» Sheffield Doc/Fest

There are certainties in life: travel to Sheffield and you’ll see rain. Lots of it. But during the Doc/Fest you will also meet a lot of enthusiastic documentary filmmakers who populate the different festival venues and that makes up for a grey day. It’s a good thing that many of them are British, which means that they run less risk than I do of being overrun by these drivers who stubbornly continue to drive on the left side of the road. I’ll never get used to it.

The start of my brief visit to Doc/Fest was rather turbulent but for reasons that had nothing to do with the festival. When I presented myself at the check in desk of the hotel, it turned out that – thanks to the wonders of on-line booking – I had reserved a hotel room in Manchester and not in Sheffield. According to Google Maps this is a 38,8 miles mistake. It makes me remember another of my adventures when – many years ago – I wanted to visit the ZDF/Arte offices and had a taxi driving me through Frankfurt for more than half-an-hour, in vain looking for the ZDF/ARTE address, before it dawned on me (and only after I’d called the commissioning editor I was supposed to meet…) that these offices are situated in Mainz, which put me about 46 kilometers off target.

Once again I’m in the situation that I will not be able to see one documentary here, in spite of the many titles in the programme I’d like to watch. My aim for coming here is to be of assistance to EDN members who participate in the MeetMarket and who might need a bit of advise from the old manitou. I’m happy to say that many of them jumped upon the occasion. and I’m also pleased to say that I saw a lot of very promising projects and very motivated people.

But in the backrooms the mood was rather gloomy: producing documentaries nowadays is more of a passion that a profession, it seems. This is not the time nor the place to sum up all the complaints that I have been listening to (also because – alas -many of you are familiar with them) but I can testify that many professionals are fed up by the current situation and want something to be done about it.

To me, this underlines once again the importance of EDN as an association that represents in an active way the interests of its members. Without being able to divulge details, I can share with you that at this moment we’re active in Bulgaria, Greece and Cyprus, where members asked for our assistance in matters concerning the relationship with public broadcasters and media institutions. During today’s afternoon drink ( graciously offered by AG.Dok and the German Producers) the matter of ‘how EDN can take upon itself this role of the sector’s advocate’ was discussed in-depth, and I have to say that I was presented with some really good ideas and arguments. The general opinion is that EDN has to take up the role of an umbrella organisation, representing the different national associations and defending on the highest levels the general interests of the sector. Of course, we can only do such a thing when these national documentary associations actually exist, which is not yet the case everywhere. Pushing the documentary filmmakers to create them is another action point that we’ll have to add to our ‘to do’ list. I should mention here that thanks to an initiaitve of our friends at DocIt a first step in that direction will be taken during the Italian Doc Screenings in October. Once again I have to be discrete until further notice. I do realize that I’m teasing you by not telling you everything, but these matters demand discretion and careful treading. Soon I’ll be able to be more explicit.

At the end of a day like this, I’m always exhausted and it’s difficult to shut down the computer in my head and to try to relax. Today that was a bit easier, for it was the evening of our traditional EDN dinner. And what a great evening that has been. Good company, very decent food and a couple of stiff drinks all contributed to the success. I was particularly happy that many new EDN members showed up and found a place in the warm heart of EDN. Of course I also appreciated a lot the presence of good friends who have been EDN members for a very long time and who took it upon themselves to make the newbies feel welcome. Allow me to use this blog to clear one dogged misconception: one does not need to be invited to join us for the dinner, the evening is open to all members. All you have to do is to register, just to make sure that we have enough seating space for all participants. So if you’re planning to be with for the EDN dinner during Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, don’t wait for an invitation: just register and show up!

And on these wise words I’m going to call it a day ant slide between the cool sheets of the Jurys Inn hotel. Thanks for reading me and looking forward to finding you again tomorrow, when I will report on another bright and interesting day.

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