Event Preview: Sunny Side of the Doc

The international documentary community will once again gather in La Rochelle, France, for four days dedicated to factual content at Sunny Side of the Doc, which is taking place from June 19 to 22.

The event will play host to a range of thought-provoking conference sessions, pitching competitions with prizes, presentations by broadcasters from around the world, screenings and special events.

This year’s theme is “Historic,” with an eye to exploring international current affairs in regard to history. Yves Jeanneau, the CEO of Sunny Side of the Doc, tells TV Real that now, more than ever, is a time to reflect on history and how it brought us to where we are today. “Everything going on around the world—with Trump, Brexit and all sorts of political issues—is linked to default of memory,” he says. “Documentary is a kind of memory. Countries or people without memory (or without documentary) are going in the wrong direction. Documentaries provide a way to remember how it was in the past and provide lessons for greater understanding today and in the future. ***Image***That’s why history and documentary have always been linked together. In the situation we are in around the world, history is really at stake.”

In this context, Sunny Side of the Doc will host twice as many pitches for history projects, with six during public sessions and six during individual meetings with buyers. International distributors will also be showcasing a wide range of new history programs from around the world at an opening event on Monday, June 19. There will be a Master Class on archives detective work for Ron Howard’s documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years on Tuesday, June 20. The next day will host a panel on the theme “Revamping History at the Age of Disruption.”

Jeanneau says that this idea of “revamping history” is an important one for those working in the factual-programming arena to embrace. “It is about how the documentary creative community can mix [traditional] elements, such as historical events and testimonies that come from the past, with the very new techniques and technologies that allow us to address these issues and this content for a younger generation.”

A large part of this revamped approach is coming from VR and other interactive technologies. As such, the event will shine a light on shared connected experiences with VR. Fulfilling its role as a facilitator, Sunny Side of the Doc has designed a special program of themed events for professionals called “Digital Culture Kick-Starters.” The aim is to bring together content producers, designers of innovative technological devices and representatives from cultural sectors.

Jeanneau says there are two pillars that Sunny Side is looking to address with regard to new technologies. “One is about having the best content we can select from all over the world to see how VR can change the storytelling and change the way to introduce and share clever content; the second is how to share this content collectively, or in a small group at least. This is why we have organized a specific area at Sunny Side for PiXii [Paths of Interaction, eXperiences in Immersion & Innovation], which is a way to promote these two elements.”

PiXii will be open to both professionals (in the morning) and the general public (in the afternoon). It is dedicated to new experiences principally based on rich content that integrates virtual, augmented and mixed realities, 360-degree video or 3D sound recording.

The 2017 event is already on track to make history itself, Jeanneau explains. “Our exhibition hall was sold out months ago, which has never happened before. After 28 years, this is the first year we’ve had this result. That means something! It means that we are in a situation where people all around the world—from North America to Asia—need to share their stories, share their budgets, share their content. It’s a positive effect of globalization. Documentary is perfect for that.”

He adds that Sunny Side is expecting more companies this year and attendees from a wider range of countries. Notably, there are new pavilions from China, as well as Canada.

Jeanneau also hopes that Sunny Side attendees will take away from the event the importance of embracing new ways of storytelling. “Even if we put history on the front page, we have all of these new technologies and new ways of storytelling that are more and more attractive,” he says. “Producers are now becoming transmedia producers, not just doc producers. We have to produce for not only TV or cinema but for a large scope [of platforms]. That’s what’s really exciting today.”