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Pitch perfect

Screen headed down to the 2012 Good Pitch Europe in London yesterday, where attendees included Jemima Khan, Sam Branson and Rageh Omar.

Jess Search at The Good Pitch

Introducing yesterday’s 2012 Good Pitch Europe - a Dragon’s Den-style event in which film-makers pitch their documentary projects to a range of organisations in the hope of gaining funding and support - broadcast journalist Rageh Omar said: “In the age of 24 hour news, documentaries are the last bastion of original journalism. It is at the heart of what documentaries do.”

And if this year’s event was anything to go by, the enthusiasm for documentaries and the impact they can have is stronger than ever, with a record number of attendees (407 as opposed to 360 last year) and high profile guests including Jemima Khan and the Body Shop’s Samantha Roddick.

“Every year it gets bigger, but also deeper. Because we are able to reach out to bigger players and organisations, and within organisations, more senior people. Once you’ve got a deeper range of organisations we can really get more done,” says Jess Search, CEO of UK documentary funding organisation Britdoc, which runs Good Pitch in partnership with with the Sundance Institute.

Eight film-making teams were chosen from over 300 appliations to pitch their projects, some of which are at the beginning of filming, others fully completed, to a specially chosen group of organisations tailored to each project, ranging from Greenpeace to Body Shop Foundation, BBC Worldwide to the New York Times.

Emmanuel Jal and Patrick Winocour

The job of pairing up the film projects with the right potential organisations takes 4 months in itself, but the rigorous process seems to have paid off, as several of the organisations put their money where their mouths were, including The Pullitzer Centre for Crisis Reporting which pledged $20,000 to Callum Macrae’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields and the Bertha Foundation which committed £10,000 to director Julia Bacha and producer Ronit Avni for My Neighbourhood, which highlights the ongoing struggles for Palestinian and Israeli families.

Another donor was The European Partnership for Democracy, which promised $20,000 to Jehane Noujaim’s The Square, a documentary charting the struggles in Egypt centering around Tahrir Square.

“It was touch and go whether they [the filmmakers] could get here. I had skyped with them the night before and they had just been filming the reaction in Tahrir Square to the election results and then they jumped on a plane and came. They literally had the dust of the square on them,” said Search.

Two private donations were also made to the outreach campaign for Call Me Kuchu, a documentary about a bill in Uganda which threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. The pitch was all the more powerful because it was delivered partly by Frank Mugisha, who the Britdoc team had flown over from Uganda and who runs a sexual minorities group in Uganda at great personal risk (his friend and fellow gay activist David Kato was murdered last year).

“The whole reason they made the film and why we are interested in it for Good Pitch is that they want to make a difference to that crisis on the ground. So when you can have the people who are directly affected, like Frank, he can say what he needs too and he can get so much out of it.”

Good Pitch Europe is the second of three events in 2012. The next event will be in San Francisco on Oct 23 where, says Search, there will be several projects on the state of the US, in the build up to the presidential election.

And the Good Pitch looks set to grow even bigger, internationally, with the introduction of Good Pitch Squared, which sees partnerships on the ground with other countries wanting to host their own similar events. “This year, we had people from Poland, Brazil and China shadowing the event, and then we will go out to their country and do training with their team to help them do their first Good Pitch,” explains Search, who also launched a new partnership yesterday between Britdoc and the New Yorks Times to support short form docs (see story here).

One thing is clear, The Good Pitch is only going to get bigger and better.

Jemima Khan at The Good Pitch

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