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Sailcloth Awarded Grand Jury Prize for Short Film at Rhode Island Int. Film Festival

on . Posted in Awards

UK short film, SAILCLOTH by Elfar Adalsteins and starring John Hurt has been awarded the highest accolade at the 15th Annual Rhode Island International Film Festival - the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short. As a result of winning at Rhode Island the film automatically qualifies for consideration for an Oscar® by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences™.

'Sailcloth by Elfar Adalsteins is a brilliant and poignant work that touches at the core of the human experience. Brilliantly acted and expertly realized, leaves little doubt that a new creative voice in world cinema has burst upon the scene.' George T. Marshall, Chair of RIIFF Jury.

This year RIIFF received a record 4,537 submissions from filmmakers representing more than 60 countries worldwide. Sailcloth’s writer and director Elfar Adalsteins was on hand to receive the prize at the festival; which also marked the film’s World Premiere:

‘It is an absolute privilege to receive this award at Rhode Island – we couldn’t ask for a better platform to launch our film. It was a true honour to partake in a festival that really puts the interests of filmmakers first.’

The film tells the story of an elderly widower (played by John Hurt) who veils his disappearance from a nursing home to embark on one final journey on his beloved sailboat. Filmed on location in beautiful village of St Mawes in Cornwall, John Hurt was drawn to the project after reading Elfar Adalsteins’ script and was quick to spot his potential: 

'I read the script, I liked the idea and I met Elfar and it was quite obvious that he was a player and that cemented it for me.'

The 17-minute short is completely non-dialogue and the Oscar-nominated actor usually famed for his dramatic speaking roles relished the chance to take on such a part:

'The spoken word is not essential in film - it can be useful but it's wonderful if it is not necessary.'

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Greenpeace Film Competition - 17 September to 1 October

on . Posted in Contests

Greenpeace film competition

Volkswagen says it wants to be the most eco-friendly car manufacturer in the world. But it’s spending millions trying to stop laws to make cars more efficient and cut climate change emissions. On September 17, Greenpeace is launching an international film competition. We need your help to expose the real VW – the one behind the billboards.

You’ll have two weeks from the launch date to make a one minute film on the competition brief. That brief is secret for now, but we promise you it’s going to make you want to fuse your creativity with your conscience.

For more information and to sign up for the competition brief, visit http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/filmcompetition.

The best films will be screened at a special event at the Curzon Soho in London (and you’ll be invited along). They’ll be seen by thousands of people around the world and be a key part of our climate campaign.

We have a prestigious panel of judges, and if your film is the winner you will be awarded a £5,000 budget to make Greenpeace’s next campaign movie.

Join us for the special launch event: 10am on Saturday 17 September at the Curzon Soho when we make public the competition brief (although you don't need to attend to enter).

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Audiences: Making Film Pay and Play in the Digital Future

on . Posted in Cinema

Producers, distributors and exhibitors are all using digital marketing tools to promote films and get them seen by audiences. Too often, however, they are working in isolation from one another. This pioneering programme will bring together professionals from across the film industry chain to explore a cross-sector, streamlined approach to building audience interest in independent film.

It will be a unique opportunity for film companies to foster partnerships on joint initiatives, at the same time as being inspired by case studies of innovative practice in digital marketing.

Who is it for?

We are seeking around 35 forward-thinking professionals working in production, distribution and exhibition who are interested in exploring new business models and industry partnerships for using digital technologies to engage audiences. Roles of participants may include CEOs, acquisitions, sales, marketing, press, communications, audience development, programming, plus professionals from film industry support agencies. While we would encourage participants to attend the full series of six workshops, a single place on the programme can be shared between colleagues within the same company if appropriate.

How is it structured?

The programme comprises six one-day workshops spread over one year. Each day will offer inspiration from digital experts, case studies of innovative models from within the film industry and other industries (eg. music, TV, advertising…), plus practical group sessions to explore new ways of working together. Between workshops, participants can continue conversations and update each other on projects through an online forum.

What does it cover?

The programme will retain a degree of flexibility, responding to participants’ own business needs, project proposals and emerging ideas. Topics will include:

  • What digital marketing techniques are producers, distributors and exhibitors using to build audiences for independent film? How can they combine forces to work together on long-term, strategic promotional campaigns?
  • What does each sector know about audiences for independent film and how can we share this information?
  • How can crowdsourcing and crowdfunding ensure audience buy-in from the outset?
  • What is the potential of on-demand cinema and other flexible programming models?
  • What lessons can be learnt from TV, music and advertising industry experiences of cross-platform promotions?
  • How can collaboration across the film industry be built into working practice?

The workshops will be hosted by BBC Radio 4 technology journalist Simon Cox and will feature presentations from creative digital thinkers.

 

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How to support the indie film & music companies who lost 1000s of DVDs/CDs in Enfield fire

on . Posted in Community projects

00:38 9/8/2011: Camden Town, LondonAs well as helping the countless small businesses and shops who've lost stock and suffered damage, buying digital downloads from any of the indie companies who've lost all their stock in the huge depot fire in Enfield would be a nice thing to do. It might mean the difference for some between surviving or closing as they try to manage cashflow in the weeks or months it will take for the insurance to come thru, when many are already struggling. If you know of other companies, please let me know - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Below are the links to the main websites for each distributor I could find - they should of course also be available thru normal channels (LoveFilm, Amazon, iTunes, etc). Bear in mind if you're ordering DVDs there will probably a good wait for delivery - even better perhaps is if you say in the notes with your order that you are in no rush - and to preferably buy a download/stream.

Update 1 -  Brendan Connelly at Bleeding Cool is also building a good list - worth checking as it has direct links to specific titles that can be downloaded/streamed

Update 2 - Network DVD have taken their shop offline and promise it back within a few weeks. I'm not sure if this because of legal requirements to ship within 28 days of order, or if it will cause problems with their system. Either way perhaps a sign that it might be best not to buy DVDs from distributors before they've had a chance to either take off their shop or publish a statement.

Update 3 - Artificial Eye and Human Film also confirmed. The Bleeding Cool list has lots more direct links and other distributors. 

Arrow - ArrowFilms.co.uk to buy DVDs

Artificial Eye - lost their entire 300-title stock.

BFI - has lost 120,000 units with lots to chose from. Get on DVD or preferably online at Jaman, BlinkBox or LoveFilm or get a membership to download films and more.

Dogwoof - distributor of social documentaries lost 50,000 units. dogwoof.com/itunes for iTunes, for DVD club (worth joining), Pop-up Cinema to organise a screening and Dogwoof.tv for streaming

Guerilla Films - tireless supporter of British indies has lost 60,000 units. Guerilla-Films.com to buy DVDs

Human Film - producers of Aahlam and Son of Babylon

Kaledoscope - can't currently find a direct link to buy, but they will be on sites like amazon.co.uk

Metrodome - DVDs available to buy in subsites under Critical Acclaim, Epic Asia, Horror, Action/Thriller and War as well as normal download platforms.

Network DVD - lost all their stock and are not taking online orders until things are back to normal in 'a few weeks'. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Pecadillo Pictures - lost 50-60,000 units. PeccaPics.com to get DVDs and iTunes links from their Facebook page.

Revolver - Revolver DVD/Blue Ray here, LoveFilm, BlinkBox and iTunes links here.

Urbanized Film - aka Gary Hutwist, director of Helvetica and Objectified. You can buy Helvetica here, Objectified here, and in the US get tickets to the new film Urbanized here.

Meanwhile there were over 150 independent record labels using PIAS distribution - including Domino, XL, One Little Indian and Warp whose stock has been destroyed, leaving companies 'devestated'. There's a list here - http://thequietus.com/articles/06729-help-riot-struck-pias-buy-mp3s

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Karma, Community and The Edinburgh Film Festival 2011

on . Posted in Festivals

Off_the_Beaten_Track_largeProviding a write up for the Edinburgh Film Festival 2011, which came to a close yesterday, is not straightforward for me – Edinburgh is my adopted home of 28 years, and taking pleasure and pride in its cultural events is part of why it’s a great city to live in. But whether or not we wanted it, press coverage prior to the festival launch on 15th June was sharp, even nippy: the programme was not only slimmer, but possibly just thin and rather unappetising; contentious decisions had been made with regard to content as well as form – the omission of You’ve Been Trumped being the most glaring example; and a messy year of funding cuts and a departing director seemed to be finally taking their toll.

So it has felt like Edinburgh was being set up for a fall this year, even if it is the job of journalists to report barometer readings and keep organizers on their toes. The festival has sought to prove its worth on the international festival stage without the cosseting of the August culture extravaganza with its ready supply of tourists and visitors. But in doing so it is exposed to the harsher, very competitive world of film festivals, which are now in their thousands.  And so defining a festival and attracting what you want in terms of films or names becomes an ever-tougher task.

The early reporting options were twofold: join the criticisms and moan at some early shortcomings or alternatively, champion uncritically. But neither tack was going to help the cause of supporting the event.  Instead, I’ve waited till it’s all over, and opted for an appraisal based on what I, and others, saw and experienced. It’s not exhaustive research, but it’s a start. We all want Edinburgh to survive and flourish, so here’s an attempt to get beyond the carping and work out what happened over the last 10 days, but to be realistic about what may have to be faced given the tough climate it’s weathered during the last few months.

Documented Success

Firstly, the up side and what can be celebrated. Edinburgh was operating in conjunction with Sheffield for the first time this year to provide ‘joint premiere’ opportunities for documentary. This aspect of the programme was robust: as well as docs we’d seen in Sheffield – including Bombay Beach and Hell and Back Again - there were further strong inclusions: Project Nim, Shut Up Little Man, Sound It Out, Calvet, Mrs Carey’s Concert and Off the Beaten Track, were all name checked as solid and inspired film-making.

My Edinburgh preference was Off the Beaten Track  (above); a bucolic odyssey, with the tempo and beauty of an epic. It was a tale of a pre-industrial way of life now threatened by agri-industry in Romania.  Transylvanian shepherds accompanied their flocks along lorry-ridden roads to fresh pastures, revealling an agrarian world of genuine sustainability on its way.  With horses, donkeys and motley mongrels as the biblical entourage that trekked highways, dales and meadows in an attempt to maintain a way of life in the competitive and quota-determined world of EU membership, it was an exquisitely paced piece of direct cinema.

Fiction and the not-to-be-missed

postmortem2

The choice of feature movies, unfortunately, felt less satisfying. Once the horror movies and films about psychos were put to the side, it required a bit more application to sate the appetite.  The Guard was a very unambitious choice for a gala screening: big names do not necessarily great films make. John McDonagh introduced his self-penned and directed tale by firstly slating the director of the previous film he’d scripted in 2003 - Ned Kelly – calling it ‘a cliché ridden pile of bourgeois bullshit’. I’d rather he’d just kept the comments off stage the night we all sat down in the Festival Theatre, as one negative word could infect the DNA of any other words uttered or written and disrupt the already delicate ecology the festival was attempting to withstand. And, as McDonagh had wandered down the genre path of comedy cop thriller, I did wonder just how unclichéd he was hoping to be with his particular outing. Turned out he was turning them all out for The Guard anyway. Yes, there were some great actors and some nice turns in choreographing the inevitable set pieces of a face-off and a shoot out, but beyond that Brendan Gleeson’s over-written smart-arsed garda, romping at times, rather than just comedying, through Oirland, was definitely one for the multiplexes. McDonagh made himself a hostage to fortune, and was burned in the process with his hubris. I don’t care about bad blood between directors and writers when the tone of an opening night should be upbeat and celebratory – McDonagh should keep it for his movie memoirs.

And if a film festival is a celebration of the less available and the more challenging, there was Béla Tarr’s ostensible swan song, Turin Horse, to take in, with long, long one take shots, references to Neitzsche and black and white photography all keeping the art house expectations met. Tarr had presented us with a bleak allegory about the apocalypse, yet claimed it was a celebration of life in the Q and A. Tarr was droll and genial, so I can only surmise that Magyar sense of joie-de-vivre is one lost a little in translation. But the horse - forlorn and masterfully captured in motion in the fabulous opening sequence - was wonderful, out-acting the humans as a being weary with resignation and burden. The father and daughter principal characters swore I thought too much for allegory, and the horse’s non-speaking part was a nice counterpoint.

But a film that had the hallmarks of its director’s black, black sense of humour played to searing effect was Post Mortem (above, right) - another macabre, unflinching trip into the history of Chile’s political past by Pablo Larraín. Following on from his second feature - the twisted, bleak, but very smart Tony Manero - this was the one film which had to be seen at Edinburgh for its UK premiere. Larraín is conducting a cinematic form of forensic research into what happened to the soul of a country that unspeakably abused its own. This time it’s the autopsy theatre that Larraín presents as the proscenium through which we glimpse Chile’s descent into hell as the 1973 military coup brings mass murder in its wake - all while public servants dissect its victims and type up its reports. Alfredo Castro from Tony Manero is again cast as a protagonist stripped of any morality or responsibility with regard to his fellow citizens, utterly absorbed in his own desires and disrupted masculinity, while Larraín drives the story with bold, spare images and a cold, comedic eye. Every frame grips in Larraín’s films, with each character, object and word rich with meaning. This might still be art house but it’s utterly compelling and absorbing – it’s a film, like Tony Manero, that gets under the skin and stays there. For the unrepresentative poll conducted for this article, it was the film that came out top – and for those critics who I heard were sniffy about the films on offer at Edinburgh, it was a missed opportunity if they felt nothing was worthy of a trip to the city. 

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Last few days to submit to Encounters Bristol for Oscar shortlisting

on . Posted in Festivals

submitted by Encounters

ENCOUNTERS BRISTOL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (16 – 20 NOVEMBER)

DEADLINE 30 JUNE

There are only a few days left to submit your short film or animation to the 17th Encounters Bristol International Film Festival (16-20 November). Submit by 30th June for a chance to win over 10,000UKP worth of prizes, or a prestigious short film award nomination (Academy Awards®, European Film Awards, BAFTAs, Cartoon D'Or).

The festival is offering heavy reductions for multiple submissions, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ASAP if you are interested in submitting more than one film.

SUBMIT NOW AT WWW.ENCOUNTERS-FESTIVAL.ORG.UK

Here are the following awards and prizes available this year for competition strands Animated Encounters and Brief Encounters:

- 2 Grand prix Awards. Prize: 2,000UKP* (& Academy Award® short-listing)
- 2 European New Talent Awards, eligible to European Graduating films or first time European director credits. Prize: 1,000euro*
- 2 Best of British Awards. Prize: 1,000UKP* (all films qualify for BAFTA live action & animation awards)
- 2 Best of the South West Awards. Prize: 500UKP*
- A Documentary Award. Prize: 1,000UKP*
- An Experimental Award. Prize: 1,000UKP*
- A Children’s Jury Award. Prize: 500UKP*
- DepicT! Awards (details at www.depict.org)

Short films and animations are eligible from all over the world, completed from 1 Jan 2010, under 30 minutes in length from every genre (animation, live action drama, documentary, experimental and music video). The submission fee for a digital entry is 20UKP, and for a DVD entry it is 25UKP.

Be part of one of the UK's most prestigious celebrations of short film, and emerging talent.

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Combative Filmmakers and Breakdances as Sheffield DocFest winds up

on . Posted in Festivals

hellandbackSheffield Documentary Film Festival wound up on Sunday, with a brief interlude before the Scottish Documentary Film Institute hosts the Edinburgh Pitch on Tuesday and prior to the Edinburgh Film Festival officially kicking off on Wednesday. Filmtastic week. As was probably part of the rational to shift Sheffield to June (which it has wanted to do for almost 4 years), many of the commissioners who’ve come from abroad will also make their way to Edinburgh in the week. How well this plays out over the next fortnight, for ‘decision makers’ and film-makers, we’ll find out once Edinburgh gets under way.

But back to the closing weekend at Sheffield, which hosted a masterclass with Nick Broomfield, and a UK premiere of Hell and Back Again by Danfung Dennis - the movie everyone headed for on Saturday night. It struck me that at both events’ Q and A sessions, the curiosity - when not technical - revolves around the film-maker’s personality: what are the relationships with protagonists; how do they get the access; what are the moral implications at times for a film-maker’s politics?

Dennis’s film is an exquisitely shot work focused on a batallion posted 18 kilometres inside ‘enemy’ lines in Afghanistan, and more specifically on Sergeant Nathan Harris, badly wounded and recuperating back in North Carolina. This is Dennis’s first film; his background is as a war photographer, which results in a filmic aesthetic more often found in grand cinema than an on-the-hoof documentary.  Careful composition, stunning resolution and a shallow depth of field combine to take us a long way from the rather garish grain of the low-budget video look. The result is extraordinary considering that Dennis was a solo operator and his rig was a Canon 5D stills camera with a boom and radio mic combined and balanced on a monopod. As a man of slight build and quiet personality projection, that he was inches from where bullets and incendiary devices landed made one aware of the physicality of such film-making. But it also explained the film’s visceral impact: immediacy ensures the powerful imagery because the decision-making and shot-taking are simultaneously in his hands. Broomfield, in commenting on footage caught for Soldier Girls, pointed out that capturing extraordinary moments is about trust between collaborators – there often just isn’t time for discussions with crew when drama kicks off. He cites an example of a crew member being practically assaulted by Sarah Palin security when they were ejected from a meeting: Broomfields’s camera people were so freaked that they couldn’t shoot. For him, what happens on the way to filming is where the story is, so you need to know that the cameras will keep rolling, whatever happens. And as Dennis illustrated, at times with very graphic footage, backing off is not what he does at any point.

And this brings us to the issue of politics. Dennis side-steps them - the story is very much from the soldiers’ viewpoint. This does leave the Afghanistan sequences rather untethered, notwithstanding an instance of jaw-dropping irony delivered by an officer during one of many contretemps with Afghan villagers. He expressed the hope, in the course of a hearts and minds talk, that the villagers - whose homes and fields they’re trampling through or squatting in - will come in time to consider him a village leader. But US imperialism aside, there’s also the politics of editorialising, and Dennis included a scene of a horrifically wounded man (from a 100 hours of footage shot), which he said was necessary in order to represent the brutal reality of war. But this was an Afghan member of the platoon, and as this was a battalion who had lost 13 men in total, the sub-text of the question asked of Dennis was; would he have shown a US soldier in similar circumstances? The death of an American early in the film was respectfully unintruded upon.

Broomfield was dealing with politics of a different kind in The Leader, His Driver and His Wife – the latter two characters apartheid supporters, even if not of the venality of Eugene Terre’Blanche, ‘The Leader’ in this case. Broomfield maintained that it’s the place and time of a person’s birth which determines their politics – so there but for the grace of God go all of us. Broomfield’s intolerance is of dishonesty, or a subject window dressing their own representation on camera; generally his moral compass points to non-judgement. In relation to access, Dennis needed to clear a mountain of bureaucracy to get access to the platoon – Broomfield, one sensed, would get it with sheer force of will. I wouldn’t like to be up against Broomfield in a war of anything: I know who would win. But Broomfield is engaging and fun, and I imagine that the bug-eyed innocent face he deploys when in trouble with either his producer or Heidi Fleiss oils many a cranky cog in the production process.

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Sheffield DocFest and Money : The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

on . Posted in Feature film

the_greatest_movie_ever_sold_posterMorgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold officially opened the 18th Sheffield Documentary Film Festival on Wednesday evening, also providing the doc with its European premiering slot. Product placement and chasing sponsorship lolly was the film’s raison d’être, and as I write this I’m drinking a bottle of POM Wonderful itself, dished out free in the delegate centre. Yes, that’s right; the title of the movie is the name of a pomegranate drink.

"Spurlock arrived for the Q and A in a blazer adorned with sponsor logos, like the Lewis Hamilton of doc"

Spurlock does film about excess: too much liver fat in Super Size Me and now too much product placement in POM Wonderful. POM, the company, got the title slot as they gave him the most money to make the doc - $1 million: $400K upfront, £100K for the ad (there were ads through the film for various products including horse mane shampoo) and the last $500K for delivering on rigorous media impression and exposure targets. All the other sponsors, from petrol stations to deodorant brands, made up the remaining half a million. And it was not easy money: Spurlock himself cold-called 600 firms and it took 9 months to get the first yes. With a 1.5% rate of return on the successes versus the no’s, it’s a time investment strategy that’s pretty low yield.

But taking the desire for objects - and the desire to sell them - barefacedly into the ‘transparent’ world of the doc, Morgan seeks to turn the taint of lucre association on its head by dispensing with the secrecy. But the hallowed opinions on screen of no less than Noam Chomsky and various professors of media point out that once you dip your toe into the commodification pool, you’re sucked in to swimming with the sharks and may be ideologically eaten by the monster you seek to parody. Spurlock arrived for the Q and A in a blazer adorned with sponsor logos, like the Lewis Hamilton of doc. A concern is; does high irony shake off the brand association? And Spurlock’s ‘brand’ – what made him an investment option in the first place is - according to an agency who do this stuff - ‘mindful and playful’. With everything up for sale now, even our personalities have a price. Can the ‘objectivity’ of the doc filmmaker as a ‘trust’ aspect of brand be sustained after the immersion in the world of merchandise?

However, the film itself is zippy, pacy and funny. The first third is highly entertaining with knock-backs flying and Spurlock’s pitching sessions to the marketing men a reminder that he’s always a high energy, engaging guy. And, nicely, no-one gets to look bad – it’s the antithesis of a Baron Cohen approach. Spurlock isn’t taking the Michael, and when he’s asked by a would-be sponsor if he’s ‘just blowing sunshine up their ass’ for the money, we know he is – and so do they. With such candour and personality amongst the sponsors, they become doc characters in their own right - they even got a standing ovation at the screening in Sundance.

"With everything up for sale now, even our personalities have a price. Can the ‘objectivity’ of the doc filmmaker as a ‘trust’ aspect of brand be sustained after the immersion in the world of merchandise?"Whether the film does ‘make us more aware’ of placement pervasiveness – Spurlock’s claim in the Q and A - is questionable. Doc audiences are arguably already ‘aware’. It was after all teenagers in US schools exposed in class to ads that provoked the idea for the movie in the first place. His intention is that POM Wonderful follows Super Size Me as an educational resource. We wish him luck in tackling the multi-billion dollar product placement industry and de-programming the craving for brand that so much of modern life is defined by.

But Spurlock was bold in asserting that doc makers can’t be too purist about where money comes from – US foundations doling out money for docs are often funded through business after all. And if even the public-good realm of non-fiction film may seem like a longer shot in terms of return for investors, Spurlock now realises he undersold himself: he not only met all the targets for the money given, he surpassed them. As he said, he didn’t plan for success.

Having been too late for a packed out Just Do It, we went to see Sky’s production of Flying Monsters 3D, first shown on their 3D channel Christmas Day 2010, so this is no journalistic coup. However, the demographically-minded title belies a fascinating, thoughtful and gob-smacking looking film. And here was another documentary with an educational remit – it will show in museums for 2 or 3 years, and has had outings in IMAX and other theatres to date. This was the flip of the shoestring budget doc, so I asked in the Q and A how much it cost. ‘Lots’ was the abrupt and very non-commital reply from the commissioner. An icy air descended in the auditorium. The line producer swiftly attempted to lift the mood with a jolly ‘and more!’ I forgot we were dealing with Sky. We’d been exposed to a culture of transparency and plain-talking with POM Wonderful, so talking about money seemed culturally acceptable – it is why the Festival exists.  But Sky’s remit is to corner and conquer markets – even those with a public service character. I guess the rather fabulous amounts they will pay to dazzle in the 3D world is not an investment they’re comfortable about sharing yet.

Documentary as a Festival phenomenon is, at Sheffield, a success, big or low budget. This year it’s more delegates than before – over 2000 - and more decision makers – over 200. How this pans out with all that austerity around is yet to be seen. But no-one ever went into documentary with thoughts of mega-money on their mind. Apart, possibly, from Sky.