brit-doc-logo.gifOn July 21, Judith Helfand and I, representing Working Films, headed to the BritDoc Film Fest at Keble College, Oxford, to continue our partnership with the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation, hosts and masterminds of this hippest fest. (In early June, Judith and I ran the Films for Change workshop in London, also hosted by BritDoc.) The BritDoc fest has become widely celebrated, as IndieWire tells it:

In three years, BritDoc has transformed from noble experiment (inclusive documentary conference based at a legendary university) to unquestionable success. Set over three days on the Keble College campus in Oxford, UK, the conference has become a necessary launch pad for both completed and in-progress nonfiction filmmaking. The 2008 edition will be known for its combination of large audiences (early estimates are at 900 attendees), inspiring discoveries, and unconventionally beautiful English weather.

BritDoc invited us to co-conspire with them on their latest brainstorm for the fest, The Good Pitch. The intent for The Good Pitch was simple: as the London Guardian newspaper tells it:

for filmmakers to shop their wares to a roundtable of potential ‘stakeholders’ – distributors, broadcasters, charities, foundations, brands and media – not just to raise production money but to help situate each film as part of a wider campaign and maximize its impact. Accordingly, representatives from Amnesty, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Compassion in World Farming, the World Development Movement, Christian Aid, Channel 4, the Sundance Institute, Participant Media, MySpace, Snagfilms The British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) and many more spent the afternoon swapping table places to give guidance and support to the relevant projects.

Brit Doc 08
Jess Search and me at the Fest

Over the first two days of the fest, Judith and I provided training for some of the filmmakers selected for The Good Pitch, and then on Friday, the last day of the fest, the Pitch was on; I co-moderated with Jesse Search, BritDoc’s Chief Executive. It was a bit nail-biting and also extraordinary, exhilarating, and energizing, as stakeholders and filmmakers engaged in a first strategic conversation in front of standing-room only, and sometimes cheering crowd of 200+ spectators. Most of the folks at the table representing broadcasters, funders, NGOs and non-profits were from the UK, but a number of US colleagues joined us at the forum, including Sundance Institute‘s Cara Mertes; Cynthia Kane, Programming Manager, ITVS International; Sarah Masters, the Hartley Foundation; Dan Cogan, Impact Partners; and Diana Barrett, of the Fledgling Fund, which supports our partnership with BritDoc.

So what happened? Filmmakers came out of the forum with new and important tactical partners for their projects, including this success covered in the Telegraph:

Director James Erskine is collaborating with two American filmmakers to produce In the Company of Bees, a documentary exploring colony collapse disorder (CCD) and other environmental factors leading to the phenomenon. Pitching his idea to a panel of broadcasters and NGO representatives during the annual Britdoc film festival in July at Keble College, Oxford, Erskine said he was thrilled to have received endorsement from The British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) and Greenpeace.

Greenpeace and BBKA will take James’ film to crucial audiences, from house and hive parties to non-traditional DVD distribution to a collaborative campaign that is mutually beneficial.

We left Oxford ready for our next collaborative adventure with BritDoc!


Read the full article The real picture
from Daniel Lee, Guardian UK on the success of The Good Pitch.

Listen to an audio blog from the Guardian’s Jason Solomons about the BritDoc fest, including an interview with Robert West (about 7 minutes in).

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  1. […] about Robert’s experience with co-hosting the Good Pitch last summer, and apply to participate in the upcoming one at Hot […]

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