Last week I attended the energy laden Good Pitch Chicago. Good Pitch connects social justice documentary makers with potential funders, partners and networks as they work to complete their films and build their outreach and engagement plans. Most of the work however takes place in the lead up to get the right people in the room - it was an impressive line up of film makers, activists, NGOs, media organisations and foundations that builds on almost 20 previous such events.
It’s a high energy day of theatrics, with meaningful stories recounted through film and funders and campaigners stepping up to offer support. It’s not uncommon for someone to step up and say “I’ll contribute $25,000 of finishing funds” on the spot, or offer the support of their vast network. It was in many ways like sitting in a TV show, with cameras and lights well placed in a purpose built black box. The attendance of the odd star, in this case Danny Glover, adds to the theatrics and energy. Several previous films at Good Pitch have been nominated for best documentary at the Academy Awards.
The day is however a serious showcase of purposeful and powerful documentary films with issues ranging from domestic violence, homelessness in Chicago, racism, climate change and more. All have compelling narratives and the pitchers are well practiced (literally for a couple of days before hand) in presenting their work.
A weakness however is the space for feedback. For the most part no one offers constructive criticism of the films as this tends to take the edge off efforts to build support; a bad comment can cost money and support, as was the case with the last film presented, Becoming Bulletproof, which for all it’s good intentions did fall into some cliche’s regarding people with disabilities. Other films could probably have been equally critiqued, however they had much more supportive panels.
For my liking The Message has the most potential. A new film from Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis that attempts to reframe climate change as an opportunity to radically shift our lifestyles and relationships and proceeds to document a range of communities doing just that. For me it’s the film that is most likely to create a ‘moment’ that can shift the debate in a new direction, and get the climate movement out of the rut it seems to be in.
A full list of the films can be seen here.
I’m wondering if Good Pitch would work in Indonesia? Certainly there are enough great film makers. Some small format shifts might be required, it definitely feels American (despite being run by Brits) with people selling their various wares, but it’s also a very social and positive occasion that _I think_ could translate culturally. It would be an interesting experiment.
Good Pitch is headed to Mumbai and Sydney in 2014 so look out for it!