Well, a qualification first, the ‘you’ I’m speaking to is a documentary maker who hopes to make funded documentaries for widespread audiences. Sheffield Doc/Fest is coming around again in June and if you’re serious about documentaries it could be time to start planning your trip. Here’s why:
1. IT’S EASY – it’s cheap and easy to get to from Ireland, with direct flights to Manchester often costing less than 50 euros. And Sheffield, not being a major capital like London or New York, has pretty reasonable accommodation if you book in advance. Like, now!!
2. INSPIRING WORK – big festivals are the place to see many fantastic films that blow your mind and fill you with motivation to make your films as great as possible. The film programming at Sheffield is second to none and there are more brilliant films there than you’ll ever be able to fit in.
3. ACCESS – I’ve been to a number of festivals and Sheffield is certainly one of the best in getting you access to the people you want to meet – whether it’s broadcasters, sales agents, distributors or potential collaborators. There are so many commissioning editors there and the atmosphere is more relaxed than some of the more high octane North American fests.
4. PARTIES – Every night at Sheffield there’s somewhere to go and, again, the atmosphere is really relaxed, which is great for those who are reasonably new to festivals or not blessed (for these kinds of occasions) with a super extrovert personality (maybe most filmmakers aren’t?). You can easily get talking to any number of people just by being in the room. One word of caution, the pub is not the time for the hard sell but it’s a great opportunity to make a good first impression and get to know people.
5. THE KNOWLEDGE – Alongside the movies are masterclasses, panels and workshops with some of the best and most knowledgable documentary people in the world. Last year there was a phenomenal Q&A with John Battsek, the Oscar-winning producer who seems to be attached to so many of the best documentaries being made these days.
6. THE PROGRAMMES – Sheffield Doc/Fest is involved in a number of brilliant educational programmes that will increase your skills but also help you to build connections and contacts. The bigger ones are Devise to Deliver, for interactive projects and Fast Track to Features, which does exactly what it says on the tin.
The 21st Sheffield Doc/Fest runs 7-12 June 2014