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Notes from the Reel World: The President's Column, July 2005

By Richard Propper

Dear IDA Members:

In our business, pressure comes in the form of a broadcast deadline, missing a flight for an important shoot or even losing out on a one-time interview. I was recently in Toronto for Hot Docs where I attended the Toronto Documentary Forum (TDF). I was quite impressed with the filmmakers who endured critical review of their work in a public setting.

The TDF is an amazing pitching event modeled, in part, after The Forum at International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA). The TDF consists of two days worth of 15-minute pre-selected presentations, held in a large room on the University of Toronto campus. In the center of the room is a very long, oval-shaped table. Large screens for short clips are set up on either side of the room. Around the table are some 20 to 25 top commissioning editors, theatrical distributors and high-end producers. Another 150 people are allowed in as "observers."

The producers who pitched their ideas were judged with scant politeness. Some comments from around the table were entertaining, others were sharp and painful. Most producers held their own regarding their work. What they were sometimes not prepared for was hearing from so many decision-makers at once.

Hot Docs was a nonfiction lovers paradise-screenings every night, multiple cocktail parties every afternoon, dinners and filmmakers at every corner.

Let's pause for a moment to honor the DVD. If you remember the days of duplicating multiple videocassettes for an early version of your film, then making changes and ordering another batch of tapes, it got expensive quickly. Now, a DVD can be burned from your computer with relative ease, and you can experiment with various cuts and in a medium that is cheap to duplicate and send. I've just heard about a DVD that has NTSC on one side and PAL on the other, which will be ideal for international viewing.

Finally, as we were going to press, we learned that Robert Redford's Sundance Group would be launching Sundance Cinemas, a new theater chain for documentaries, independent narratives and foreign language films, as well as shorts and public forums. This venture will be operated by Paul Richardson and Vert Manzari, the team that brought you Landmark Theatres. We'll be monitoring the progress of this exciting new endeavor over the next few months, but for now, let's praise the long-running efforts of Robert Redford and everyone at Sundance to create more opportunities for documentaries to be seen.


Until next time,

Richard Propper
IDA President