A MIPDoc report
“Lots of strucuter but story?” – That’s how I could sum up the MIPdoc conference in Cannes between 30st to 31st. A pre-conference for MIPTV. Talks and sessions where on what buyers want, how co-productions have worked and about how the industry works. But in all this the story, which I think is key to any experience, was hardly touched upon. Which, I have to add, suited me fine.
I came to Cannes on a whim. I come from feature and commercial film production as a director, 1 st AD and producer so the documentary field is all new to me. But I am starting a documentary project. A character driven film about how education influences friendship and dreams in a small village i Zambia. I have a strong transmedia (i.e. new media used to turn the passive viewer into active participant) angle. And want to understand the business: where to start, what contacts are needed, how the money flows and so on. In that sense MIPdoc was perfect for me.
I was honest and told all the people i met, commissioners, producers, broadcasters and more that I didn’t know anything about docs but a lot about story and I need help. And help i got.
The MIPdoc schedule was well suited for me and all sessions interesting. There are four things that I can pick out. That where essential to my visit:
1 – Networking
MIPdoc has a really laid back attitude and is well suited for informal talks and networking. All participants are open minded and want to listen even though I didn’t hide my insecurity. I had great talks with almost all the commissioners. Although very short talks (they are busy people) they where honest: I want that, that’s not good, where is the story, do you have a production company, no Im not interested, please send me an e-mail with material and so on. All where very open but direct and for a week minded that can be tough. Honesty is tough sometimes but I feel it is needed so you do not spend time on producing something that no one wants to buy.
Also the twitter feed and connections made by @_mip_ where great. The tweetup on friday was great. Creating a space to really meet people you have only seen as less than 140 characters in text was great.
2 – New media is old media
Since I come from the transmedia business, where I’ve produced and directed large projects and also held lectures on the subject, I have a high sense and great appreciation of the reshaping of the viewer from passive to active. The documentary field has not yet come to this step.
There is a movement and understanding on the financing side with Indieagogo and other crowdfunding sites. But when asked about participation, turning the viewer form passive to acitve and actually letting the viewers participate and influence the films and shows, I got blank faces and silence. I actually asked about this on the ”What do buyers want” session and the panel could understand ”Social Media”, ”Facebook” and ”Twitter”. And to be honest I think they see it as discussion boards or marketing tools. Not as tools for actually engaging with the audience.
So the media and usage of it is not up to date. New media seams to be used in old media style and fashion. Push the message is still the working model.
The lecture given by Asta Wellejus and Anna J Ljungmark on ”New transmedia/factual programming” was an example of this. I think many in the audience don’t know what hit them. The cases and studies presented where well analyzed, although maybe too many cases at one time, but I do not think the audience understood how this could affect them or how they could use these powerful tools.
To bridge this gap I think transmedia needs to learn the language of the areas of business that it uses and not create its own strange lingo. I also think that transmedia people need to do the job and not crusade around the world calling it transmedia. You should just present the project, its story and key driving elements. And never ever utter the word ”Transmedia” it makes the commissioners and documentary people run away. It pushes them out of their comfort zone.
Which brings me to the next thing: a transmedia project that was presented without ever mentioning the word. Brilliant:
3 – One Day On Earth
This was the closing keynote and a brilliant one as such. The room was almost empty, which realy is a shame since it was not only a brilliant insight to new media, new technology, new ways of working and changing the world but also a great example of a transmedia project that every commissioner, producer, broadcaster and more could understand.
”One Day On Earth” is a project that started out as a film idea: film one day on earth in every country around the world and edit it together and is now a movement with filmmakers all around the world. The first film was filmed on 2010-10-10, the second on 2011-11-11 and is now funded by the UN.
On of the founders, Brandon Litman, spoke passionatly about how they created the community, gave them emotional equity back and got people in ALL countries around the world to engage in the project for free, that includes professional filmmakers. Moderator, Pasa Mustafa, was a good guide through this interesting session. Brandon showed that if you have the right idea, take care and listen to your community, if you are clear on what you want to make and the idea appeal to people anything is possible. Even filming in all countries around the world on the same day and then editing it as one film.
A true transmedia project without the word being uttered even once by Brandon. Brillliant. And you should have been there!
4 – My biggest learnings
My biggest learnings from the two days in cannes would be…. many. But to pick out a few that I can share:
– When you pitch, as Ove Rishöj Jensen explained: You have to answer the three ”W”: Why this film? Why now? and Why you? A pitch is a new story, new adventure, new partners. Look for the “spark in the eye”? What connects you and the one you are pitching to. Adjust the pitch to the audience. And plan the three main parts as well as possible: The oral pitch, The writing and The visual presentation
– Adam Gee pointed out if you do use new media, transmedia, 360 or whatever you call it, you need to know what you bring to the table. What does this add to the idea/concept. A self sustained film does not need any interaction. You need to know why you are adding new stuff.
– And from many commissioners: It is not possible today to raise money without numerous partners. You need to find partners that really work cause they are going to be involved in production.
Conclusion Friendly, honest and traditional
So to sum up the MIPdoc days it was very informative and well arranged event. With focus on structure and financing. Unfortunately there didn’t seam to be many production companies there so it was more about the ”politics” of the game than the productions themselves. Which for me was very good.
The commissioners, I’ve heard often regarded as narrow minded gatekeepers, where nice and friendly people and very honest. Which is helpful but can be hard you as a creator. But I will thank the people who sopp me if my idea is not good or couldn’t make it in the cinemas.
So all I would recommend all documentary filmmakers, producers, directors and productions companys, to come to MIPDoc.
I want to encourage all filmmakers to contact the commissioners and producers. They need content and you need to know if your ideas are worth producing
Hoe to see you there next year!