This is an account of Victoria Fioravante’s experiences at the Sheffield Doc/Fest with the Doc Next Network.
“On a glorious British summer’s day of spitting rain upon coats and scarves, the ‘Doc Next Team’, which consisted of two Spaniards from Zemos98, two Polish ladies from Association of Creative Initiatives “ę”, a Turk from Mode Istanbul and two Londoners, arrived at Sheffield. Among visible signs of a film festival – posters everywhere, people rushing with Sheffield Doc bags, open-air screens and quite a lot of excitement – we entered without any expectations, not knowing what events we’d go to, what we would see, whether we would indeed be able to watch any films at all…
“After a pit-stop in a charming hotel (Thank you Doc Next Network!), it was straight onto the Documentary Workshop ‘Life’s a Pitch’ . After a brief sequence of games and laughs to get to know the talented members of the Second Light scheme, it was onto serious business. Andy Glynne, clinical psychologist turned executive producer of Mosaic Films and member of the Documentary Filmmakers Group, provided an excellent and inspirational speech on the hurdles, difficulties and successes of giving a pitch and what was most important; Narrative, Characterisation, the all-important question “What am I going to see?”, Access, and Demographics. His receptiveness, humour and enthusiasm were exceptional and I thoroughly enjoyed being there – especially when it came to the screenings of the short documentaries ‘Dekay’s Guide to the Estates‘ and ‘I Speak Hinglish‘. Then, after a few team exercises, we were left to our own devices to come up with a pitch that would be presented the next day – one by one, nerve-wrecking stuff. This would be the first time I’d ever presented or even prepared a pitch, so the pressure was most definitely on.
“The 24 hours I had to think of and plan my pitch were reduced to a measly hour in the middle of the night; there were too many great films and events on offer to do my time doing anything else! Our trip wasn’t only about pitching, it also involved a good deal of freedom to explore and investigate the festival. Of course, there were brilliant films – my favourites included ‘Putin’s Kiss‘ (Lisa Berk Pederson, 2011), ‘Planet of Snail‘ (Seungjun Yi, 2011), and ‘Call me Kuchu‘ (Zouhali-Worrall and Fairfax Wright, 2012). Then there were other events and talks, ranging from documentary distribution to filming in the Balkans, from Music Rights to Women in TV, interviews and – best of all – real Pitching competitions. The WorldView / Community Channel Live Pitch moved me the most – Intense pitching in action by six immensely talented applicants competing for a chance to win £10,000 to film a positive story of women in the developing world. After this, the Doc Next pitches would be a walk in the park!
“I was fully aware that there would be three industry experts (Daisy Asquith, documentary film-maker, Emma Hindley, freelance executive producer, and Ravi Amaratunga, head of Creative Diversity at Channel 4) evaluating and assessing our pitches the next day, but what I didn’t know was that there would also be a live audience – and quite a big one. Neither did I expect Matt Cuzner (of BFI fame) frantically waving signs at us with a cheeky yet embarrassed little grin. I guess he wanted to ‘help us’ by increasing the pressure. I was last in line to present, and I was pleased to see that my idea created some controversy among the panel after which a lively debate followed – which was great to see. Since then, I’ve followed up my idea with members of the panel who have encouraged me to film a teaser for my idea and to send it back to them. Then, it was on to networking in many different ways; from new talent drinks and receptions to the all important, leg-breaking Roller Disco!
“Sadly, this was the last night of our intense two-day trip. However, I’ve taken a lot from Sheffield. Andy Glynne’s motivational insights, my first ever experience pitching an idea of mine to a live audience, and most of all the opportunity to meet a group of inspiring and immensely talented group of people from all over Europe with whom I fully plan to work with in the future. And was Sheffield Doc Fest worthwhile? There is no doubt about it. I’ll see you there next year.”