The new Documentary Association of Europe was launched at Berlinale just before the world went into meltdown. But the pandemic hasn’t slowed down DAE activities, points out founder Brigid O’Shea.
“Not at all; it has just changed the order of things,” she told Business Doc Europe. “We thought we’d have more time for concepts and foundational work, and in the end we had to jump right in to creating digital networking and advocacy events. We’ve been visiting all the digital festivals and markets, while also hosting every Friday a group hangout and offering more than 200 consultation slots for individuals.” Further group hangouts run 22-25 June during online Cannes Docs.
All of which means that the new ‘online’ emphasis doesn’t pose so much an existential problem for the fledgling networking, consultancy and lobbying association organisation, even though O’Shea acknowledges that other personnel and institutions across the documentary world may see things differently.
“We already knew that implementing environmentally friendly policies was important to us and unburdening our members from excessive travel. We of course don’t think that having an entirely digitized market for documentaries is the most efficient way to do business: it is an absolute disaster for many and I have the impression we are all taking part in a massive experiment in 2020 that will influence and shape how we do business in the next 10+ years. But for the Association itself: it has been in many ways good for us and allowed us to extend our reach to many activities, big and small.”
As uncertainty continues during Covid, DAE membership fees will remain halved until August 31 (and probably through to the end of the year, O’Shea concedes). “We will have board elections in November parallel to IDFA and hope we can start fundraising in earnest,” she adds. “We are very excited to participate in the Autumn festivals, launch our events calendar and consultants guide, as well as keep participating in media political discussions. We want to further diversify the Association and are working on new partnerships in the field. Overall, despite the turbulence of the first half of 2020, we are so optimistic about building a fairer and better future for non-fiction filmmaking.”
That future is as yet uncertain and undefined, but given the speed of change across the planet over the past years, not just in a business/commercial sense but also in political, socio-economic and environmental terms, a new modus operandi is not only inevitable but essential, O’Shea argues.
“Right now we are in an embryonic phase for online events: technology and communication is clunky, we are learning the language, and everything takes way more time than we have. But this is just the beta phase,” she underlines. “I have no doubts that in the future some kind of hybrid format will come into fruition. After all, our industry is totally archaic in so many ways. In this moment of Black Lives Matter, the new youth-driven climate change movement as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be remiss to fight change and thus directly support old practices we know to be discriminatory, violent and outdated.
“So I am very much looking forward to a more inclusive and fair future. That said, there is a ton of work to be done to increase opportunities, make sure buyers are buying programming and that festivals and their seismic shift in the audiovisual chain don’t undercut the work of sales and distributors, or hold revenues back from rights holders. I still firmly believe that face-to-face encounters are the best way to get work back, but if that is in the interest of maintaining a discriminatory and exclusive industry, I don’t want to go back to it.”