EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald is among the marquee names set to participate in Sheffield DocFest’s Industry Program, according to an announcement today from the U.K.’s leading documentary festival.
Macdonald, director of the scripted/narrative features The Last King of Scotland and The Mauritanian, and the documentaries Whitney, Marley, and Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang among other films, will serve as a mentor for the DocFest’s Filmmaker Challenge. Under the innovative program, “six early-career UK filmmakers will make a short documentary in and around Sheffield during the festival… on the fly, with a micro budget and equipment support… All filming is to be undertaken in a single day and the final work will be screened for industry and invited guests on the last day of Sheffield DocFest.”
'Wham!' Documentary To Make World Premiere At Sheffield, As DocFest Reveals 30th Edition Lineup
The Filmmaker Challenge is one of several components of Sheffield’s Industry Program and Market, which runs in conjunction with the festival from June 14-19. The program includes 21 Industry Sessions for industry delegates featuring discussions and panels on topics such as “disability inclusion, 10 Ways to win a commission, pathways for the new talent, neurodiversity inclusion, social mobility, journalistic integrity and creative distribution and exhibition.”
Beccy Ashdown, Talks & Sessions senior producer, noted: “This year, the industry sessions program will pose some big questions. Has the industry opened up to working-class voices? Do we risk compromising projects and authenticity of the subject, or is there still a middle ground to tell the stories that filmmakers, contributors and commissioners believe should be told? Is journalistic integrity under threat with the rise of disinformation and AI? How do we support the mental health and wellbeing of the industry, to allow people to really thrive? We look forward to debating and discussing, the future of documentary together in June.”
The Industry Program and Market will also feature six Craft Summit sessions, an Alternate Realities Summit, four Live Pitch sessions, a half-dozen marketplace Rough Cuts, and more, as well as the previously announced MeetMarket pitching forum. Networking opportunities will be facilitated through more than a dozen receptions and parties. [For more details on the Industry Program, see below].
DocFest, celebrating its 30th year, unfolds in the Yorkshire region of Northern England, and is recognized as one of the world’s most important festivals devoted to nonfiction filmmaking.
The aforementioned Craft Summit, happening June 17, is a “curated day of panel sessions dedicated to the techniques that go into non-fiction filmmaking, from shorts to features.” Sessions include AI driven editing with Adobe and Meet the Music Supervisor with Steph Grace-Summers, the music supervisor and consultant behind BBC’s 8 Bar – The Evolution of Grime. Editor and filmmaker Maya Daisy Hawke of the Oscar-winning documentary Navalny will hold an Editing Masterclass.
“DocFest recognizes editors and editing as filmmaking,” Hawke said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences working on such films as Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Navalny, and talking about what it’s really like in the cutting room these days, both in the U.K. and America.”
Among other standout events from the Industry Program announcement: It’s Real! The Documentary Film Council Open Assembly: Shaping the Future of UK Documentary Together; The D- Word: Why Disability Inclusion Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult including speakers from UKTV, BBC; Meet the Commissioners: Broadcasters featuring the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky; Meet the Commissioners: Streamers featuring Netflix, Prime Video and Disney (Nat Geo + Starz).
Below is the full listing of Industry Program events:
10 Ways To Win A Commission With Sky Documentaries
Meet Sky’s factual commissioners, who’ll share specific areas they’re looking to dive deeper into, and the avenues being developed to showcase emerging talent. This session will be packed with indispensable insights, from identifying eye-catching ideas, to the essential details needed for a pitch, as well as what will get our PR, Social & Marketing teams excited. Learn what’s worked and why, plus get a sneak peek of some incredible content.
Supported by Sky Documentaries
Channel 4 Interview: David Glover
David is a bastion of bold, intelligent, and original factual programme-making, known to challenge and break traditional forms. Along with Co-Founder Mark Rafael, 72 Films has become a beacon for talented and emerging filmmakers, whilst winning notable commissions at Channel 4, BBC, National Geographic, Sky, Paramount, Netflix, Apple and Amazon. The multi- award winning 72 Films are the powerhouse producers behind titles such as 9/11: One Day in America, The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty, Diana, Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story, and All or Nothing: Arsenal. Under David’s tenure as Head of Specialist Factual, 72 Films has generated award-winning hits such as Inside Nature’s Giants, Mummifying Alan, as well as ground-breaking documentaries Gogglebox, The Plane Crash, Drugs Live, and Live From Space.
Chair: Tabitha Jackson (Film Executive)
BAFTA: Championing Talent
Join participants from two of BAFTA’s flagship talent initiatives – Breakthrough UK and Elevate – along with filmmakers from this year’s festival, as they share their journeys of how they paved their way into the industry and made their professional mark. Our panelists will address the barriers they’ve faced and the important role of talent initiatives and industry support in championing their development and ambition.
Speakers: Joanna Boateng (Producer at Minnow Films), Nelson Adeosun (Producer/Director)
Supported by BAFTA
The D-Word: Why Disability Inclusion Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult
In 2022, 11 of the UK’s main broadcasters and streamers joined forces to create the TV Access Project (TAP), an industry alliance with the goal of permanent structural shifts to ensure access provision for Deaf, Disabled and Neurodivergent TV talent. TAP’s vision is to see full inclusion by 2030. This session, featuring controllers, commissioners and filmmakers involved in TAP, will explain just how that can be achieved and why disability inclusion doesn’t have to be difficult. As well as providing an array of practical advice to help all documentary makers ensure their productions are more accessible and inclusive.
Chair: Jordan Jarett-Bryan
Speakers: Caroline O’Neil (Assistant Commissioner for Daytime at the BBC), Ian Katz (Chief Content Officer at Channel 4), Kate Phillips (Director of Unscripted at the BBC), Richard Watsham (Chief Creative Officer at UKTV)
DAE: Anti-Racism Workshop
Do you know the difference between systemic and institutional racism? Do you understand why ‘colour-blindness’, a well-intentioned response to racism, is actually more harmful than helpful? How does this directly and indirectly affect your practice? And most importantly, can you clearly recognise racism, and do you understand when and how to act when you encounter racism? This two-hour session will explore who we are versus how society perceives us. Please come with an open mind and a willingness to learn and be challenged.
The workshop will be facilitated by Rico Johnson-Sinclair (Independent Programme Consultant)
In collaboration with Documentary Association of Europe
CLASS ACTS: Are Leaders in TV and Film Doing More Than Talking About Social Mobility?
A career in British TV or film has long been tied up with financial advantage – who you know and what kind of school you went to. The BBC and BFI both now have targets for working-class representation. But has the industry opened up to working-class voices? Here, for the first time, the BFI will release a breakdown of the class background of the creative talent they support, before a conversation involving the BFI, BBC, and filmmakers.
Chair: Danny Leigh (Chief Film Writer, Financial Times)
Speakers: Tim Davie (BBC Director General), Mia Bays (BFI), Mel Hoyes (BFI)
DocuMentality – What Is the Emotional Toll of Documenting Sensitive or Traumatic Topics?
What is the emotional toll of documenting sensitive or traumatic topics? Do you feel the pressure to produce compelling work, on tight deadlines, working long hours with limited resources? Join DocuMentality co-founders Rebecca Day and Malikkah Rollins as they reveal research findings into the state of mental health in the documentary industry. The roots of the crisis and potential solutions from the audience are at the heart of the DocuMentality discussion.
Speakers: Rebecca Day (Film in Mind) & Malikkah Rollins (Co-Founders of DocuMentality)
DocuMentality: Sharing Circle
Documentary therapists Rebecca Day and Malikkah Rollins will host a sharing circle, open to any festival attendee who is seeking a moment of reflection, togetherness and connection at the end of their DocFest experience. The intention is to offer a moment of calm in a hectic schedule, to provide a space where we can listen and support one another. Confidentiality and mutual respect are required from all our participants.
Speakers: Rebecca Day (Film in Mind) & Malikkah Rollins (Co-Founders of DocuMentality)
Documenting the Stories That Underpin All Life on Earth
You may know Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens as a stunning garden in London, but did you know they have over 400 scientists working in partnerships with 100 countries to develop solutions to some of humanity’s biggest challenges? Meet Kew scientists and horticulturists working to conserve the world’s plants and fungi, and learn about an exciting opportunity to document botanical field work and show how it links back to Kew’s mission.
Supported by Royal Botanical Garden, Kew
Finding Your Audience: Creative Distribution & Exhibition
How do we get the right films in front of the right audiences? How do you create culturally relevant, unique and memorable experiences? In this session, a panel of distribution, marketing and exhibition experts will explore creative ways to F from the crowd. The discussion will highlight the power of strategic partnerships, community engagement, audience insights and trust.
Speakers: Delphine Lievens (Distribution Consultant), Isra Al Kassi (T A P E Collective)
Inside Our Autistic Minds
The team behind Chris Packham’s Inside Our Autistic Minds reveal the techniques they used to place the lived experience of autistic people at the heart of their BBC Two series. Both on and off screen, from recruitment to release forms, scripting to schedules, they rethought production processes to make them more inclusive of neurodiversity. In this session, they share their experiences and what you can take to your own productions.
Supported by BBC Studios
Is Life Just A Game?
Expert panel discussion session, featuring International practitioners, sharing diverse examples of interactive narrative works that use videogame technologies and techniques to explore contemporary real-life situations and tell stories in new ways. In collaboration with Sheffield’s National Videogame Museum, this session will present a range of works and then move on to a discussion around the implications of videogame technologies, techniques and experiences for an encounter with stories based on real life.
In collaboration with National Video Games Museum
It’s Real! The Documentary Film Council Open Assembly: Shaping the Future of UK Documentary Together
This is the launch event and first Open Assembly of the Documentary Film Council (DFC), a new sector-wide body for the UK documentary film industry. Designed in collaboration with stakeholders from across the documentary community, the DFC will be democratically run by and for its members, and will take effective, coordinated action on the key issues in our industry. Come along to find out more about our plans and take part in our first facilitated assembly. Let’s shape the future of UK documentary film together.
DFC is supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council
Meet the Commissioners: Broadcasters
Featuring: BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky
Commissioners from the nation’s leading broadcasters will take centre stage to highlight their recent success, the breadth of their programming and the types of projects they work with. Throughout the session, audience members will get a chance to better understand the decisions and relationships behind the content on screen, as well as learn about the upcoming commissioning opportunities.
Meet the Commissioners: Streamers
Featuring: Netflix, Amazon, Disney (Nat Geo + Starz)
Find out more about the coveted commissioning opportunities on global streaming platforms and the ways in which they are adapting to audience preference and breadth. Join us for a unique opportunity to ask the commissioners questions and to better understand the relationships they have with the projects they work with.
National Geographic: Putting Premium Documentaries at the Heart of the Brand
National Geographic has had award-winning global success with its strategy of bold and distinctive premium documentary programming. In this session, we’ll speak to Tom McDonald, EVP of Programming and Development, along with his commissioning team, to hear about their latest projects and commissioning strategy, and to understand what it takes to work with National Geographic.
Speakers: Tom McDonald (EVP of Programming and Development, National Geographic)
Supported by National Geographic
Nurturing the Next Generation of Global Citizens: Docs as an Educational Tool for Change
A session exploring the role of documentaries within education. How can documentaries be used as a tool to inspire young people, inform democratic engagement, social justice and civil liberty?
Speaker: Paula Tervo (Lyfta)
Should We, Can We… ?
Join a panel of commissioners, filmmakers, psychologists and mental health practitioners as they discuss why broadcasters are challenged more than other platforms when it comes to certain issues, and explore if journalistic integrity and endeavor is threatened? Do we risk compromising projects and authenticity of the subject, and is there still a middle ground to tell the stories that filmmakers, contributors and broadcasters believe should be told.
Supported by Channel 5
Storytelling Impact Autopsy
Documentary and art have long been used as tools for social change. But how and why they have the impact they do is less well known. This Storytelling Impact Autopsy invites three artists to put their works through an exercise in social change analysis, led by experts from the campaigning sector. Using change models and frameworks, we figure out why the pieces ‘work’ – why they have the impact they do and if there is anything else from the strategists’ handbooks which could help them go further.
Chair: Francesca Panetta (AKO Institute, University of Arts London)
Speakers: Sue Tibballs (Sheila McKechnie Foundation), Zamzam Ibrahim (Activist), Kiel (Jeff) Walburn (The Yes Men), Hannah Conway (Artist), Katja Esson (Dir. Razing Liberty Square) Convened by the AKO Storytelling Institute at University of the Arts London
The Synergy Between Podcast Stories & Film
It is said that the early TV producers at the BBC were jealous of the radio creators because they had better pictures. In the 21st century, the joke seems to have turned on the audio creators. However, the rise of narrative non-fiction audio beckons the question: how can we turn popular podcast stories into films? This panel centres around recent case studies. What challenges and opportunities lie within adaptation, and how does it change the value and name of the documentary business game.
Screening Violence and Refracted Violence
‘The documentary, it was touching. We feel what happened.’ Bu Sri, a survivor of the Indonesian massacres of 1965 and subsequent imprisonment, was reacting to an Argentinian documentary about the disappeared children of the 1970-80s regime. Her observations were recorded as part of Screening Violence, a research project which explores memories and perceptions of civil conflict in Algeria, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia and Northern Ireland. As part of our research methodology, we have screened films on political conflict to participants in each of the five countries. We then film the interventions that arise. From this new material, we also create Refracted Violence, an interactive site where audiences will be able to see short films from each participating country. In this talk, we will explain how documentary film can function as a stimulus to debate, as well as its role in sharing the stories of our participants for a wider audience.
Speakers: Guy Austin (Researcher and project leader, Newcastle University), Pablo Burgos (Filmmaker, Bogotá, Colombia), Gemma McKinnie (Researcher and filmmaker, Newcastle University) In collaboration with University of Newcastle
BBC Storyville Development Pitch
BBC Storyville is delighted to announce a unique opportunity to pitch to be part of a new development programme at Sheffield DocFest. Storyville is passionate about feature documentaries, telling timely stories from across the world. Selected finalists will pitch in person, sharing new ideas for consideration by the Storyville Commissioners, Emma Hindley and Lucie Kon, alongside other industry professionals who will decide which project(s) will be awarded the prize pot of £3000. Speakers: Emma Hindley (BBC Storyville), Lucie Kon (BBC Storyville)
Supported by The BBC
Channel 4 First Cut Pitch
Once again, Channel 4 will be offering five new directors the chance to pitch in front of some of its documentary commissioning team and a live audience. Our winner will walk away with a commission from Channel 4 for their first 60-minute film, and one month of fully paid development and mentorship with an indie to support the development of their idea. You won’t want to miss this fun and playful session.
Supported by Channel 4
The Podcast Pitch
The podcast pitch brings together six in- development non-fiction audio creators to pitch in front of a selection of industry experts and commissioners. An independent jury will award a first prize (£5000) and second prize (£2000) to the most creative and promising pitches, funded by the Whickers foundation. Come and snoop out this first- time, podcast-only pitch format at Sheffield DocFest. Speakers: Willard Foxton (Creative Director and Developer at Novel), Leanne Alie (Podcast Commissioner and Developer of New Podcasts and New Talent at BBC Sounds), Hugh Levinson (Commissioning Editor at BBC Radio 4)
Supported by The Whickers
The Whickers Pitch
Who will be awarded the coveted £100,000 Film & TV Funding Award to make their first feature- length documentary? The Whickers Pitch brings together five emerging directors to pitch their non- fiction projects to a panel of industry judges.
Hosts: Karolina Lidin (Nordisk Film & TV Fond) & Jane Ray (Artistic Director, The Whickers) Pitching Projects:
9 Month Contract – Ketevan Vashagashvili (Georgia)
How to Kill My Grandfather – Lilyana Torres & Carlos Morales (Mexico)
Let’s Play Soldiers – Mariam Al-Dhubhani (Yemen/US)
The Silence of Ants – Francisco Montoro (Spain/Ukraine)
Women of My Life – Zahraa Ghandour (Iraq)
Judges: Jo Lapping (BBC), Sam Soko (Award-winning Director/Producer), Keisha Knight (IDA), Olivier Tournaud (Cinephil), Raul Niño Zambrano (Sheffield DocFest) and Jane Mote (The Whickers). Produced by Emily Copley and supported by The Whickers
Supported by Warner Bros Discovery
An Introduction to Cinema Cameras, Tips and Techniques
An introduction to Cinema camera technologies and a practical walkthrough of the latest Canon Cinema EOS range, helping you to understand which camera is right for you. We will then offer some hands-on time. During this practical part of the session, delegates will be taken through the best camera set-up for interviews and getting to grips with the professional auto-focus system.
Session supported by Canon
Text-Based Editing for Documentary
Join Adobe in a demonstration of their latest new feature to Premiere Pro. Text-Based Editing in Premiere Pro uses the latest AI to automatically transcribe your source media. Instead of watching hours of footage just to find the right sound bites, now you can skim through transcripts, search for keywords, and add them to the Timeline to start your rough cut. Premiere Pro generates a transcript for your sequence as you build it.
Session supported by Adobe Pro
Editing Masterclass: Maya Daisy Hawke
Editor and experimental filmmaker Maya Daisy Hawke will join us to discuss her creative process and her experience working on films such as Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2014) and the Academy Award winning Navalny (2022).
Speaker: Maya Daisy Hawke (Writer and Editor)
Chair: Tabitha Jackson (Film Executive)
Cut to the Chase and Shoot for the Stars – Finding Talent
Looking for creative, exciting and talented crew with self-shooting, post-production or producing skills? Join a panel of freelancers and employers as they discuss how the ScreenSkills Unscripted TV Skills Fund’s training programmes have helped people at every career stage identify and plan their development and progression; and why it’s critical for employers to encourage and support new entrants as well as established local talent across the UK.
Session supported by ScreenSkills
Producing Feature Docs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Many filmmakers struggle unpaid for years making feature docs, while others sell them for millions, enjoy huge success, and win both awards and global attention. In this session, four producers (between them they have produced 12 feature docs in 24 months) will share their experiences and talk through developing, financing, producing and launching feature docs into the world – and the different impact of these factors when the doc is independently financed or commissioned.
Chair: Lizzie Gillet (Misfits Entertainment)
Speakers: Kat Mansoor (Snowstorm Productions), Julia Nottingham (Dorothy St Pictures)
Music Documentaries – Meet the Music Supervisor
Join Steph Grace-Summers, the Music Supervisor & Consultant behind BBC’s 8 Bar – The Evolution of Grime, Amazon Prime’s Niall Horan’s Homecoming: The Road to Mullingar with Lewis Capaldi, Channel 4’s I Was There When House Was Born and Boiler Room’s Migrant Sound for a discussion on the process of Music Supervision for Music Documentaries.
Music rights, clearance and licensing is often not as straightforward as it may seem, hear the many twists and turns of Steph’s films and her sought-after advice, tips and tricks on how to handle Music within a Music Documentary.
Speaker: Steph Grace-Summers (Music Supervisor at FRIDAY)
Snap Chats: 10 minute meets
The primary reason delegates come to DocFest is to meet. Whether you’re looking to find new collaborators for your next film, contribute to someone else’s project, or simply expand your network of doc enthusiasts, come to this mixer. The format is simple: take a seat, chat with the delegate sat opposite and every 10 minutes you move one seat to the left and meet someone new. Who will you end up chatting with?
Switchboard & Consultancies
Do you have questions about who is funding and distributing what, who is the right partner for your projects, and how to meet them? Come to the Switchboard to take advantage of expert advice on the people you should be meeting at this year’s Marketplace. You can also participate in a Consultancy and talk with a range of industry professionals about where to go next with your projects or career.
Marketplace Round Tables: Meet the Industry
These intimate round table sessions are set up around various topics with an expert in series, festival, distribution and creative fields. The discussions will focus on specific parts of financing, distributing or making of a project. Find answers to your burning questions and get to know fellow film and industry professionals. With a maximum of ten participants per session, they are designed to be intimate and interactive, allowing for more personalized attention and deeper discussions. We encourage participants to come prepared with questions and to actively engage in the conversation.
BFI Doc Society Filmmaker Drop-In Day
Join BFI Doc Society at our Filmmaker Drop-In Day – an open access opportunity for early career non-fiction storytellers to get together over a Yorkshire brew, get the latest industry insights and build their networks. Sign up for 1-2-1 meetings with the Doc Soc team and representatives from across the non-fiction sector, and get the lowdown on funding opportunities, resources and dialogues with remarkable independent producers and directors working in the field today. Plus join for networking to meet fellow filmmakers and potential new collaborators.
Supported by BFI Doc Society
MeetMarket: Match-made Meetings
Documentary film projects in the making can be proposed to the MeetMarket early in the year, to be selected for this prestigious international pitching forum. Once selected, project teams have the opportunity to meet with representatives from international funders, broadcasters, distributors, festivals, exhibitors and more with the purpose of finding partners to finish their films. This year’s MeetMarket features 48 pre-selected film teams from across the globe.
Full list of projects previously announced on 25 April at sheffdocfest.com
MeetMarket: Rough Cut Screenings
Our Rough Cut Screenings are an opportunity for six MeetMarket teams to show part of their documentaries to a room of industry representatives and delegates, to discuss, receive feedback and find partners to move their projects forward.
MeetMarket is generously supported by our partners BFI, Department for International Trade and Getty Images.
Venezuela, Ecuador, Germany, Spain
Director: Rosana Matecki
Producers: Rosana Matecki, Natalia Imaz (Parabellum Film), Claudia Lepage
Life is Beautiful
Director: Mohamed Jabaly
Producer: KriStine Skaret (Stray Dog Norway AS)
Directors: Cécile Embleton, Alys Tomlinson Producers: Laura Shacham (She Makes Productions)
Director: Victoria Mapplebeck Producer: Victoria Mapplebeck
A Poem For Little People
Director: Ivan Sautkin Production: Babylon’13
Directors: Weixi Chen, Weichao Xu; Producer: Jia Zhao (Muyi film)
TALENT MARKET PARTICIPANTS
Alternate Realities Talent Market
The Alternate Realities Talent Market represents talent from all across the wide spectrum of nonfiction art, providing a space to discuss new projects in development and create important artist-to-industry connections. We invite a range of industry representatives that are able to provide opportunities or advice for creators, from gallery and cinema exhibition, to funding, residencies, co-production, and collaborations.Through an open call, we selected 8 talents to meet with industry experts to get valuable feedback on their new media projects and make new connections.
Alternate Realities Talent Artists
Amplify: Production Talent is an initiative for pre-selected entry-level production professionals to elevate their careers. This initiative offers the opportunity to connect with UK production company executives in the factual/documentary TV sector, experience our Marketplace to enhance and widen networks, and learn more about the documentary industry.
The nine selected talents are: Acelya Kancelik, Alysha Christal, Che Scott-Heron Newton, Elin Tomos, Mira Oyetoro, Georgia Ingles, Joanna Suchomska, Lib Griffiths, Mohamed Saber Shalaby Boteen
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