Taking docmakers to the next level

Taking docmakers to the next level

Danish producer and media/training expert Ove Rishøj Jensen talks to Business Doc Europe about the upcoming Dox in Vitro talent development seminar, and about his busy, if somewhat disrupted, year to date.


Ove Rishøj Jensen is hopeful that Dox In Vitro, whose next edition will run September 8/9 in Piešťany, Slovakia, will be presented live and in person, or at the very least in a hybrid format. The host country has fared better than most of its European counterparts in its effective control of the virus, he argues, and come September, lockdown measures may have been eased sufficiently to stage the event. 


Aside from matters epidemiological, industryites are beginning to suffer from Zoom fatigue, he adds, so the return to (safe) human interaction would be welcomed by the majority of doc folk looking to attend.


The event is aimed at young producers, documentary filmmakers, directors and film professionals at early stages in their careers, who will be introduced to the “real world” of the European film market of documentary films. For the participating teams (representing eight projects, deadline for submission August 16), there will be a wide and intensive programme of presentations, case studies, plenary discussions, one-to-one meetings and pitches.


“The idea was, from the very beginning, to offer an opportunity for people to come and meet market expectations for the first time,” says Rishøj Jensen. “So it is really aimed at new talents, people who have done one or two national films and are now working on something that has an international potential – but still they need to understand and learn those first steps in terms of what are the exact requirements for working within the international documentary market.”


“Of course, you can instantly start pitching to financiers and so on but this [programme] is a kind of recommended step before doing that. You come to Dox in Vitro and test your idea and get good feedback on it, so you are absolutely sure that you are ready to pitch and present it on the international market.”


Rishøj Jensen estimates that 75% of projects pitched over the past 12 years have been successfully realised. “We are very careful in selecting projects that can quickly apply for funding and that have realistic reasons for getting off the ground.” 


Furthermore, Rishøj Jensen is a strong advocate of co-pro, “but it’s essential to make the right co-production decisions around the right projects.”


“I think what we are seeing, and this has been happening over the past seven or eight years, is that the middle ground [in documentary production] is disappearing. Either you go big or you go small. The standard productions are disappearing because they are difficult to fund. If you go international then you have to go big. It has to be something with greater audience potential, and with these types of projects co-production definitely helps,” Rishøj Jensen reckons. 


“On the creative level you can hand pick a team that will make a stronger and better film. And I still think that one of the most important elements of co-production is distribution, because you are co-producers who are working harder to get the film out, to get more people to see it.”


Hot Docs 2020 saw the international premiere of Magnus Gertten’s Only the Devil Lives Without Hope, which Rishøj Jensen produced for Swedish production company Auto Images. 


“I produce their films and then I try to also generate the best impact strategies for them,” he underlines, noting how the yin of production complements the yang of tutoring, and vice versa. “For me it is a quite luxurious position. Having concrete experience as a producer, I get better at consulting and teaching, but also consulting and teaching makes me a better producer. So it is a very good dynamic.”


Since 2004 Ove Rishøj Jensen, who runs the Paradiddle Pictures training consultancy, has programmed and conducted workshops and seminars for a wide range of international partners including EFM/Berlinale, Getting Real, IDFA, Sunny Side of the Docs, Nordisk Panorama, Fresh Pitch China, MyDocs Malaysia, Cinema Verite Tehran and many others.


Aside from Dox In Vitro, he also serves as tutor and/or head of studies for the documentary workshops Script2Film, Nordisk Panorama Impact, DocCelerator and RealYoung, among others.


Rishøj Jensen was also managing the Thessaloniki Forum in 2020 just as the pandemic took hold. He realised early on that what was needed first and foremost was a calm head.


“The decision to cancel everything was made about four days before we had to open, so we quickly said we’ll keep everything as it is, we’ll just move it online,” he remembers. “You can choose to be knocked out by corona or you can say ‘no way, it isn’t going to knock us out’. Let’s keep doing what we are do and we might just find other solutions – and then within three or four days we had turned it around and made everything online.” 


“We didn’t sleep so much but it was fun and it was at that point interesting to see that [the industry] was really enthusiastic about it,” Rishøj Jensen adds. “My advantage was that I actually started programming and conducting online pitching ten years ago. I have done it so many times, and have had so much experience with it, that in the end we could do the Forum fairly easy.” 


That said, the inability on the part of the industry to produce/shoot over past months has increased the necessity (and time available ) to develop projects, Rishøj Jensen argues, which may bode well for Dox in Vitro 2020. What’s more, the pandemic will inevitably shape content in the future, not only as a subject, but as a context. 


“It would be strange not to include Covid-19 in the narrative as it is now, unfortunately, a natural part of life,” he concludes.