Alice Burgin. 

Alice Burgin stepped up to be the director of the Australian International Documentary Conference in May, having already helped to program the previous two installments of the event.

In her new role, Burgin is keen to maintain the standard that has come to be expected of AIDC. However, she also believes there more that can be done to do to increase business outcomes for delegates.

“We’ve really focused on the marketplace this year,” she tells IF.

Using IDFA, Sheffield and HotDocs as models, AIDC 2018 will feature a more curated marketplace than has been seen in the past. Called Cut to the Chase, it has been created with the aim to connect filmmakers with relevant decision makers who already have an interest in their project.

To achieve that, delegates have been asked to submit their pitches earlier than usual, so that they can be appropriately paired up.

“We’re also asking the buyers to do a lot more work before they come, so we’re asking them to watch trailers, read finance plans and even read treatments in certain cases,” says Burgin.

“By asking them do all that, there’s a lot more time in that 10 or 15 minute meeting period that they have with our delegates to really get to the nitty-gritty and talk about the project.

“It’s an experiment, but I’m pretty confident it’s going to yield some nice results.”

The market has already been confirmed to include representatives from BBC Storyville, Stan, VICE, ARTE, National Geographic, Nat Geo WILD, France Télévisions, Cineflix Rights and Al Jazeera Media Network, among others.

The idea behind it ties with the theme of this year’s conference, Southern Exposure, which Burgin says is both a celebration of the local documentary industry but also aims to inspire and “get some Australian voices to travel beyond our national borders.”

Alongside the major marketplace will also be the launch of the first VR/AR non-fiction market in Australia, Meet Your Maker.

Burgin says the VR/AR event is also “a bit of trial”, and will be very small and curated. However, significant players have committed, including Google Newslab, Tribeca Film Institute, Adelaide Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, SBS Digital Creative Labs, ACMI and the National Gallery of Victoria.

Tribeca’s senior consultant, interactive Ingrid Kopp, who Burgin calls the “doyenne of the interactive world”, will also be attending the marketplace and be a keynote speaker for the conference’s innovation strand.

“We’re also working on some VR experiences for the first time. A lot of our delegates, they’re still not quite there with that technology; a lot of people haven’t tried it. We want to make sure that we’re not ignoring that there are other technologies available to tell stories,” Burgin says.

Other announced speakers for AIDC next year include Kitty Green, the Aussie docomaker behind Netflix’s Casting JonBenet, and Sam Ramsden, the creative director of the UK’s Love Productions, who are behind shows such as The Great British Bake-off and Filthy Rich & Homeless.

In terms of sessions, Burgin says consultation has shown that people want to learn more and understand what is happening with new platforms, distribution and streaming.

“They’re the things that just keep coming up over and over again. That’s really why I’m really excited about Kitty Green coming as a guest. Not only do I think she’s a genius in terms of the craft, but also the idea that you can have an Australian filmmaker answer those questions that a lot of people, particularly in the feature doc world, have around how you do it – how do you get to Sundance, let alone get a Netflix deal.”

Other new initiatives at AIDC this year include Vice and Screen Australia’s Pitch Australiana, which offers local early career filmmakers the chance to win a $50,000 commission for a short form doco for VICE, and the $50,000 inaugural  Unfinished Prize for Documentary, which will be given out to the best pitch at the FACTory International Pitching Forum. The ACCESS early career mentor program will also have two prize this year; one week expenses paid trip to the UK’s Sheffield Doc/Fest and a four-week paid internship with Beach House Pictures in Singapore in 2018.

As for how she’s travelling in her new position, Burgin, who in the past has helped to program the Tribeca Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival, says it is “a dream job.”

“There’s a lot of freedom in this job, which is cool and rare. So we have an opportunity to try and launch some things, and to try and come up with ideas about to address issues that we see in the industry.”

AIDC will be held March 4-7, 2018 at ACMI Melbourne.

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