“It’s the documentary business being in total survival mode,” underlines CPH:DOX Head of Industry Katrine Kiilgaard when assessing the work of her and her team over past days and weeks in determining that the professional component of the festival would continue in a meaningful form.
“It was too painful to see it all go down the drain, all the preparation, all of everything, and so we took a crazy decision to try and put it online. We are of course inventing that model as we go, learning and testing and developing, and crossing our fingers in the process.”
Kiilgaard concedes that even under normal circumstances, flying 900 people in for a busy and diverse industry event is complicated enough.
“But you at least have the comfort of everybody being in the same time zone… Just adding all the extra communication because things are digital, and all the extra rescheduling and the logistic nightmare which comes because people are not in the same time zone – this is really not preferable.”
In essence, the only element of the festival’s professional programme that remains unchanged is the video library. Everything else has been subject to the most intense of scrutiny in order to make it manageable and accessible within the digital space.
The vast majority of the 34 Forum projects, and all of the six Nordic works-in-progress, will still be pitched and presented online. But each pitch will be a little shorter, and there will be no feedback component. A benefit is that this will free up more time for the one-on-one (virtual) meetings.
Kiilgaard stresses how she has been “amazed” by the industry’s engagement with the online amendment to the Forum pitch and meet format. “The support we have received in turning things around at such a short notice has been overwhelming…Everybody is handling this courageously.”
The 5-day CPH conference will be scaled back to 3 hours per themed day, Kiilgaard estimates (although this is not set in stone). The daily themes are Science is Culture; Art, Technology and Change – the Descent of Man; Tackling Disruption – Industry, Platforms, Audiences; Making Media Matter when the World is on Fire; Documenting the Future.
“Our five external international curators [had] fleshed out an extensive programme over five days but it’s just too huge to turn all of that around in such a short time [online], so here we have had to shorten the slots to make a shorter conference,” says Kiilgaard.
“There will be fewer speakers on some of the days, and once again a slightly adjusted format to accommodate the digital space.”
This means that professional audiences will see up to six contributors on a segmented screen, or a split screen for conversations, alongside cut-aways to slides and videos. “The principle is that we will produce it like a TV show,” Kiilgaard says.
What type of online audience figures does she expect for the conference?
“I have no idea. I have been in a war room trying to get this up and running for the past four days, but of course all accredited guests of the festival will get a note on Wednesday morning (when the festival would have opened) about all this being available,” she responds. “So the couple of thousand guests that we had coming for the festival, I hope that they will be aware of it and follow it, and we will do all that we can to promote it.”
The final part of the online jigsaw is the CPH:LAB workshop which entails a one-year programme during which nine project teams have been developing new immersive works, together with head of studies Mark Atkin (who is also curating the Art/Tech/Change conference component on themed conference on 24 March).
The CPH:LAB participants will present their projects March 26 online to accredited guests on Kaleidoscope.fund, with one-to-one meetings to be held Friday March 27 2020.
“Here again we can invite in our accredited professionals, but this platform is already also populated with a community of funders and creatives working in the immersive interactive space, so in a way they are also getting an extended possibility to pitch to some relevant people not in Copenhagen – so that’s exciting,” Kiilgaard points out.
So, has the past fortnight been stressful? Yes, she replies. Very.
“But I have an amazing team around me and they have all been extraordinary in throwing themselves into these unknown waters and doing whatever it takes for us to get it up and running, so I have no complaints. They have been fantastic.”
In the great scheme of things, there is a lot happening across the planet at the moment which, at the beginning of the year, would have been beyond both the imagination and the comprehension of most people, a fact that Kiilgaard acknowledges in summing up.
“We are not going to demand anything from anyone because we are all struggling like hell in this current situation,” she concludes. “But of course I just hope from the bottom of my heart that we can create a bit of community around what is happening now in a space that we didn’t intend it to happen in, and that we can all learn from it and keep up the spirit for the future.”