Mipdoc keeps current on news

Tech toys boost filmmakers but coin still hard to find

This article was updated on April 2, 2005.

The eighth edition of Mipdoc will unspool with an upgrade in screening facilities and a plethora of new product.

Technology is empowering filmmakers, but financing is harder to come by as new digital channels are not yet able to pay healthy license fees. High-end fare is a luxury that only the established players can afford to make.

Some 325 companies are registered for Mipdoc, representing 500 participants from 52 countries, with almost 1,000 programs scheduled to be screened. There’s also an 11% increase over last year in terms of new programming.

The lion’s share of fare comes from six territories: the U.S., France, the U.K., Canada, Germany and Italy.

This year’s hot topics include current affairs (19% of programs screened) as well as the history of ancient civilizations. Scientific subjects are cropping up as well.

Says National Geographic TV’s Ian Jones, “Over 50% of our new programs are about science to meet increasing demand for such programming.”

Arts and cultural programs are falling by the wayside.

Says Reiner Moritz, a veteran indie producer at Poorhouse Intl., “There is less arts and cultural programming than there was six months ago because event-driven material is filling most of the slots on the main channels.”

Not everyone is pessimistic.

Nick Fraser of BBC Storyville says the Beeb will commission more docs to satisfy the requirements of its new mandate. “There are many good European films that are a departure from old-fashioned, elitist narratives,” he says.

New media is changing how markets are defined. Geography doesn’t have the importance it once had.

“Significant markets are emerging in new media –VOD, mobile technology and DVD,” says Jones, who adds that National Geographic programs are unique because of the company’s access to top scientific talent.

National Geographic has three new science programs: “Tiny Humans: Finding the Hobbit on Flores” uses state-of-the-art forensic tests to shed light on the recent discovery of a 3-foot-tall prehistoric human; “DNA Mysteries: In the Search for Adam,” in which a geneticist uses the latest DNA testing techniques to trace all human beings to a single Adam; and “King Tut’s Curse,” in which computer animation is used to reconstruct what the young king’s face looked like.

Meanwhile, Discovery Networks focuses on staying relevant.

Says Rebecca Batties, Discovery senior VP of creative development and brand management: “We want to speak to a younger audience about topics that are part of their recent history.”

Product offerings include “The Hunt for Osama Bin Laden” and “Moscow Siege,” about the 2002 siege of a Moscow movie theater by Chechen terrorists.

A&E Networks’ “Bearing Witness” by Barbara Kopple — about five women war correspondents — will screen in Cannes and has generated enough buzz Stateside to secure a theatrical release later this year.

A screening is also planned for “Making Homo Sapiens,” a co-production between French pubasters and Tele Quebec.