels Intl. and Spain’s Multicanal and TV3 are all confirmed to attend.

Despite the financially pummeled European market, Sunny Side’s founder Yves Jeanneau, a former documentary producer and exec at pubcaster France Televisions, says that the participant numbers are up 10% compared with last year while international commissioning editors and buyers are expected to rise by around the same percentage.

“It’s gotten more difficult for filmmakers everywhere to start a project in this market,” Jeanneau says. “But at Sunny Side we offer possibilities for all types of documentaries, the big ones as well as the small ones, because we have distributors and broadcasters of all sizes coming from all over the world.”

British and American attendance levels dropped year to year mainly due to last year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest Market’s date change from November to June.

However, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian participation is on the rise due to the launch of regional outposts Latin Side of the Doc and Asian Side of the Doc co-production forums three years ago.

“Four or five months ago I was anxious,” Jeanneau says. “I started thinking that this edition might be smaller or more difficult than ever before, but a look at the numbers and it’s clear that that’s not the case.”

The event will feature various panels on topics ranging from China’s doc revolution to transforming doc content into an interactive experience. A workshop about what it takes for producers to make international shows for multiple territories will be headed by Elizabeth McIntyre, head of production and development at DNI Factual.

In its fourth year, Sunny Side’s popular pitching session, Best Intl. Projects Showcase, will feature 26 docs at the early development stage. BIPS is divided into five categories: history, science and environment, investigation and society, feature docs and little gems. Chosen for their international potential by a jury, the best projects in each of the categories receives €2,000 ($2,500).

New to this year’s program is Docs in Progress created specifically for docs near completion. Again chosen for their international potential, 20 projects will compete for funding in the form of pre-buys, technical participation in post-production and/or distribution. A jury will award one film in this category $2,500.

Docmakers look East as new markets bow

Last year, Sunny Side of the Doc’s founder Yves Jeanneau said that buyers really want documentaries that have crossover appeal and can create an event on the smallscreen or in theaters. While he still stands by his statement, 12 months and a growing European financial crisis later, Jeanneau has a few ideas regarding the future of docus and it involves heading east.

Three years ago, Jeanneau developed the Asian Side of the Doc, a co-production meeting that completed its third conference in Tokyo in March.

“Developing the Asian Sunny Side of the Doc has been useful to (filmmakers) because that market is new and it’s booming. They don’t have any money problems. Also, Asia recently discovered the power of the documentary. As a result that market is growing very, very quickly. So there are many opportunities and more partners for filmmakers,” says Jeanneau.

The fest topper believes that even if finances continue to go south for the West, the doc community can count on the East.

“If the crisis in the Western world is going on in another two or three years, I think that the Asian Side of the Doc will become a market and become a market by itself,” he says. “Maybe a stronger market than Sunny Side (France) could be at that point in time.”

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