Regional documentary film production was the focus of the REGIONALITY conference at Lennox Head Cultural Centre last week, presented by the AIDC and Screenworks.
This is the first time the Melbourne-based Australian International Documentary Conference has come to the Northern Rivers, offering regional film-makers the opportunity to pitch to major decision-makers, and giving the audience a chance to hear directly from key creatives, broadcasters, festival selectors and funding body reps about the latest developments in the factual entertainment sector.
While a number of Sydney-based guests were unable to attend in person because of the latest COVID outbreak, a mixture of Zoom and live switching technologies made for a great interactive event, incorporating international decision-makers from The Sundance Film Festival and PBS in the US.
Natasha Gadd is the CEO/Creative Director of the Australian International Documentary Conference.
She told The Echo, ‘We hold an annual event in March in Melbourne. It’s a four day event that brings together documentary and factual producers; curators, purveyors and buyers.
‘The idea is to facilitate creative and business outcomes for the factual and doco community.’
Ms Gadd explained that the idea of REGIONALITY was to work with Create NSW and Screenworks to bring a taste of AIDC to the regions, and in this case particularly to elevate and celebrate stories from regional northern New South Wales filmmakers.
‘For regional filmmakers, sometimes access to some of these events, these decision makers, and these broadcasters can be really tricky and tough,’ she said. ‘So why not bring those people and that sort of program to them?’
The REGIONALITY Pitch
Ms Gadd said that the inaugural REGIONALITY Pitch was a call out to filmmakers who were making content in the doco space to submit a project idea in early development.
‘Four projects were selected,’ she said. ‘They received pitch mentoring, through a team of coaches, and also trailer consultancy. Over the course of the last few weeks, they’ve perfected their pitch. And then today they had an opportunity to pitch that to different decision makers from both here and internationally,’ said Ms Gadd.
Judging by the positive responses to the diverse projects pitched, these projects look like finding their way to screens before too long.
‘The projects are all in early development, so it will take a while,’ said Ms Gadd. ‘But I think there were enthusiastic responses, and very honest responses as well.’
Natasha Gadd hopes the success of the project means it will happen again, despite the challenges of COVID. She said being able to share stories in this way inspired everyone, creating new opportunities for learning and collaboration.
The difficulties associated with holding major in-person events mean that the future of events like AIDC and REGIONALITY is likely to be a hybrid of virtual and real world. ‘We had to go virtual in March of this year, which is challenging in many ways, because it’s the one time of the year when the doco and factual community can come together, usually, and meet international buyers and filmmakers,’ said Ms Gadd.
‘So that’s disappointing, but that virtual element did provide us with the opportunity to bring in the biggest contingent of international buyers, virtually, also there was more access. People from the regions, people from remote areas, people who have trouble covering the costs of travel, could all attend and still access the same thing.’
In terms of regional filmmakers and production, it sounds like you’re quite optimistic about the prospects for the future? ‘Yes, people are working out that they can work remotely, and still get the job done,’ said Ms Gadd.
‘COVID puts some restrictions on people being able to travel to film. But there’s been a lot of innovation in the way that people have been engaging crews on the ground, directing via Zoom or thinking differently about how they actually construct the film when they can’t travel,’ she said.
‘That kind of thinking can really benefit regional filmmakers who, who don’t often have access to all of the opportunities and events and facilities in a larger urban environment.’