Brigid O'Shea • Head of DOK Industry
"I don't want to go back to where we were in 2019"
- Head of DOK Industry Brigid O'Shea tells us how her team has translated its activities to the online environment and how the current crisis can provide opportunities for real change in the industry
We talked to head of DOK Industry Brigid O'Shea to find out how she and her team have translated their activities to the online environment, and how the current crisis can provide opportunities for real change in the film industry.
Cineuropa: You decided to go online with DOK Industry very early. This gave you time to really develop the online approach, so what have you come up with?
Brigid O'Shea: It was pretty clear already at the end of April that there would be severe travel restrictions come the autumn, and we wanted to create a platform that everyone could be a part of. The DOK Industry programme and the market activities at DOK Leipzig have a very specific character to them, and we wanted to retain as much of it as possible: they are relaxed, easy to access and slow-paced. We believe that our event should create a space for dialogue and discussion, for meeting and networking, unlike the more hectic markets. We thought about which parts of the programme we wanted to save and which ones could translate into the digital space, and we decided to prioritise those. And then we thought about what kinds of windows of opportunity can open up in this new digital space that we had never had a chance to play with before.
What are the positive aspects of the situation for you?
The benefit of the crisis for us is that we have an extraordinary and expanded guest list this year to share our programming, our point of view and the point of view of filmmakers with. We get to express in a more articulate way our opinion about how we want the industry to look in the future and what we think our taxpayers' money should be used for. We want to make sure that we are not perpetuating the same kinds of cycles of gatekeeping online that we have in the real world. So we were looking for ways to open up, rather than close down, make exclusive or reduce.
How is this tendency reflected in the events within the DOK Industry programme?
We wanted to find ways to enable people who are marginalised and excluded from conversations to actually start their own conversations and share with us what they want to talk about, as opposed to us creating a framework and picking topics. We will do that through a series of nine podcasts almost exclusively programmed and curated by BIPOC industry professionals. They deal with anti-racism and unpacking white supremacy in the European/international documentary industries. We accessed them through our own network, and that would be Toni Bell from The What's Up With Docs podcast, Themba Bhebhe, who's an independent film programmer and curator as well as being responsible for diversity and inclusion at the European Film Market, and also our new collaboration with the Programmers of Colour Collective.
These podcasts were recorded in October: they last between 45 and 90 minutes. You can put them on your smartphone, and you don't have to spend all your time in front of a webcam to get ideas, resources and impulses that you can integrate into your everyday life. We’ve got conversations with Euzhan Palcy and Alice Diop, American producers and filmmakers Jessica Devaney and Geeta Gandbhir, as well as artist Quentin VerCetty and many more.
How is the Co-production Market going to look in this online setting?
We have 36 projects and more than 100 decision-makers attending. In addition to projects and decision-makers, we were able to invite many more producers to participate. We've always been trying to build theatrical co-productions, so you need producers who can unlock theatrical financing. We will have 30 new producers from all over the world, and we have tried to prioritise France and Germany because that's where the bigger co-production partners are.
We have a new workshop day, where the focus isn't on pitch training, but more on networking and working together digitally, and making sure that projects know each other. We’re trying to expand their networks even wider. And to translate this to the internet is really difficult. So we tried to focus on networking and discussion opportunities, individual meetings, little group discussions and hangouts that have more of a cocktail-like atmosphere.
What is your main takeaway from this extraordinary year in the industry?
I don't want go back to 2019 and a classist, homophobic, individualistic, environmentally destructive reality. I would like to take this watershed moment where really vulnerable people are expressing their dissatisfaction and use it as a chance to stop doing things a certain way just because we've always done them that way. We need to modernise and change. That's what I hope the DOK Industry programme will offer people: to open them up to the possibility for change.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.