Tombers is the President of Intermat,
Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection
of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced
the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for
the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the
Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat
recently sold METEORS TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael
ORourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television
movie. Visit his
web site at http://www.intermat.tv
Week of February 1st, 2004
Getting Real at Real Screen
Thursday I lugged my computer with me everywhere as I intended
to sit down and write my column while at Real Screen in Crystal
City, Virginia. But the day flew by and I just didnt
get to it as I was deeply enmeshed in the Real Screen Adventure.
What is Real Screen, you ask? It is a conference, now in its
sixth year that is held in Washington, D.C., which is fondly
now known in the filmmaking community as Docuwood due to the
presence here of the headquarters of National Geographic,
PBS and the behemoth that is Discovery.
It used to be held at the Capital Hill Grand Hyatt in downtown
D.C. but had to move this year to the Hyatt in Crystal City
as it has now outgrown the Capital Hill facility.
Now compared with such shows as MIP and MIPCOM and NATPE,
this is a very small show a little under a thousand
people but it is emerging as THE North American gathering
place for non fiction players. Starting out as a place for
earnest individuals who lovingly crafted individual films,
it has now gathered everyone from those kinds of folks to
the non-fiction factory powerhouse of companies like Towers
Productions and Atlas Media.
And, while it is a conference with sessions, the real buzz
and business was going on in the bar, where people, fueled
by coffee during the day and cosmos at night, where working
to network and pull together deals. Conversations hummed between
Channel 4 and independents looking for international partners.
A group gathered around Tom Ingold, an exec producer at Discovery
Network, who has chosen this as his moment to retire. He was
being feted by a dozen producers with whom he has worked over
the years while in a corner there was a gaggle of former Discovery
employees who were catching up with each other as they have
now scattered to the corners of the earth.
Food Network employees were pummeled with questions over the
changes in their department, now that Eileen Opatut has left
the building and Brooke Bailey Johnson is in charge.
Rita Mullin, Director of Development at Discovery Health,
was also fielding those kinds of questions as Healths
GM has also left the building, while taking pitches every
half hour, like clockwork. Rita looked a little bit overwhelmed
by the end of the day and who could possibly blame her?
Discovery Times teammates Bill Smee and Diana Sperrazza were
surrounded by some of the most important filmmakers on the
planet as they continue to build on their reputation as one
of the few places to take intelligent programming concepts.
In 2002 Real Screen was a conference and market that was devastated
as everyone went into their shells at networks post 9/11 and
began to cancel projects right and left. Two years later,
the vitality of the field has returned while everyone copes
with some new realities which include, as one producer put
it, coping with the demand for cheaper and dumber docs.
Hence the popularity of the Discovery Times team
I had breakfast with Matt ONeill, a young filmmaker
who has grown up under the tutelage of Jon Alpert [think twelve
Emmys and HBO Documentaries, including THE LATIN KINGS] who
is currently a PEW Fellow down here in Washington, preparing
to go to Venezuela to cover its wacky President. He reminded
me of some of the reasons I have grown to love this business
as he is full of the passionate love of career that infuses
independent filmmakers which, when coupled with a love of
subject, can provide the world with interesting and breakthrough
Real Screen reflects the very real business of non fiction
films. The most popular session today, I think, will be How
to Run a Production Company. All of these filmmakers
are also working to translate their passion for film into
the realities of also running a business in a world where
their passions are not frequently in demand by a market that
seems to want cheaper and dumber docs.
Mike Darnell of Fox Television may well go down in history
as the man who shaped all of non fiction film, all across
the globe and across all networks. It is his kind of sensibility
which seems to be winning the day.