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Event Preview: Sunny Side of the Doc

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Sunny Side of the Doc returns to La Rochelle, France for 2019 with a spotlight on Germany, a science and nature theme and an expanded PiXii program.

The international marketplace for documentary and narrative experiences will take place from June 24 to 27 this year, bringing together top producers and distributors in the factual space.

For CEO Yves Jeanneau, Sunny Side of the Doc “is not about showing up; it’s not about getting awards. It’s about building up the next season, building up the next co-production. It’s a place where you know who you are with, even if you don’t know the people personally. But you are sure that of the people at your table or behind you is someone interesting.”

***Image***With Germany as the country of honor for its 30th edition, Sunny Side is gathering together major German broadcasters, producers, funds and more. Jeanneau says that since Germany is a federal republic, with everything going through its separate regions, it can complicate the country’s media industry—and that Sunny Side provides a unique platform for its documentary players to present and promote their projects, as well as to join projects from international colleagues.

Members of the AG DOK professional association of independent producers, with support from German Films, will be in attendance alongside more than a dozen production companies, including Vidicom Media, a&o buero filmproduktion, fechnerMEDIA, NEW DOCS, Längengrad Filmproduktion, Karbe Film, COIN FILM, G-Film, Vision Airways and 4ED1.

With the slogan “Stand Up for Science,” this banner year for Sunny Side will highlight projects that do just that. “It’s really the kind of discussion we must have as documentary makers, as part of the documentary community, because it’s part of our responsibility as well,” says Jeanneau, referring to the notion of putting all things science front and center. As for the slogan, Jeanneau explains, “It doesn’t mean we trust science 100 percent, it means that we have to be serious about it, and we have to stop saying things that are not true, stop lying, stop saying things without any proof. We need to get back to a certain seriousness; that’s what science is about.”

“The big science projects are traveling very well, very successfully,” Jeanneau adds. “More and more, they are co-produced because they are global, because they are calling for understanding or for action, calling for understanding about global phenomena. It’s important to gather the best documentaries on the issue. If you are a broadcaster, you can find this year at Sunny Side ten films, easily, which are answering all these questions. So in a way, we are also a platform for preselecting the good stuff and the good programs.”

To support its science theme, the event in La Rochelle will feature a number of conferences and networking events centered on the challenges of blue-chip science documentary production. Among the programs is a session titled “Alliance Doc: International Co-Productions on the Spot” to help launch international co-productions for science projects. A session called “Meet the Executives” will feature buyers and heads of science programming such as Greg Boustead (Sandbox Films/Simons Foundation), Ricarda Schlosshan (ZDF Terra X), Bernadette McDaid (National Geographic), Chris Hoelzl (Smithsonian Channel) and Susan Dando (CBC) sharing their programming strategies and projects for the upcoming season.

The market will also include such program highlights as the “More Than a Movie: Media with Impact” conference with Ru Mahoney (Sea of Shadows), the “Science Is Not Enough—How to Communicate Science?” panel and a talk with Tom Jennings (1895 Films) about the importance of archives ahead of the Moon landing’s 50th anniversary.

Returning for the third year in a row, PiXii (Paths of Interaction, eXperiences in Immersion & Innovation) serves as a generator for digital co-production activities. The program gathers and organizes the next generation of producers and explores location-based entertainment (LBE), which can provide a more immersive documentary experience at venues such as museums and even schools. For the first time, immersive and interactive installations competed to join the PiXii Festival official selection.

For 2019, PiXii has expanded into three parts—a market, a festival and a kickstarter. “My concern was to really bring younger producers, and different—not broadcasters per se, but distributors—for the new formats,” says Jeanneau. “This is important because these younger producers are using new ways of producing, new formats, new techniques. It has always been really important for Sunny Side to reflect these innovations, to reflect these new young people.”

Further, Sunny Side of the Doc will hold five pitching sessions this year—Science (followed by one-to-one meetings), Social and Human Interest, History, Arts and Culture, and Natural History and Wildlife—that will enable creatives from across the globe to pitch their in-development projects before more than 300 international decision-makers and distributors such as Christiane Hinz (Western German Broadcasting, ARD/WDR), Harrison Cassian (BBC), Hossein Panahidorcheh (Ayat Media), Otto Schwarz (ORF III), Ana Paula Mansur (Canal Curta!), Dirk Neuhoff (NDR Television), Akira Yoshizawa (NHK), Nicola Hewitt (Viasat World), Tom Bleyaert (VRT), Marie Beuzard (ARTE France) and Francesca Johnson (National Geographic Partners).

A total of 12 science and nature projects were selected to be pitched at Sunny Side of the Doc next month, and eight of the new projects will get the opportunity to move from the media laboratory into production through international collaborations during a closed-door session.

“I must say that this year, the projects that we gathered covering science and nature were really good. It was pretty difficult to select,” says Jeanneau. “It means something that we have more good projects in than before, and it becomes something important for the TVs, for the producers and the distributors, too, to get to see this content.”

About Chelsea Regan

Chelsea Regan is the associate editor of World Screen. She can be reached at


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