Doc Association of Europe Launches To Support Next Generation of Filmmakers (EXCLUSIVE)

A new documentary association for Europe is looking to serve as a political lobby group and support network for the next generation of filmmakers and non-fiction communities across the continent.

Based out of Berlin, the Documentary Association of Europe (DAE) hopes to complement the work of the L.A.-based International Documentary Association (IDA), which recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department over the government’s social media vetting policies for visa applicants.

The organization is led by Brigid O’Shea, who serves as head of industry for German documentary festival DOK Leipzig, and an official launch is set for the European Film Market’s Doc Salon in Berlin on Feb. 22.

“We want to really reignite the political element, and hold funders – and particularly European public funders – accountable for how they spend their money, and how they work with documentary as a genre, because the production structure is completely different to fiction,” O’Shea tells Variety.

The DAE – an independent non-profit organization – is positioned to take up the mantle from the beleaguered European Documentary Network (EDN), which is on the brink of dissolution following alleged financial mismanagement and a loss of funding from the Danish Film Institute.

The EDN was slated to put a make-or-break vote to members on Jan. 31 to determine its future, but Variety understands internal politics could prevent the online vote from taking place, placing the EDN in further limbo. The organization had not responded to request for comment by press time.

One of the DAE’s initial mandates is to conduct an industry-wide survey and collect data on the realities facing the European documentary landscape, where funding for films often comes from a patchwork of public broadcasters, save for a handful of high-profile doc makers, who are often commissioned by streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon.

“We want to find out what the needs are, and make sure we don’t include only a Western-centric POV or focus solely on the Franco-German or Nordic interests, where the landscape is pretty good,” says O’Shea, who is calling on filmmakers and producers to reach out and join the association following its February launch. 

Highlighting the so-called “golden age of documentaries”, she adds: “There is more interest in documentary than ever before, but ticket sales in cinemas are abysmal and if we’re not careful with online platforms, big chunks of diversity can be erased quickly.” 

The DAE counts the U.K.’s documentary-focused Whickers Foundation as a sister organization, and will also work closely with Simon Kilmurry’s IDA.

“We can lobby on behalf of North American interests in Brussels, and they can lobby for European interests in L.A. This could then create bridges for collaboration between European and North American professionals,” she said. 

The fledgling outfit will begin fundraising at the EFM, and is in the process of striking partnerships with select festivals, such as the Berlinale, IDFA Forum out of the Netherlands and the Marché du Cannes.

DAE board members so far include Charlie Phillips, head of documentaries at U.K. newspaper The Guardian, and Hungarian producer Julianna Ugrin. Elections for further board members will take place after the EFM.

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