Guest blogger Kylie Boltin writes about the state of documentary, in this report form from BritDoc 2008.
12 Aug 2008 - 10:30 AM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2014 - 3:50 PM

I'm writing this first post to you from the U.K. as BritDoc 08 wraps. Set in the genteel surrounds of Oxford for three days, filmmakers and funders dissect the current state of documentary while reps from broadcasters, private companies, film funds, distributors, and festivals take high powered meetings on the manicured lawns. The event is set up for British documentary filmmakers (hence the overused phrase “from both sides of the Atlantic”) but many of the funders offer international doors for Australian filmmakers and like any industry event you are offered temporary illumination courtesy of international guests, and the unexpected brush with stars.

It was exceptionally cool when director, Nick Broomfield offered me advice re lighting his interview and suggested I edit the piece using cutaways of Conservative icons, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Equally so to watch maverick director, Brian Hill (Drinking for England, Feltham Sings, Songbirds) pitching his newest musical documentary (Aids: The Musical). The international broadcasters in part labeled him “their hero” and admitted to being huge fans while others doubted the possibility of commissioning something so unlike anything they had done before, which made me sad.

Director Julie Moggan won “The Big Pitch” and a £1000 cash prize for her project Guilty Pleasures, about the global Mills and Boon phenomenon and “The Short Pitch Prize” (as well as a £10,000 cheque from The Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation) went to Hannah Patterson for Shelter in Place, about Texas oil refineries.

Participant, Gucci Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, ITVS International and the Sundance Institute comfortably cosied up with NGOs such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and Amnesty International for the first ever “Good Pitch” – a showcase for 8 films with a common brief to change the world. As well as a genuine sense of this very possibility the session was particularly full as excited spectators fanned ourselves in anticipation of actor, Gael Garcia Bernal's appearance seeking money for his new doc project, Resist. He didn't disappoint, first apologiing for his inability to express himself fully in English (perfectly) and then telling us all that we were there ''when I lost my virginity – you never forget the first time.”

Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, of The Yes Men screened excerpts of their new movie, The Yes Men Fix The World, together with their producer, Alan Hayling and incredible editor, Kurt Engfehr (Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11). The Yes Men are a team that combines humour, impudent boldness and big, big hearts and who impersonate what they call, “big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them”. The film is still in production but you can read what happens when Andy becomes Dow representative, “Mr. Jude (patron saint of the impossible) Finisterra (earth's end)” for the purpose of apologising for the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal tragedy live on BBC TV news and radio amongst other “identity corrections”.

The comedy theme was fittingly toasted by a key note address / masterclass with Larry Charles (pictured), writer of Seinfeld, Entourage, producer/ director of Curb Your Enthusiasm, director of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, as well as the recently completed feature documentary Religulous.

READ Larry Charles highlights above (I'm serious – I've transcribed them for you!)

So that's a wrap up of BritDoc08 and we've got prizes to mark the occasion: 3 DVDs of the brilliant Australian feature doc Forbidden Lie$ by Anna Broinowski, courtesy of Madman Entertainment. Write in with comments about what film would you like to see made. Pitch away. This can be real or imaginary. Props for poise amidst lunacy if you so desire… See you next time. K