A Conversation with Elizabeth Radshaw & Dorota Lech (HOT DOCS Film Fest)
Elizabeth Radshaw: First, we were able to highlight new systems and opportunities for filmmakers and decision makers to connect. Also, it allowed us to be mindful of the environmental impact traveling to events has, and seeing a vital solution to that.
For emerging filmmakers, Hot Docs is putting extra care into our Doc Accelerator program for emerging Canadian filmmakers, in order to deepen the mentorship component of the program to address this. Additionally, we held over 15 Hot Docs Hangouts, which attempted to recreate those moments when you walk into the Hot Docs happy hour tent and form a new serendipitous relationship with someone over by the hummus platter. These Hangouts were highly produced but felt casual – folks could crosstalk, connect and meet new people around a certain subject matter, expert or filmmaker.
The Hot Docs Forum, Deal Maker, and Distribution Rendezvous, our tailored meeting service for completed films seeking distribution, were also able to continue for the whole month of May with meetings, networking, and dealmaking. 22 Hot Docs Forum projects from 19 countries were presented to a live room of 40-plus key commissioning editors and funders – and over $57,000 in cash prizes was awarded. A total of 55 projects were pitched in 800-plus pre-arranged meetings during Deal Maker. And Distribution Rendezvous facilitated approximately 700 meetings for 82 projects.
In addition to that, 13 (Netflix-supported) Doc Accelerator Fellows from across Canada participated in private programming, which will continue in the coming months.
As for the cons, Zoom fatigue is real. So we designed our Hot Docs decision maker meetings over the course of four weeks just so that folks don’t burn out. Also, you cannot replace face-to-face interactions, or recreate the magic moment of bumping into someone at a film festival – and that initial meeting turning into a future partnership. (Also, we miss hugs!)
HtN: What is the biggest change(s) you would make to ensure the most productive virtual experience in the future? (Or is this even the future?)
DL: We hope it’s not the future! We’re tremendously proud of this year’s digital pivot, but sincerely hope that we can gather together next year.
ER: Ditto. We are very proud of how this stopgap solution can address key industry needs, support filmmakers, and offer continuity in our industry. Gatherings in the future may be different for some time, but we look forward to being together in person again soon.
So what are your biggest concerns going forward? A dearth of films in 2021 due to production shutdowns? An overabundance of coronavirus-related docs?
ER: The Hot Docs Industry All Access online pivot was kind of like trying to build an airplane in mid-flight with your entire documentary community onboard. I feel like we are all experiencing this reality in one way or another. As an industry and community of filmmakers and decision makers, we need to experiment, use our ingenuity, and try different things to see what works. We are very proud that what we were able to do has been so fulfilling to the needs of our community at this time. And we know that the Hot Docs online festival will certainly feed the needs of our audiences, too.
– Lauren Wissot