While there is no shortage of film and TV-related industry confabs, helmer-producer Chuck Braverman had a hunch that there was an opening for an annual gathering of the unscripted set.
His instinct was proven right last year when the inaugural Westdoc conference focusing on reality and documentary production drew more than 400 attendees and speakers to the Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel in Santa Monica. This year’s edition is back in the same spot, running today through Wednesday.
“Around a third of the programs on TV right now are reality-based, so it makes sense to put on something like this,” says Braverman, who co-founded Westdoc with Richard Propper, CEO of distribution shingle Solid Entertainment.
The confab’s goal is to pack the sked with educational and networking opportunities for those who toil in reality and docu production. That means panels on everything from how to qualify for Oscar docu consideration to navigating what Westdoc candidly dubs “the quagmire of PBS.”
This year’s keynote speaker, set for Tuesday, is Joe Berlinger, helmer of the feature docu “Crude,” about Chevron and environmental issues in Ecuador. The pic has become ensnared in a legal fight over Berlinger’s footage.
Beyond the big-picture issues for producers, there’s a concerted effort to allow time for attendees to hobnob with execs who are on the front lines of development and production. As evidenced by its list of speakers, Westdoc has been embraced by key industry insiders in the reality/alternative programming arena.
“This event really provides a lot of opportunity for someone to learn about the business,” Braverman says. “Plus, with the venue being so small … it is really easy to bump into people while you’re just roaming the halls.” — Justin Kroll