South Africa’s Documentary Filmmakers Association (DFA) delegation to Hot Docs 2012 has just returned from Toronto, Canada , with reports that the successes of the trade mission are already tangible.
A number of deals are in their finalisation stages, the details of which can be made public shortly. Ryley Grunenwald and Pascal Schmitz’s pitch for Sand of the Skei Queen at the Hot Docs Forum was an absolute success. The clarity and professionalism of their pitch was commented on by some of the most hard-nosed foreign broadcasters around the table. As a result the team has started negotiations for three pre-sales and several acquisitions down the line.
Marc Schwinges took the charming travel series, Rough or Smooth, to market and he left Toronto with actual deal memos. In addition, some producers are exploring co-production arrangements with Canadian co-producers, which will unlock the benefits of the South African–Canadian co-production treaty.
The 16-strong DFA delegation was the biggest at Hot Docs, and stood out at the festival. However, according to a statement, more than the benefits enjoyed by specific projects, the overall gain has been for the South African documentary industry as a whole.
The first benefit is learning the trends in topics and approaches favoured by specific broadcasters, which is crucial intelligence to gather in the development stage of any project. Second is the knowledge that increasingly very few traditional free-standing documentaries are being financed. Now progressively more documentaries are an entire transmedia project, such that an enhanced online presence is used as an advocacy tool. Together with mobile apps these drive viewers to other relevant content, and become extensions to the message of the documentary itself. Transmedia means that web and other interactive components are no longer seen as add-ons or nice-to-haves, but part of the planning of the documentary project and implementation itself.
The overall success can be ascribed to the dedication of the delegation and the support of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF).