Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Hot Docs Adds a Hogwarts Touch to the Pitch Session Format. Oprah’s OWN sent to the ER. Why Reality?


That special magic thing settled over Toronto last week for the Hot Docs Forum, where 27 producers pitched their pre-selected projects to a high table packed with commissioners and funders.

The setting was the Great Hall at UofT’s Hart House.

  • It was part Hogwarts
  • Part Westminster
  • And much more absorbing!

The Format

  • Introduction by a snappy pair of expert moderators
  • Producer describes project and its level of funding
  • Sizzle tape
  • Feedback from networks and foundations
  • Wrap up


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Feedback at the Forum

Here’s a sample of the responses heard from the funders who were seated elbow-to-elbow at the long table:

  • ‘We already knew about your exciting story. We’ve talked about it with other potential funders, and we definitely want to be involved’
  •  ‘That’s interesting!! Let’s meet later’
  • ‘Amazing direction. But I’m not sure I see the characters. Or the story?’
    • Vice versa
  • ‘Looks a lot more like a social media project than a doc’

The Winners!


  • Slots and funding may be shrinking worldwide
    • But the talent and drive to tell great documentary stories are undiminished
    • And today’s digital kit makes it easier and cheaper to get access and then create a pitch reel
  • CBC and other public broadcasters are key potential partners
    • Their remit excludes partisan reporting
    • So don’t bring them a film on a contentious issue that is already partly funded by an issue-driven foundation or individual
  • A single whinge
    • The loudest and often the most judgmental voices came from the commissioners with the puniest budgets
  • Amazing job … 
    • Hot Docs organizers! Filmmakers! Panelists! And volunteers!



1. Oprah’s OWN is in critical care

2. Why is Reality ever-rising? A new feature from The New Yorker
3. Reality Meets Porn.  Showtime takes Reality to the depths (April ’11)




Thursday, May 19
Don’t miss our Chicago workshop!
What are the key trends in the Unscripted industry?
Where are the opportunities?
What are the networks looking for?

Pitching secrets! And much, much more!
Presentation by Peter Hamilton
Guests speakers: Jonathan Towers & Mike Schmiedeler, Towers Productions
Mix and mingle with other television professionals from Chicago and the Midwest
Hosted by Michelle De Long and Tim Horstman
Thursday, May 19
Location: Fletcher Chicago
1000 N. Northbranch St
Chicago, IL 60642
5:00PM-6:45PM Mix, mingle, eat and drink
6:45PM-8:45PM Educational Session and Guest Speakers
8:45PM- 10:00PM Mix and Mingle
NATAS and WIFC members receive a special discount.
Click here for more information!


Sunnyside of the Doc
La Rochelle, France
June 21-24
Watch for details!