A Guest Blog by Elena Horn, GSDF Participant 2018
Selling a documentary can be the most excruciating part of filmmaking.
I had worked on my project “THE LESSON” for a long time and was always concerned that the reality of the film market would crush the delicate truth and nuances of my documentary. Still, I knew that I must find a way to access platforms and channels in order to give the doc the visibility that it deserved, without losing the tenderness of the story.
So, I applied to the Global Short Docs Forum 2018. I had attended numerous screenings of One World Media before and had the impression that it would be the best environment to learn how to pitch a film which I have a huge emotional and ethical involvement with.
I arrived at the Frontline Club in London straight from a shoot in Burkina Faso – dust and sand still all over my camera and clothes – and immediately jumped into the discussion with my mentors and fellow filmmakers. Simon Ardizzone worked over our trailers with us over and over again until it reached its best potential for the pitches to the Guardian, BBC, Lush, AJ+, Zinc and Zoomin on the final day of the forum.
Paul Sapin helped me to formulate the motivation behind my film in a clear and concise way because, like in all big marketing situations, we only have few minutes in order to present our film.
Then Dominique Young challenged our storytelling decisions which prepared us for the channel’s questions and criticisms. It was so helpful and cheering to experience this attention and care for my project from the side of the mentors, but also from the other filmmakers. During the process I never perceived a sense of rivalry amongst the selected filmmakers, it was a really supportive environment which big festivals can sometimes lack.
The forum was not only about selling your film, but also about successfully pitching all your films in the future – it truly felt like a doc pitch boot camp! At the end of the four days, which included editing night shifts and engaging discussions in the early hours, I felt completely comfortable and confident to present my film to all the major platforms that came to listen to our concepts. We not only established an excellent relationship with these major broadcasters, but also developed a network of filmmakers that spans the entire planet. Which is another reason why the Global Short Doc Forum will have a long-lasting effect on my professional life.
Since the forum, I have been awarded the Lush Film Fund to direct a documentary about Syrian children seeking refuge in Istanbul, and during the forum I met Mohamed Shalaby with whom I collaborated with in the production of the film “Pizza, Democracy and the little Prince” (produced by Open Citadel) which is now nominated for the Social Impact Media Awards (SIMA) 2019. Since the Forum I successfully pitched my documentary to ARTE and was subsequently commissioned to produce the film for this major French-German culture channel.
The Global Short Docs Forum was established as a new initiative to help bridge the gap between digital platforms and filmmakers of documentary shorts.