Skip to main content

Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, April 2005

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

While the past few years have a yielded a bumper crop of box-office successes, the prospects of a brave new utopia for documentarians may not be quite as bright as previously bruited. There are only so many theaters and channels to go around, and while the combination of cost-effective technology and a more doc-friendly world has encouraged a new wave of storytellers, a troubling number of good documentaries still go homeless. What's needed beyond the artistry and craft is a dose of marketing savvy and chutzpah.

We recruited a few seasoned veterans to share their sage counsel about getting your documentary out there. Diana Holtzberg and Jan Rofekamp of Films Transit International offer an extensive assessment of the different markets in the docu-verse, as well as a set of tools for engaging these markets effectively. Peter Broderick, who works with filmmakers in developing distribution strategies, shares his insights about identifying, targeting and reaching one's audience and possible models for maximizing the revenue stream.

Over in Europe, documentary communities in eight different countries have teamed up to create CinemaNet Europe, a digital cinema network of as many as 180 theaters. The network launched last November with a festival of films from each of the eight countries. Carol Nahra talks to the key players behind this exciting development.

The Internet continues to manifest its promise as a distribution conduit, as Broderick discusses in his piece. In another piece, Russell Sparkman talks about the emergence of Web documentaries-multimedia, interactive, nonlinear media works that have tested the traditional parameters of storytelling and getting the message out. Filmmakers Bo Boudary and Dale Djerassi have made use of both the Web and the DVD formats in creating their documentary Oil on Ice, about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. While the website provides information about both the issues raised in the film and the means to purchase it, the DVD itself includes an enabling feature that interfaces with the website. Ron Sutton talks to Djerassi about this novel means of distribution and activism.

Finally the Internet has served to catalyze the documentary community across whole continents. Three leading documentary-specific Web-based endeavors-The D-Word, Doculink and, in the past five years, inspired a kind of ongoing conversation about issues, trends, technology, philosophy, politics, etc. Documentary filmmaking can be a lonely profession, but the Internet has helped make the connections vital as well as virtual. Laura Almo catches up with the pioneers who founded these outposts in cyberbia.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White