$2 million-plus pledged for Oz docs
In a single, extraordinary day more than $2 million in donations was pledged to seven Australian feature-length documentaries on Wednesday.
The scale of the financial support stunned the organisers of the first Good Pitch Australia event, which aids social impact documentaries.
Equally surprised were the recipients. “I am speechless,” said producer Marguerite Grey, who is collaborating with director Belinda Mason on Constance on the Edge, which looks at the struggles of a Sudanese refugee, Constance Okot, and her six children in Wagga Wagga.
The docu was the biggest single recipient with pledges of more than $500,000 for the production and an initial outreach strategy which includes hosted regional film screenings and education and training resources.
Screen Australia provided $15,000 for research and development in March and in September Screen NSW gave $10,000 for filming a trailer for Good Pitch and for broadcasters to help secure project finance.
However the ABC and SBS rejected the producer's initial requests for investment, stating the project did not suit their programming priorities.
Grey was overwhelmed by the responses to their Good Pitch presentation from the philanthropic foundations, private philanthropists and corporate foundations who were among the audience of 300 at the Opera House.
“I’ve never seen such a dramatic half hour,” she told IF. “The refugees issue and our personalised approach have real currency. There is clearly a need for a national conversation about refugees, particularly those from Africa such as Constance, who has been here for 10 years.
"Following our seven-minute pitch, Susan Mackinnon from Documentary Australia Foundation, who is executive producer of Constance on the Edge, kicked off the table discussion by announcing philanthropic support of $100,000 had already been pledged. A foundation on our table generously added $25,000 and then someone at a microphone said they represented two donors who had pledged $50,000 – all within a few minutes.
"Then a man stepped up and pledged $200,000 to audible gasps from many in the room including Constance, and it kept going from there. It was as though Susan had struck a match and our funding took off like a grass fire. Many people including other filmmakers made very personal pledges for a range of amounts, $1,000, $20,000, $5,000, with some saying it was because they understood the difficulties of being an Australian with a refugee background. Suddenly our struggle to stay in production had ended and we knew we could make our film."
They aim to complete the docu, which will examine the familý's efforts to deal with the ‘invisible wounds of war’ and to feel accepted in their town, by the end of next year,.
Mason first looked at Constance and two other refugee families in I’ll Call Australia Home, a Screen Australia-SBS Independent-funded doc in 2007.
Good Pitch is the international documentary forum devised by BRITDOC and Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program. Good Pitch Australia is an initiative of Shark Island Institute and Documentary Australia Foundation.
Pro Bono Australia reported, “There were tears and applause as the filmmakers revealed their documentary details, along with shouts of delight and even standing ovations as philanthropists and funding bodies offered financial support and in kind outreach resources.”
Shark Institute executive director Ian Darling said, “Good Pitch is the most rewarding and high impact philanthropic event I have ever experienced, demonstrating the power of philanthropy when it works collaboratively alongside outstanding story-tellers and change-agents. The event outdid all our expectations."
More than 150 grants were made by philanthropic foundations and individual donors on the day. Among those who committed their support are NAB, The Fledgling Fund, Australian Women Donor’s Network, GetUp, YMCA, The Funding Network, The Caledonia Foundation, White Ribbon, The Westpac Group, The George Institute for Global Health, Diabetes Australia, Inside Film, Dumbo Feather, Lock The Gate, Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, AIME, the Sydney Film Festival, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Chicago Media Project, Impact Partners, Philanthropy Australia, Pro Bono Australia, Documentary Australia Foundation and the Shark Island Institute.
The other six beneficiaries are:
Call Me Dad / Director: Sophie Wiesner, Producer: Madeleine Hetherton
A story about men who have perpetrated or are at risk of perpetrating family violence. At stake is the safety of children and partners, the stability of families, and the power we as a society have to intervene. These men have problems expressing anger, and other strong emotions, without resorting to abuse, verbal or physical. We follow these men as they attempt to change and heal their most precious relationships.
Frackman / Director: Richard Todd, Producers: Simon Nasht and Trish Lake
Reluctant activist Dayne ‘The Frackman’ Pratzky, takes us on a journey through the bush as we meet a bunch of ordinary people caught up in a modern day multinational gold rush – the race to secure and exploit coal seam gas. From conservative landowners, to radical activists and town-dwelling families, this unlikely coalition of Australians has come together to protect the health of their communities, land and future.
Gayby Baby / Director: Maya Newell, Producer Charlotte Mars
At a time when Australia is divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, four children with gay and lesbian parents share their stories. While they each have a unique issue, the kids nonetheless all face the dramas of oncoming puberty and stepping out for the first time into a world that places intense scrutiny on families like theirs.
The Opposition / Director: Hollie Fifer, Producer: Rebecca Barry
In a David-and-Goliath battle over land in Papua New Guinea, Joe Moses, leader of the Paga Hill Settlement, must save his 3,000 people before they are evicted to an industrial waste site. Battling it out in the courts – Joe may find his community replaced with an international five star hotel and marina developed by an Australian run company.
That Sugar Film / Director: Damon Gameau, Producer Nick Batzias
It's the most dominant food in the world but how has sugar infiltrated our diet and culture and what is it doing to us? One man's journey through academia, irreverence, experiment, celebrity, science and vibrant entertainment, That Sugar Film is a saccharine ride exploring the true nature of sugar…and how to start a new life without it.
Zach's Ceremony / Director: Aaron Petersen, Producer Sarah Linton
Zach’s Ceremony follows a city-raised boy and his quest to reconnect with his Indigenous roots as he goes through the ancient rite of initiation. Fuelled by passion, a father and son’s tense and often combative relationship brings into sharp relief the clash of two worlds and the struggle modern-day Australians face connecting with the oldest living culture in the world.