Read Hank and Jilann’s Sundance Film Festival blog,

written as they went through the rollercoaster experience of premiering a film at this world-renown documentary film competition for the first time.





Hot Docs 2011


A Lively Market at Hot Docs 2011 - Special Guest Blog
by DocuMentors Member, Carolyn McCully of Citygate Films

It's our second full day at the Hot Docs film festival/market for Citygate Films and we've already seen the value of coming here. Despite the chilling rain, it's been a warm reception in Toronto.


Filmmakers talk to Delegates in the lounge at HotDocs

For those who have not attended before, Hot Docs is North America's largest documentary film festival. Films are screened at cinemas around downtown Toronto, but most of the meetings take place on the campus of the University of Toronto. The festival organizers are very good at creating contexts for filmmakers to meet with decision-makers from various festivals, broadcasters, and international distributors. In addition to the filmmaker workshops on topics such as best practices when shooting with HDSLR cameras, Hot Docs also runs a pitch session called Rendezvous. This is like speed dating for filmmakers and decision-makers, only at Rendezvous, you get a relatively lengthy ten minutes to pitch yourself. Through Rendezvous meetings this year and last, Citygate has been able to pitch projects to broadcasters such as OWN, PBS, and Japan's NHK, as well as numerous international sales agents and distributors.

Wisely, Hot Docs also makes all the contact information for participants available on a private site ahead of the festival so that other meetings can be set up independently. In the two days my colleague, Suzanne Taylor, and I have been here, we've already pitched our soon-to-be-finished film at Rendezvous and in private meetings; attended a production seminar on a HDSLR-filmed project and a broadcaster panel led by distribution guru Peter Hamilton; participated in the International Co-Production Day as part of the U.S. delegation; met numerous fellow filmmakers such as Doug Block; snarfed free food at two well-stocked festival happy hours; and we even seen some films. Our favorite so far? THE REDEMPTION OF GENERAL BUTT NAKED, an award-winning film about a former Liberian warlord that premiered at Sundance earlier this year.

Tomorrow begins the legendary Hot Docs Forum. This two-day event is a public pitch session where selected filmmakers pitch their projects to an assembled group of commissioning editors from international broadcasters in front of several hundred participants. It is invaluable to learn from the successes and failures of those who are brave enough to talk up their films in public. I recall that last year, the producers of a film about rare fruits were savvy enough to being some samples for the broadcasters to taste. They got a number of commitments after their well-done pitch!

Several people have commented to me that the laid-back vibe of Hot Docs is refreshing, in comparison to other international film markets. It may be the Canadian culture, or perhaps it is a community of doc filmmakers who appreciate the collaboration culture. Either way, it's a great event for doc filmmakers to attend.


For more information on Navigating Film Markets, listen to our in-depth tutorial. Get important tips on How, When and Why to attend markets for film funding and distribution.