La Rochelle station

Entrance to conference centre

The conference centre

Party on a boat

Sunnyside in La Rochelle is not quite like any other film event I have ever been to. It’s a market aimed at producers and commissioners from all over the world. (think Clothes show live for documentary companies) It has stands, panel discussions, a handful of screenings and the reason why I attended: LE BIPS (best international project selection).

BIPS poster

Orion was one of six international projects selected for the Arts and Culture BIP. In the same format as EIFF I had 7 minutes to tell the story of my film to an audience of commissioners, producers and delegates. Although there are no winners or losers, in the traditional sense, a good pitch can move your project forward and get your face and name known on the international circuit.

I was up against filmmakers from Latvia, India, Brazil, France, Canada and China including the team from EyeSteelFilm and Up the Yangzee headed up by the mighty Peter Wintonick.

Peter Wintonick pitching

Pitch audience.

After the usual technical shambles – checked my clip three times day before and it still didn’t work till third try come the day – the pitch went well. Brilliant feedback from USA, the Netherlands and (surprisingly) France. My ‘pop culture’ interests are usually not a good fit for French commissioners.

View from the ferry

Filmmaker Kate McNaughton and Charlie Phillips from Sheff Doc Fest

All this hard work is offset by an evening of rose wine and ridiculous cocktails served up in elephant/cactus/giraffe glass holders ornamented with a selection of novelty key rings. We eschewed the seafood restaurant that most of the commissioners flocked to partly as Charlie (Sheff doc fest) is a vegan but also the €50 a head price tag. All this traveling to raise finance is a very expensive business.

Crazy Cocktails at Via Brazil

Getting that follow up meeting the next day is an art in itself and takes a good deal of hanging around, copious coffee drinking and gentle pouncing! Unlike EIFF where there is a structured day of follow up meetings Sunnyside is much more free-form with no guarantee of attendees at your pitch or any follow up at all. I have to put my British reserve to one side which is not easy.

UK Village

Glimmer table

I met some great people and had ‘real’ meetings (not just send me a rough cut meetings) that certainly made it worth the trip. I’m not so sure the market set up is an ideal fit for me though, even though I had a table with Glimmer Films (my company) on.

It will be interesting what happens in 2011 – Sheffield announced last week that they are moving to June instead of their usual November dates, two weeks before Sunnyside. Some financiers will be forced to make a choice between the two.

Watching the Italy game on the Orange France stand.

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