The Good Pitch is the brainchild of the Channel 4 BRTIDOC Foundation, headed up by Jess Search, Katie Bradford and Elise McCave. The Good Pitch utilizes the traditional pitching forum to bring together documentary filmmakers, not only with commissioning editors, broadcasters and funders from the international independent film community, but with other potential contributors and partners in audience-building, as well, underlining the fact that nonfiction cinema is a powerful tool for creating social change on a global level. With the opportunity to pitch to ideal outreach partners--expert participants from foundations, charities, NGOs, campaigners, distributors, advertising agencies, and other third sector organizations--a selected group of filmmakers can maximize the impact of their films by forming powerful alliances with the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, World Organization for Human Rights USA, Save the Children Canada, WITNESS, and many others.
Partner, Cara Mertes, director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Program, says that "The Good Pitch is a new evolution in the pitch forum format. It absolutely fits our focus on supporting human rights and social issue documentary films with broad impact. The Channel Four BRITDOC Foundation has been a great innovator in the social issue documentary sector and we are enthusiastic partners in bringing the Good Pitch to North America." The Toronto Documentary Forum, which runs concurrently with the Hot Docs festival, was the first stop on its North American tour; the TDF celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with new leadership by the dynamic Elizabeth Radshaw. The Good Pitch will also be staged at the upcoming SILVERDOCS (entries are now closed; click here to see the final selection); and, in the fall, they will also be at the IFP's Independent Film Week (the deadline is May 25; click here to apply).
The emphasis of The Good Pitch is not on "advocacy," so much as on global social transformation. With funding partners The Fledgling Fund and Working Films, The Good Pitch folks aim to help facilitate fruitful partnerships between artists and viable (and quite powerful) entities with hefty international constituencies. (Pitch training and outreach consultancy was provided by Judith Helfand of Chicken & Egg and Robert West of Working Films.) In fact, Search displayed marvelous skills straight from the yenta tradition in the form of relentless matchmaking, taking an enthusiastic response from an organization representative willing to talk about financial and other types of aid on a film project as a sign that there was about to be cause to plan a wedding. Using their "pent-up idealism," as one representative from the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights put it, to her best advantage, Search made sure there would be follow-up meetings once the pitch session was over: "You're going to go out in the hall and talk some more after the session breaks, right? You're going to give this project some of your money, right?" With fewer and fewer funding options for making and finishing feature documentaries, the Foundation team is hell-bent on finding other ways to support groundbreaking projects. Ryan Harrington of the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund and IndiePix Studios says that it's the "most, worthwhile, uplifting and productive pitching forum I have ever taken part in."
The five projects pitched were: Untitled Immigration Project by Marco Williams which examines the state of US immigration policy by documenting three facets of the immigration story beginning with the deaths that happen along the US/Mexican border and the effort to identify the bodies and then send them back home; the trend of local municipalities that create laws to stem the flow of Latino immigrants; and the impact of the deportation of those with proper working papers who have committed crimes in the US. The Promise of Freedom by Beth Murphy, director of the powerful Beyond Belief, (presented with producer, Sean Flynn) focuses on the work of Kirk Johnson, a 27-year-old American aid worker trying to save thousands of Iraqis whose lives are in danger because they worked for the US during the war. Our School by Mona Nicoara is a story of Roma ("Gypsy") children struggling against intense segregation in a small Transylvanian town. The film follows three schoolchildren as they fight racism and hatred from their teachers and struggle for a good education that will break the cycle of poverty and cultural rejection by the rest of society. Burma Soldier by Nic Dunlop (presented with producer, Julie leBrocquy) tells the story of Myo Myint, who left his refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border to be reunited with his family in the US after 20 years. He was a soldier who turned against his own commanders, was blown up in a landmine, became an activist against the war and suffered imprisonment and torture. Photojournalist Dunlop's powerful trailer brought tears to my eyes; his physical and emotional access to Myint is incredible, making for a very powerful personal story. Lastly, there was Resilient by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine (presented with producer Yael Melamede), Academy Award-nominated filmmakers for their War/Dance. The film (gorgeously shot, unsurprisingly) is a celebration of women from all over the world who have lived through and triumphed over intense trauma and found an inner strength that motivates them into becoming activists with a vengeance. Journalist, Mariane Pearl, will be the conduit that guides viewers through four profiles of women who are making positive change in their communities.