Sunny Side of the Doc

From June 20 to 23, members of the international factual programming community will gather in the harbor town of La Rochelle, France, for the 27th edition of Sunny Side of the Doc.

For four days, the focus will be on the buying and selling of programs, as well as the pairing of partners to work together on documentary projects. There are also a series of conference sessions, pitching competitions, presentations by broadcasters, screenings and special events taking place at the Espace Encan venue.

***Image***Global issues will take the spotlight at the upcoming event, according to Yves Jeanneau, the CEO of Sunny Side markets. This includes addressing topics such as immigration and environmental concerns. This year, Canada has been selected as the country of honor. Jeanneau says that it’s a welcome return for many Canadian producers, who may have faced tough times in recent years due to budget cuts at some of the country’s main networks.

Jeanneau points out that Canada is also “very strong and very creative” when it comes to new technology such as VR. “If you ask someone working in virtual reality who the best producers are for VR programming, they will say Canada,” he explains.

Virtual reality will, indeed, be a talking point at Sunny Side. Jeanneau is enthused by the prospects of what this new technology can do to invigorate the documentary sector. “VR right now is like the Wild West,” he says. “It is ripe for complete discovery. It opens the doors to mixing artistic points of view with very technological points of view. It is a huge, new territory to explore. The ones who are getting in now are pioneers.”

Another hot topic for the market will be the impact of SVOD services on the doc community. “I think the so-called digital revolution means a lot for documentaries,” says Jeanneau. “It means that linear is no longer the only way of telling stories. You have nonlinear and transmedia now to help tell stories in a different, fresh way. SVOD is maybe the answer we are all looking for to develop documentary platforms where each can have its own editorial line.”

One of the core elements of Sunny Side remains its pitching competitions. The event provides an opportunity for around 40 creative teams from all over the world to pitch their projects in development in front of leading international buyers. A jury will select 14 to be awarded prizes, including cash. There are seven different pitching sessions this time: global issues, science, natural history and wildlife, history, arts and culture (a new addition this year), digital creation and Asian Pitch (for projects coming from Asia or co-produced with an Asian partner).

Jeanneau emphasizes that it’s very difficult to narrow down the projects, since there are so many promising submissions from all over the world. “It’s very positive to see all that creativity and also the new players coming from countries where we haven’t had a lot of projects from before. We have very good projects now coming from Eastern European countries, the Middle East, Asia and so on.”

He also adds that North American broadcasters are returning to Sunny Side in full force this year, with renewed interest. “U.S. broadcasters are looking at documentary films again, and are looking at them quite positively,” Jeanneau says. “There is a definite ‘comeback’ with their presence at Sunny Side, as we have quite a lot of speakers and important people from the U.S. broadcasters.”

After nearly three decades of hosting Sunny Side markets, Jeanneau is still inspired by the level of creativity and commitment from those in the documentary-filmmaking business: “It keeps Sunny Side interesting, and it keeps me young!” he says.