- Thursday, Jun. 28, 2012
- 0 Comments
What do the acclaimed new documentaries "First Position" and "Indie Game: The Movie" have in common? Both were discovered in the PitchFest competition of the West Coast's premier documentary and reality conference in Los Angeles called WESTDOC, which is holding its third annual conference Sept. 9-12 at the historic and remodeled Culver Hotel and the Pacific Theaters in Culver City, Calif.
When bi-costal filmmaker Bess Kargman was storyboarding her doc "First Position," about the world of competitive ballet, she knew she had a great film on her hands. The only problem was she didn't have the funds or contacts to shoot and finish it. "Then I saw an ad for WESTDOC," recalls Kargman.
WESTDOC was started by Los Angeles-based documentary distributor Richard Propper and producer/director Chuck Braverman in 2009. Drawing on their experiences at hundreds of industry events over the years, the duo designed WESTDOC with the most successful conference formulas from around the world. WESTDOC brings together preeminent documentary and reality producers, directors, writers, network executives, agents and distributors over the course of three days' worth of panels, up-fronts and face-to-face meetings.
One of the main attractions of WESTDOC is PitchFest, the conference's climactic all-day event in which documentary and reality producers pitch works-in-progress in front of a live audience. PitchFest is looking for breakout ideas and new talent. The pitches – a combination of video and verbal presentation – are judged by network development executives for potential acquisition; however, it is the audience vote that decides the winner. The PitchFest entry deadline for 2012 is August 15, and details are available at: www.thewestdoc.com/pitchfest.
Kargman put together her two-minute reel about "First Position" using stock footage, sent it in just before the 2009 PitchFest deadline, and it was ultimately accepted as one of the 12 finalists. Not only did she win the competition, she secured funding for her film at WESTDOC. "The access to all these senior level executives was amazing, I made great contacts and that helped my film tremendously," reflects Kargman. "First Position" premiered to a standing ovation at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, was acquired by distributor Sundance Selects and recently began its U.S. theatrical run to rave reviews.
Filmmaking duo Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, experienced similar success in 2010 when they won PitchFest with "Indie Game: The Movie," a feature-length documentary about video games and their creators.
"WESTDOC was an invaluable experience for us," says Swirsky. "We learned a lot and made many connections at the conference. PitchFest gave us a huge boost of confidence and validation from industry leaders."
"Indie Game" premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the "Best Editing" honor in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. It also was an official selection at the recent SXSW Film Festival and will show at additional festivals, game conferences and special screenings around the world this summer. HBO recently announced that it will produce a fictional series based on "Indie Game."
WESTDOC: The West Coast Documentary and Reality Conference (Sept. 9-12, 2012) gathers producers and directors of non-fiction/documentary and reality television programming with executives who create such programs. Recognized as the premier conference of its kind on the West Coast, more than 100 industry speakers are expected to participate in the three-day WESTDOC 2012 conference consisting of panels, case studies, social events and exclusive networking sessions. More than 30 panels are planned regarding financing, conceiving and selling a documentary or reality TV one-off or series. Contemporary topics covered also will include distribution models from theatrical presentation to digital platforms.
Registration information, as well as an updated list of panels, speakers and instructions on how to participate in PitchFest, can be found at: www.theWESTDOC.com. Conference updates also are posted via WESTDOC 2012's Facebook and Twitter sites.