07 April 2011
Bo Stehmeier, director of sales at Off the Fence, was the main speaker at a Documentary Filmmakers Association workshop on Commercial Documentary Distribution and Finance.
The commercial potential of documentary films is unexplored territory in South Africa. The current broadcasting environment in South Africa, with its lack of commissions and a host of new channels looking for content, presents a chance for documentary filmmakers to take control of their work and explore distribution possibilities open to them.
In response to this changing landscape, The Documentary Filmmakers’ Association (DFA), in collaboration with The Cape Film Commission (CFC) in Cape Town and with The Bioscope in Jozi, recently organised and hosted a seminar for documentary producers on Commercial Documentary Distribution And Finance For The International Market.
The main speaker was Bo Stehmeier, director of sales at Off The Fence, an international independent non-fiction distribution company with a local office in Cape Town.
The seminar was initiated by DFA treasurer, Pascal Schmitz, after he met Bo at IDFA in December 2010.
The seminars in Jozi and Cape Town had different panelists, but the learning in both centres was equally invaluable.
Bo allowed both newcomers and old timers of filmmaking to get their heads around the until-now distant world of distribution and international financing.
He began by encouraging documentary filmmakers to embrace the current uncertainties in the South African filmmaking landscape. He said the situation reminded him of the UK eight years ago, where, within three years, the most profitable export was television shows.
Producers in the UK embraced their intellectual property rights and exploited opportunities to earn from product sales.
“The stars are aligning themselves here in South Africa and it’s your responsibility to research the opportunities available,” he said.
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