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European Documentary Market - How does Documentary Campus work?

Industry Report: Documentary

Peter Symes • Head of Studies at the Documentary Masterschool

- Training Programmes for Documentary Professionals in Europe

How do you select the candidates for Documentary Campus?
You need to be reasonably experienced; have already some broadcasted programs, you need to submit an idea, and you will be selected on the strength of that idea.
If it is a film about a small village in France that will only interest French audiences it won’t work, now if the problem in the village may affect German or English villages it could be interesting. So in the proposal, if you are to be successful there should be some evidence that you have been thinking how it may work in film.
You also submit a film interview with yourself; you have to show some evidence of work in DVD and a CV. That goes on to a committee of up to ten commissioning editors which changes every year, and they make a selection of sixteen projects.

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What happens once they have been selected?
The training runs for four weeks. The first week they work on the story, the second week they look at trailers, budgets and co-production law, the third week they learn about distribution and how to professionally pitch. The budget is then analysed by professional experts, and in the last week they prepare their pitch and hopefully raise the money.

What percentage of the films gets made?
On average, is about fifty per cent of them, but it takes a long time and they all not get fully funded. Some of them are a real struggle, but still get completed. They may make much less budget than they thought; some of them find it easier to find the money, and some others get made very quickly. The quickest is about a year, the longest can be four or five years.

In the case of successfully completing their films, is there any economic conditions implied in your contract with the filmmakers?
Yes, first of all if you come on Campus there is no charge. You have to pay to come to the workshops and they are in different cities, so you pay for food and accommodation, but you don’t pay for the course. In addition to that you get 3700 € to allow you to travel. You can also do some research with that, go to visit tutors or do an internship or go to markets like Sunny Side.
You also get two tutors for your project; one of them will be a commissioning editor and the other a working experienced producer or director. If every goes fine and you are successful you have to give us back €15,000. We are publicly funded, and need some of that money back.

Documentary Campus, 23 & 24 May 2009
Faster, Keener, Leaner, Meaner: Survival of the Fittest in Factual
Manchester, UK

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