Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

CNEX Chinese Doc Forum: Dan Salerno Reports on the Booming Asian Market from CCDF, Taipei

The 14th annual CNEX Chinese Doc Forum (CCDF) just wrapped up in Taipei, Taiwan, where industry veteran Dan Salerno immersed himself in the booming Asian documentary scene.

From September 22 to 25, CCDF brought Taiwanese and Chinese documentary filmmakers together with industry professionals for a productive pitching forum that rivals its Western equivalents.

Presenting for Documentary Business, Dan’s keynote Documentary: Alive and…Well? offered an overview of the doc landscape. His panel session, Documentary: What’s Next? followed.

Read Dan’s CCDF Takeaways below.

About CCDF

The CCDF provides a platform for Chinese documentary filmmakers to meet with global commissioners and content creators, hone their craft, and pitch their projects for feedback, interest, and funding.

Part academy, part pitch fest, part media conference, the four-day event brings together industry experts from all sides of the creative process – and all corners of the world.

Over three days, 26 documentary pitches are made, with the three dozen decision-makers weighing in with questions and comments. Following the pitch, producers take 1:1 meetings, sharing further details as they seek partners/funders for their projects.

CNEX CEO and Co-Founder Ruby Chen, CNEX Chairman and Co-Founder Ben Tsiang, and International Consultant Pat Ferns lead the organization and the annual conference, curating pitches, moderating panels, and ensuring everyone comes away with valuable information and a rewarding experience.

A Fast-Paced Filmmaker-First Environment

  • An all-star panel of decision-makers representing the festival circuit, documentary strands, and broadcasters around the world is in attendance, offering feedback and guidance to the young filmmakers looking to start their journey.
  • Each morning, experienced producers coach the 26 filmmakers/production teams ahead of the pitch sessions, which last until the afternoon.
  • Constructive questions and feedback from the audience are directed by the conference director, who calls on specific attendees depending on the pitch.
  • “Decision-makers offered filmmakers deep and attentive insights. Their strong engagement during the pitches and throughout the conference were invaluable and integral to the success of CCDF’s program.”
  • “The second half of the day, the decision-makers sign up for 1:1 meetings of 15 minutes each with the filmmakers,” which gave filmmakers an upper hand: “Filmmakers met with at least six potential buyers a day.
  • This year’s panel of decision-makers included representatives from major festivals (Sunnyside of the Doc, New Zealand’s Doc Exchange, AIDC, Sheffield), grant organizations (Chicken & Egg, Why Foundation, The Whickers), and broadcasters (PBS POV, NY Times OpEd Docs, BBC’s Storyville, TF1, SBS Australia, Mediacorp Singapore, Taiwan TV, Al Jazeera, Bilibili,  NHK, and others).

CCDF: A Productive Hub for Docs out of Asia

  • At this year’s CCDF, there was an “excellent” quality of “strong documentaries” across the board.
  • The pitches were heavily focused on local and issue-based stories with a regional affinity, but limited US and commercial appeal.
  • That did not appear to be a disadvantage: “For the most part, buyers present at CCDF are not beholden to traditional performance metrics of a network.”
  • Missioned-based strands and the festival circuit offer an opportunity for many of the concepts.
  • The great majority of panel attendees were commissioning editors who were seeking documentary films.
  • 90% of all pitch concepts find their way to completion – an amazing record of success.

Awards

  • The three days culminate in a range of awards from CNEX and the many participating organizations. Festival passes and cash awards go out to some very happy and enthusiastic young filmmakers, with award-winning smiles from and for every winner.
  • “The majority of participants came away with prize money or an interested buyer.”
  • The festivals in attendance offered a range of expense-paid invitations to the winning filmmakers.
  • The mindset of the conference is key: “Nurturing a strong documentary market is a long game” requiring sustainable financial support and attractive regional and global opportunities for filmmakers.
L to R: Moderator Ruby Chen – CNEX/CCDF, Mathieu Bejot – Sunny Side of the Doc, Sara Royds – SBS Australia, Cura Zhang – Bilibili, Dan Salerno, Yvonne Kouadjo – NYT Op-Docs, Emma Hindley – BBC

Final Thoughts from Dan

“Sincere thanks to CNEX’s Ruby Chen and Ben Tsiang for their invitation and hospitality. Their genuine passion for nurturing a new generation of filmmakers was front and center throughout the week and beyond.

Special thanks to Pat Ferns for welcoming me to the CCDF family, and a well-deserved congratulations for gathering a best-in-class group of decision-makers from around the world. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. Just amazing.

Witnessing firsthand CNEX’s commitment and the decision-makers’ generosity of time and insight reinforces everything that is good about our industry, even in one of the most challenging eras in media.

My favorite, the Aunty Untitled Film, won passes to AIDC in Melbourne, Australia, and a $5,000 development award, along with a roomful of applause from their fellow filmmakers.

The untitled project follows a group of 70-year-old Chinese immigrant women in Los Angeles who form a dance troupe, looking to get on America’s Got Talent.

Fun, happy, a ton of warmth, and loads of inspiration, I smiled through the entire pitch, trailer, and post-pitch meeting with Director Yan Hao-hao and Producer Guo Guo.

Creative talent can be found everywhere. Well done everyone!

The Aunty Untitled Film team receiving their award for Best International Potential at CCDF 2023.

About Dan Salerno

Dan regularly analyses markets and projects for Documentary Business. He has been a key member of the leadership team for established and emerging networks, with an emphasis on strategic planning and content development. Most recently National Geographic’s Head of Programming, focusing on programming, development, and strategy, Dan’s career also includes BBC, Gospel, Fuse, and the original launch team at Discovery and its sister channels.

Read Dan’s recent report from Germany: Green Screen International Wildlife Film Festival