How to fund a documentary in Europe?
by David González
- The IDF’s Ex Oriente Film workshop at Jihlava includes a lecture on European and non-European financing sources for documentary production
As part of the industry programme of the 20th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, the Ex Oriente Film workshop is taking place from 24-28 October. The Institute of Documentary Film’s (IDF's) international training programme for documentary professionals, supporting the development and funding of 12 creative documentary films from Central and Eastern Europe each year, consists of three week-long residential workshops held over nine months, the second of which takes place in Jihlava.
Featuring in the open programme of this year’s workshop, alongside master classes by Georgian documentary filmmaker Salomé Jashi (The Dazzling Light of Sunset [+see also:
film profile]) and Mike Bonanno (The Yes Men), and case studies (Gregor Streiber of Inselfilm), were a series of lectures that tackled all the important topics in the process of developing a documentary. Most interestingly, one lecture on the most important film funds and support programmes, Production Tour of Europe, gave a thorough overview of financial sources. The EDN’s Mikael Opstrup, Rough Cut Service’s Iikka Vehkalahti and Jaeger Creative’s Peter Jaeger offered an analysis of this, as well as a sneak peek at the most pertinent markets and sales agents.
Documentary film projects were thus advised to apply to a comprehensive list of film funds that, depending on their own interests and conditions, might provide financial support. The most important ones (whose conditions for applications, in most cases the request for the project to be a socially committed film, can be found by visiting their websites) were singled out for special mention: Bertha Britdoc Connect Fund, Catapult Film Fund, Cinereach, The Ford Foundation – Justfilms, Fork Films, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, IDFA Bertha Fund – Europe, Impact Partners Film, Movies That Matter Support Programme, Step Beyond – European Cultural Foundation, Sundance Documentary Fund, TFI Documentary Fund, Women in Film Foundation’s Film Finishing Fund and, of course, the European Commission’s Eurimages, which is of a different kind of nature.
Another important part of the process is complementary to researching economic support, as it is the hunt for a sales agent that will be in charge of the visibility, international promotion and holding of the rights for the film. Both Iika Vehkalahti and Peter Jaeger addressed the importance of knowing what type of sales agent is appropriate for the project: there are those that work with fiction films, those that work with documentaries and those that work with both. “There are only 50 to 100 sales agents specialised in documentaries worldwide,” said Jaeger, “and a lot of them were born from TV broadcasting. Documentary has always been big there, and it is only now that it is starting to be so in the usual fiction-film world.”
The lecturers stressed that the main documentary sales agents were Autlook (Austria), Deckert Distribution (Germany), CAT&Docs (France), Cinephil (Israel) and Films Transit (Canada), and also mentioned to the participants the concept of the boutique sales agent, a company that works with 15 to 25 films a year, and which is mostly linked to a broadcaster (for example, ARTE and BBC).
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.