Discovery Docs, the theatrical documentary initiative set up in May this year, is looking for up-and-coming directors which its 'dream team' of heavyweight directors that includes Barbara Kopple, Michael Apted, Peter Gilbert and Nanette Burnstein can mentor.

Andrea Meditch, Discovery Docs head of development, who is visiting IDFA for the first time, told IDFA Screen Daily that as well as looking for ideas and scripts at the festival, she was also on the look out for new talent.

"In addition to working with the directors we originally announced, Discovery Docs is also very interested in tapping into new talent, finding up-and-coming film-makers who we can invest in and who our directors can mentor and bring through."

The idea behind the mentor programme is to tap into a pool of younger film-makers who will benefit from the experience and vision of their more established counterparts, she added.

Set up as a joint venture with US production outfit Camera Planet specifically to produce and promote theatrical documentaries, Discovery Docs is expected to announce its first project later this year with an eye on a May 2004 theatrical release. Meditch added that Discovery Docs had "several" other projects in development.

"The intention is to do a limited number of theatrical docs to release in cinemas to be followed by broadcast on the Discovery Channel. I'm here looking for ideas and projects that are potentially underway and that we can participate in. We're not limiting the subject matter, but at the same time we are looking to commission films that are very story-driven and that are really big enough to hold an audience theatrically and that can really entertain."

Meditch declined to comment on specific budgets for films but said theatrical released documentaries were by their nature expensive. "Discovery Docs is looking for documentaries that are suited to theatres. When you are talking about a theatrical release, you are talking about certain expenses. We always tell producers we want them to budget realistically and that's where we start," she said.

Looking to complete "probably two to four" films a year, Meditch said Discovery Docs wanted to find films where there was "an expansiveness and an emotional commitment and involvement that deserve to be on the big screen."

Remarking on her inaugural trip to IDFA, Meditch said the festival was a key event in the film industry calendar. "This is clearly a great venue for international relationships for forging strong partnerships and, on the TV side, strong co-production partnerships."