Good Pitch Europe returned to the Royal Institution of Great Britain on June 25th. Attended by almost 500 people from trainee filmmakers to Rabbis to rockstars to war reporters to stroke survivors and many more besides, the day was one of laughter, tears and commitment with everyone in the room engaging generously with each of the projects and each other.
"Documentary films are probably the last bastion of original journalism," said Rageh Omar in his opening address. Likening the age of twenty-four hour news to ‘a giant echo-chamber’, the Al-Jazeera reporter who became a household name reporting the 2003 Iraq war for the BBC said, "Documentaries are the best kind of news reporting because they give context and original voices. Documentary-makers know that people tell the best stories."
Jemima Khan, Bella Freud and Samantha Roddick were among the audience who packed the historic Lecture Theatre at the Royal Institution during an all-day event which often proved inspirational and sometimes deeply moving.
Following the format of Dragon’s Den (but with heart and soul), independent documentary filmmakers pitched their projects to carefully selected panels representing organisations who might be able to give them financial backing or help them bring their completed films, not only to the widest possible audiences, but also to the people who really need to see them.
More than 180 organisations from around the world had agreed to participate in this year’s event, including news media organisations from Channel 4 and Al Jazeera to Reuters and the New York Times; human rights organisations like Amnesty, top-level political think-tanks like Chatham House, charities such as Oxfam, single issue pressure groups and professional bodies including The Royal College of Nursing.
After a two-day campaign development workshop, the teams behind eight documentary projects made their cases. They covered subjects ranged from the proposal to introduce draconian anti-gay laws in Uganda (Call Me Kuchu) and rock star Edwyn Collins’s recovery after a devastating stroke (In Your Voice, In Your Heart) to the formation of South Sudan (State Builders), a child’s-eye view of the eviction of Palestinian families in east Jerusalem (My Neighbourhood), the human effects of the Eurozone crisis (Kaputt) and life among the protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square (The Square).
Several pitches received immediate financial backing, including the promise of £50k by Channel 4 and a further $20k from the Pulitzer Centre on Crisis Reporting for Sri Lanka's Killing FIelds, €20k to The Square from the European Partnership for Democracy, $10k to Call me Kuchu for outreach, and a £30k production grant from BRITDOC to In Your Voice, In Your Heart. Others were offered practical including post-production deals or screenings at international events. All received offers of useful help and advice with distribution and outreach. Jason Spingarn-Koff of the New York Times invited several pitchers to submit short versions of their films to be shown on their Op-Docs site.
Potential sponsors, including those with access to the corridors of power, repeatedly emphasised the ability of films with strong narratives and compelling characters to reach the parts official reports just don’t reach. Offers were made to arrange screenings for politicians in London, Brussels and on Capitol Hill. Speaking from the floor a Liberal Jewish rabbi said she would like to show My Neighbourhood to youth groups in her own community, and Vicki Matthews of the Royal College of Nursing Neurosciences Committee said she would like to see In Your Voice, In Your Heart incorporated into the training of all nurses, since public understanding of strokes and aphasia was so poor.
At a time of economic difficulty when it is ever harder for independent film-makers to get funding, Good Pitch is helping to form a new symbiosis between the hundreds of organisations, large and small, which seek to understand and improve the human condition, promote democracy and defend human rights, and filmmakers who can express those aims and ideals by telling unique and powerful human stories.
We are incredibly grateful to everyone who came, watched, spoke, pitched, offered, received, connected generously and in the spirit of collaboration that Good Pitch was built around.