The 2012 Hot Docs Forum Report, part one

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This report has been edited from the original to highlight Canadian projects in the Hot Docs Forum, which took place at Toronto’s Hart House earlier this month. The complete report in three installments, by realscreen‘s Adam Benzine, examines all feature doc projects pitched at the annual event, along with detailed commissioner responses and analysis.

The start of this month saw the 13th annual Hot Docs Forum kicking off at Hart House in Toronto.

The Forum features two days of public pitches from filmmakers looking to raise money from a table of assorted international commissioning editors, and between this event in the spring and its autumn counterpart – the IDFA Forum in Holland – some of the year’s biggest documentaries get funded.

Docs that have premiered at festivals so far this year, including The Queen of Versailles, How To Survive A Plague, Herman’s House and Buzkashi!, can all be traced back to pitches at either the Hot Docs or the IDFA Forums.

As such, expect to see at least a few of the projects detailed in this report premiering at festivals throughout 2013 to 2015.

This year’s Hot Docs Forum saw some slight changes in the spread of international commissioning editors attending, with what appeared to be slightly more North Americans and slightly less Europeans. More4′s ‘True Stories’ commissioning editor Anna Miralis and VPRO’s commissioning editor for docs Barbara Truyen were notably absent.

However, also notable were some new faces at the table, most interestingly Jason Spingarn-Koff, the series producer and curator for The New York Times‘ recently launched online ‘Op-Docs’ strand, who was looking for projects that might work online.

Leone Stars

Production company: Mattru Media (Canada); directors/producers: Ngardy and Allan Tong.
Budget: $98,000 already in place (Sundance Institute, Telefilm Canada, Kickstarter), $276,000 sought.

Leone Stars returned to Toronto as one of the relatively older projects on offer to buyers. The film claimed victory last September at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Pitch This! Competition (and with it CDN$10,000 in development funding).

The project follows the Sierra Leone Single-Leg Amputee Sports Club’s pursuit of a world championship, and shows the challenges facing the team as they face internal conflicts and accusations of corruption. “The war on the soccer pitch is a microcosm for Sierra Leone and Africa,” the filmmakers told the commissioners.

Despite being a relatively better known project, buyers were still keen to praise the film. ITVS’s Kane lauded the project, saying it “fits the international mission for ITVS,” while López at ‘POV’ said “the story is remarkable – this is a real look at what happens to those boys lost.”

Also positive was CNN senior producer Jennifer Hyde, who said that while PBS may be interested in the doc, “until the deal is done we can have a discussion.”

The project also won encouragement from BBC ‘Storyville’ editor Nick Fraser, who said that while the project wasn’t a fit for ‘Storyville,’ it would fit on one of the UK pubcaster’s other sections. “I’ll do my best to broker a deal with [BBC strand] ‘This World,’” he said, “because I really love this.”

Shadow Girl

Production company: Storyline Entertainment (Canada)/Maremoto Productions (Chile); director: Maria Teresa Larrain, producer: Lisa Valencia-Svensson.
Budget: $201,000 already in place (Chilean Audiovisual Fund, Britdoc Foundation/PUMA grant, Shaw Media Hot Docs Development Fund, YLE, Chicken & Egg), $141,000 sought.

That the next project pitched went on to be awarded the CDN$40,000 Shaw Media-Hot Docs Forum Pitch Prize, really emphasizes the goodwill felt towards it by all present in the room.

Shadow Girl, from Chilean-Canadian filmmaker Teresa Larrain (The Art of Art Modeling), documents the director’s descent into blindness, using flashbacks, recreations and interviews with blind street vendors to tell her own experience of losing her sight.

“The hardest thing about going blind is not the loss of your visions, it’s the loss of your independence,” the director told the table.

First to react was Lorenzo Hendel, commissioning editor for Italian broadcaster RAI’s DOC3 strand, who said: “I’m totally fascinated by this story.” Also positive was TVO commissioning editor Jane Jankovic, who told the director: “I’m really very taken by the lyricism of the doc – witnessing someone going from the seeing world into the blind world.”

Meanwhile, Tribeca’s Harrington said he thought the trailer was “just such a beautiful piece,” but added, “I do share some concerns about how all these beautiful threads will come together. But we love Storyline Entertainment and loved Herman’s House [which Storyline produced].”

Among the more visibly moved by the pitch was ‘POV”s López, who praised the director for coming forward “in a Forum filled with filmmakers, distributors and broadcasters. I applaud your courage.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in your position and take that, and craft something for all of us,” she added.

Finally, DR TV’s Hoffmann Meyer said that while she was interested in the pitch, she can’t coproduce something that has involvement from sportswear manufacturer Puma. “I think that’s a very important point to make,” she added.

Stay tuned for a second installment featuring Canadian projects, adapted from the full report.
From realscreen

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