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Julianne Rooney at Sheffield Doc/Fest

Date posted: 22.06.2015

The Frontline Club's Julianne Rooney attended Sheffield Doc/Fest thanks to a Training, Travel and Accommodation Bursary from Film Hub London.

One of the top three documentary festivals and markets in the world, Sheffield Doc/Fest returned this June for its 22nd year. Julianne Rooney, Documentary Programmer at London's Frontline Club reports:

Sheffield Doc/Fest presents countless opportunities for exhibitors to see the best non-fiction work emerging internationally.  Having developed the reputation as one of the premiere UK festivals to show new documentary projects, Sheffield has become a hub for programmers who are looking for new content.  As a delegate at the festival, I was one of the first to see the most anticipated upcoming documentaries before cinema release, including A Syrian Love Story, Deep Web, and The Look of Silence.

Aside from a diverse programme of films, Doc/Fest brings together an array of filmmaking talent, and most screenings are followed by Q&A's.  As an exhibitor who often communicates with producers and directors over email, especially when they are based overseas, Doc/Fest provided a unique opportunity to network and meet face-to-face.  While attending the festival, I was able to meet several directors and arrange screenings of new documentaries such as Jungle Sisters and Shades of True, which will be screened at the Frontline Club in July. Additionally, Jerry Rothwell's documentary How to Change the World will be screened at our venue later this summer. 

Attendance at the festival helped me stay up to date with the subject matter currently being addressed by documentary makers and also allowed me to set up screening events for the months ahead.  During the festival's networking events I was able to meet representatives of other London-based screening venues and distributors, such as Dogwoof and Open City Documentary Festival, and discuss potential collaborations on screening events.

In addition to the film programme, the conference sessions at the festival are immensely valuable to industry professionals as they bring together some of the most knowledgeable minds about a range of topics, from cinematography and sound design to web distribution and multimedia.  The Crossover Summit focusing on interactive design, production, and distribution proved very useful to me, as a curator who is also interested in multimedia production and nonlinear storytelling.  Aside from introducing new ideas to help consider the ways the Frontline Club can make the most of digital platforms, the Crossover Summit also offers an overview of the different technical roles that are emerging in the field of nonfiction media making.

My main purpose for attending the festival was for the conference session I produced with Beadie Finzi, Orlando von Einsiedel, Kim Longinotto, and Juliana Ruhfus, titled "Dangerous Storytelling: Documentary Filmmaking and the Safety of Subjects."  The Frontline Club has been collaborating with Sheffield Doc/Fest for many years, having co-organised screenings and produced conference sessions on investigative reporting, risk assessment, and conflict journalism.  As a new member of staff, this was the first time I had attended Doc/Fest and my work on the conference session provided valuable experience in event production focused on film theory and industry practice. 

My aim for the Frontline Club film programme is to incorporate more events geared toward filmmakers and film academics, including talks as well as our screenings with Q&A's. In producing our conference session for Doc/Fest, I encouraged discussion between filmmakers and journalists about best practice for safety and working with subjects.  The Film Hub bursary allowed me to take part in the conference, as travel and accommodation expenses would have otherwise prevented me from being at the festival and taking advantage of its many resources.

Sheffield Doc/Fest not only presents diverse and compelling films, but also inspires distributors, media makers, and industry professionals to be more innovative in their daily work -- to rethink the content they focus on, to take better advantage of new technologies, and to forge new partnerships with likeminded organisations. The festival was a great opportunity to consider new ways of diversifying the Frontline Club programme and provide practical resources for filmmakers.  The Frontline Club is thankful to the support of Film Hub and Film London for their bursary scheme and assisting with our work at Sheffield Doc/Fest this year.

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