Previously: #4 Hot Docs
Our take: Sheffield kicks off what is becoming a nonstop month of European festival activity in November with top-notch programming, great panels and a MeetMarket that's being talked about as one of the best opportunities to interact with industry on the entire circuit. This year, it seemed like almost everyone - certainly everyone from the UK doc world - had made the 2 hour train trip from London. Best of all, it's one of the most contained festivals around - the theatres, filmmaker HQ, party spaces, host hotels, even the train station - are all within a 4-block radius. Although competitive with IDFA (and preceding it by mere weeks), the festival shares IDFA's accessible feeling. The power players and doc legends are at the next table and sometimes even working the bar.
The downside: The timing of the fest (in terms of the calendar) is not fantastic (although a rumored move to summer may change that). Possibly too much to do? You can get the sense that 100 different things are happening at the festival at any one time. Some folks find Sheffield to be gray and industrial (we didn't). Some folks partied so much that they got swine flu (no comment).
Important recent premieres: AFGHAN STAR, KINGS OF PASTRY, I'M DANGEROUS WITH LOVE, HORSES, MOVING TO MARS, BLOOD OF THE ROSE
Selection of US films screened at 2009 Fest: SEPTEMBER ISSUE, CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, OCTOBER COUNTRY, WINNEBAGO MAN, JUNIOR, BEST WORST MOVIE, SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION, P-STAR RISING, THE COVE, WOODSTOCK THEN AND NOW
Our coverage of Sheffield here.
Filmmaker: "Heather and her team have done a superb job in turning this Festival around. It is now important internationally but has not lost its intimacy or soul... Heather, Hussain and their team have done wonders over the past few years to transform a UK only event into something International. Absolutely jammed pack with great talks, seminars etc and a very important market place. (Making things work in the UK is bloody hard so what they achieved cannot be under estimated)."
Filmmaker: "smart, diverse programming, combining docs you probably won't see elsewhere with best of fest hits. Not that you have time to see films, since there are so many people there & you're always squeezing in meetings or going to sessions (which, if not helpful, are often entertaining) & evenings are totally taken up by parties, which can lead to productive bonding sessions (roller blade crashes with commissioning editors can be good in the long run). It's a very valuable festival for meeting the europeans, & particularly the brits - if you go to enough sessions you can figure out who's who & what they do (though most of the brit commissioners are of little use to international indies). meet market is more productive than forums, for actually having face to face time with commissioners and producers that can be useful down the road. They don't offer much support in terms of hotel for local filmmakers, which is a shame, but at least you know that most of your food & drink will be covered, since there are endless parties. The houses aren't always full for screenings, but there is good industry turnout if you get a decent time & work it well enough, & the buzz does get around. And there's nothing else to do & nowhere else to go, which makes it a successful full on festival experience. There are many, many ways to do sheffield, depending on what you want from it, but if offers great networking opps & international exposure & is a hell of a lot of fun. And for americans - even if the american presence is minimal, that can work to your advantage, as at least those who are there you get to bond with a bit more than you might elsewhere (as part of the american minority). Not a place where deals are signed/sealed/announced, but very few are these days, & that's what sales agents are for anyway."
Filmmaker: "LOVE LOVE LOVE Sheffield. there's a lot of trouble to get into in a town with nothing to do...."
Filmmaker: "The Sheffield Film Fest is catching people's imagination. It's another place where you sense excitement and a real love of films. Heather & Hussein have done a wonderful job transforming into a vibrant event."
Filmmaker: "Was there once in 2005
with a film and was not terribly impressed. But from what I've been hearing the
past couple of years, the festival seems to have made a complete turnaround and
is now the place to be. Unfortunately, they didn't take my current film this
year so I didn't bother going. Last time they paid my flight from Berlin and
three nights in a hotel. I had a good screening and had one of the best
festival experiences of my life there when an excited fan invited me over to
his home to meet his family over a fabulous fish dinner that his Hungarian wife
had cooked. They then took me for a drive through the fog to a 500-year-old pub
he thought I should see and make a film about. The next day a little sculpture
he had made awaited me in the festival office - a present for my kids. Now
that's something that doesn't happen everyday. If my next film gets in, I'll
definitely go. I might even go for the Meet Market next time I have a project
Filmmaker: "I like this a lot better than a few years ago, in terms of the films they are showing and the people attending. Although I do feel the MeetMarket is now getting too big for its own good. Disappointed with some of the introductions to films - filmmakers not being introduced at all although they were present and some of the Q&A's were not particularly great.. There is a lot going on, and like Hot Docs the films sometimes don't feel like the most important thing. Essential if you live in the UK, can't judge how important it is for international filmmakers."
Filmmaker: "It felt bigger, better and more fun than ever before in 2010. A very good vice, great collection of international filmmakers and funders. The film programme is possible getting too large to navigate but where else are you going to see all these films in the UK as London and Edinburgh have such small doc sections?"
Filmmaker: "it's essential (like
IDFA). an amazing place to connect. may be getting a little too big. think it
may be a better market festival than a place to premiere your film. too many
films - market could be bigger."
Filmmaker: "Sheffield is emerging as a very good festival under the directorship of Heather Croall. It has agreat variety of films, special events and masterclasses. Also it is probably the hardest drinking festival I've ever attended. I'm not sure if that's a recommendation or not."
Filmmaker: "Awful setting. Depressing drab town, and quite a trek from London. A pain to get to overall and accommodations are terrible (tiny closet-sized rooms at extortionist prices). Heather Croall is wonderful and attracts a lot of industry to this festival, but real filmgoers are lacking. No real upside to the experience."
Filmmaker: "I thought Sheffield had changed beyond
recognition since the last time I’d been. Sheffield used to
feel like a bit of a parochial shindig for all those involved in the British
television documentary industry (not that I am knocking that as I make much of
my living from that industry). But it did all get a bit Alan Partridge, back to
the Novotel hotel, to hang around in small cliquey groups and play pool (and
I’m not knocking that as I love playing pool and I’m pretty fucking good).
Sheffield now has so much more ambition and feels just, well, smarter and shinier. The range of master classes and speakers was impressive, the addition of the Meet Market is a highlight and it’s great to have a jury prize. All-in-all a great experience and I suspect it has a lot to do with Heather Croall. By all accounts she is the person responsible for transforming Sheffield. Given their cricketers I am always deeply suspicious of Australians but Heather really does prove the exception to the rule."
Filmmaker: "cold, wet, drunk, curry"
Filmmaker: "I think it's become a very important date in the documentary calendar not just for the British TV contingent who have always been supportive but for a growing international group. It's a brilliant venue for watching great films and doing a lot of concentrated business. I really think that the meetmarket is the future of pitching - the amount of real interest you can get from one on one meetings is really impressive. I'm especially pleased that so many key commissioners and funders are making it one of their must attend markets. The parties are fun too!"
Filmmaker: "I can't say more about the quality of the entire team – Heather, Hussain, Charlie, all of them – and the passion they put into this experience. I love them to death. As for the festival details: huge audience attendance, huge marketplace for doing real business and some of the very best films of the year from all over the world organized in a very challenging and extremely well curated set of competition programs. And this festival knows how to party. The winner of the "best party of the year" award for any festival anywhere that will never be topped was Roller Disco Night, a combination of roller skating, free vodka shots and oysters on the half shell, followed by the Cinema Eye Nominations. I DARE someone to come up with a more terrifying combination than that and I paid dearly the next day for it. Go to Sheffield. It's beer for breakfast and they'll kill you with the food, but you'll die happy as a clam.
One quick side note: many people are forced to decide between Sheffield and IDFA with their films. If you have a huge movie that's an obvious sell, IDFA may be the logical choice, but do NOT overlook the power of Sheffield as a festival that has deep associations with BBC, Arte, Scandinavian TV outlets, etc. Major sales happened here for us. I don't regret for one second our decision to tell IDFA to take a hike. Sheffield wanted our film and were supportive of us. To IDFA, we were just a number and treated rudely, as if we deserved them. Sheffield treats the filmmaker as if they deserve you."
Industry: "This has become as must-attend market and fest. The market is well-organized and the quality is high. The fest selection doesn’t quite match the market, but that may be because of the proximity to IDFA, and may change as they are thinking of moving Sheffield to June. What that means for US attendance remains to be seen – will it be too close to Silverdocs?"
Industry: "Really impressed over the last few years how they’ve grown. They’ve got that problem of how do you deal with growth, which is not a bad problem. I think the emphasis on the market has come at the expense of the films. They do panels really well. The meet market is really good. It’s so concentrated and so busy and so successful and so social that people aren’t really going to screenings. They’re in that position before IDFA where they aren’t getting that many premieres. It’s a tough place to launch a film because I think it’s tough to get attention there. They’re definitely an event that can give IDFA a run for its money as to which is the key market event in the fall – if they stay in the fall."
Industry: "Still improving every year under Heather’s stewardship – choice and breadth of panels is second to none and this year programming was more consistent. Parties hugely improved and being in the North it is a huge party festival. The larger it gets though, the more business orientated it becomes and while it is becoming indispensable industry wise some of the old spirit has been lost – a chance for filmmakers and industry to watch films and mingle at the Showroom Bar. The MeetMarket is well curated and immaculately organised. Niggles about the venue – huge amount of tiny tables crammed into one room. All the buyers you want to meet are here now...but also quite a few you don’t that you are obliged to have waste of time meetings with."
Industry: "I have to say that Sheffield was the most fun festival I was at this year. I think the panels are super but I just don’t think that it holds up as a festival. I’m really looking forward to them moving to June. You can’t expect people to pay attention to the films when you’ve got MeetMarket going on for two days and parties that go on til 4 AM. The films suffer. They shouldn’t have so many small categories of films. There’s too much going on. But it was so much fun. The panels were amazing and the MeetMarket is so great. It’s an amazing place for American filmmakers to go to try to secure British money for their projects."
Industry: "Very much on the ascendent, both in terms of industry (the meetmarket here is the one to beat) and in terms of audiences. A good showing from CEs lifts the excitement of producers, and I think real deals get done. The film selection is sometimes a little idiosyncratic, but because of the lack of premiere policy, you get to see more of the festival films of the year here than pretty much anywhere else."
Industry: "Sheffield is great. Small, anarchic, well programmed. It's more intimate so you can actually get to know people. The meetmarket runs like clockwork. The industry stuff seems a bit chaotic. This year I had (several) films at Sheffield, they seemed to want us to come, bring the directors, producers, main characters etc.. (but) in the end they didn't put us on any panels, didn't pay many expenses besides hotels, and in the end they didn't actually want to help do anything to help the characters in the film to get there or stay there. I was about to take it personal but then I saw they seemed to treat Pennebaker / Hedgedus in an equally shabby way: They put their WORLD premiere in a tiny screen, forgot to introduce them so they had to introduce themselves, etc. But I would guess I would have to say that if Sheffield ever got really organized it would start to suck. It's all in the chaos."
Industry: "Premiere doc festival in the UK. Heather and her team have done a spectacular job bringing in a wide range of films, creating a lively doc pitching environment, and hosting one crazy party after another. This year saw even more filmmakers and buyers from Europe and the UK, a trend that I hope will continue. Paid for part of my way."
Industry: "I was super impressed by how easy they made it for me to see films - from the ticket process to the fantastic videotheque. Still waiting for the travel stipend they promised."
Industry: "Great and fun but we don’t buy here."
Industry: "I truly loved it. I like the digidocs program (for the same reason as I like the interactive stuff in SXSW: they should really team up). I was in the Meetmarket pitching this time too and found it the most effective fund-raising and feed-back mechanism. All-time best party was the roller-disco ceildh."
Industry: "Wish it were more of a
festival in its given city, but last year's experience was very good and access
as a journo was good--also was invited to intro/do Q&As for a few--the
brief time allotted makes the trains run on time, but isn't the same fun as
ones that go wildly over at other fests."
Next up: #6
Next up: #6