Member of the Month - Silvia Venegas, Making DOC Producciones S.L.
In this monthly interview series EDN focuses on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group.
Our EDN member of the month for April 2012 is Silvia Venegas and Making DOC Producciones S.L.
Making DOC Producciones S.L. is based in Spain with offices in both the Extremadura region and in Madrid. It’s an audiovisual production company specialising in the making of documentaries that focus on human interest, current issues, human rights and conflict and post-conflict zones. The production company is a member of the EDN, EGEDA, the Audiovisual Cluster of Extremadura and the Spanish Academy of Television.
Making DOC Producciones S.L. arose from the initiative of Juan Antonio Moreno and Silvia Venegas who are professionals from the audiovisual sector with a multidisciplinary background. Together they have made documentaries in Spain and in post conflict countries like Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. Among the documentaries produced by Making DOC Producciones are Life beyond the battle (2011), The Children of Mama Wata (2010) and Kosovo, The Last Scar of the Balkans (2007).
Silvia Venegas is in charge of content development at Making DOC Producciones S.L. and has also co-directed The Children of Mama Wata (2010) and The Diamond Child of Seydu (2010).
EDN has among other things talked to Silvia about the current situation for documentaries in Spain and about the company pitching at MIPDOC.
EDN: For how many years has Making DOC Producciones existed? What was the background and motivation for starting a production company?
SV: Making DOC Producciones S.L. was founded in 2010 but since seven years ago Juan Antonio Moreno and I have focused our work on the production of documentaries. Our first documentary was Kosovo, the Last Scar of the Balkans (2007). The idea for this documentary came after a trip to the Balkans. In Kosovo we met young people from different ethnic groups with many things in common but they didn’t talk among themselves about the painful memories of the war. The objective of our documentary was to get these young people together and discuss the future in Kosovo. The documentary is a portrayal of Kosovo few moths before the unilateral declaration of independence.
We have studied Journalism so we were interested in what happened in a country after a war, how a country is rebuilt and the value of people living in this country. After Kosovo, the Last Scar of the Balkans, we decided to continue making documentaries with the same philosophy focused on human interest, current affairs and social issues. The next stop was Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world. We started to work on a documentary in this country and at the same time we completed our training with courses specializing in documentaries and in my case with a Master's degree in Audiovisual Communication.
Making DOC Producciones S.L. started in 2010 and that year we released the audiovisual works made in Sierra Leone The Children of Mama Wata, After Diamonds and The Diamond Child of Seydu.
In the last two years, Making DOC Producciones S.L. has participated in documentary markets such as MIPDOC, DOCSBARCELONA, Sunny Side of the DOC and Miradasdoc Market. Our audiovisual productions have been selected in national and international festivals, such as Addis International Film Festival (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), Festival on Human Rights VIVISECTfest (Novi Sad, Serbia) and the documentary festival ALCANCES (Cadiz, Spain). They have also been broadcast on television and distributed in online video platforms.
EDN: What services does Making DOC Producciones offer?
SV: Making DOC Producciones S.L. undertakes its own documentary projects and offers audiovisual services to other companies, to the non-government sector and to television channels both at a national and international level. The services and products are carried out with the latest technologies; the production company has HD equipment for recording and for video and audio postproduction.
We offer formats non-fiction, documentary and report making, videos and awareness campaigns, videos about corporate responsibility, audiovisual products for web, photography and specialized courses in documentary making, audiovisual techniques and journalism.
All this is done under the philosophy of On&Go, which provides our clients with personalized services that meet their needs in customer service and production time.
EDN: How does your company find the projects you want to produce and is there a common theme to the films you go in to?
SV: The common themes in our documentaries are human interest, current affairs and social issues. We usually record in conflict and post-conflict countries but it isn’t a mandatory requirement to produce a documentary. In our films it’s important to search big characters because they tell the story. Our protagonists fight for freedom, for overcoming difficulties and for survival. This is the philosophy of our production company.
Making DOC Producciones S.L. finds ideas for documentary projects in its content development department. This department seeks themes that fit in the company philosophy and explores the possibilities to produce a documentary about this theme. After this first search and documentation, we decide if we want to produce the documentary.
Our production company is also open to proposals from other producers or directors. This happened with our latest production Life Beyond the Battle (2011). This documentary is directed by the Spanish journalist Antonio Pampliega and it portrays the daily life of civilians and military fighting to save lives in the war in Afghanistan.
EDN: What is the current situation in Spain for documentaries? What are the primary funding sources?
SV: Documentary production in Spain isn’t easy and it’s harder when you make international issues that aren’t connected directly with Spanish themes or Spanish characters. In Spain there are only few channels that broadcast documentaries but it’s difficult to find broadcasters interested in the kind of documentaries we produce.
The primary funding sources are private and public funds for development like MEDIA. In Spain we have funds for production from the Ministry of Culture. This year this funds have not been announced yet we only know that with the crisis the budget will be lower than other years. In addition there are no grants, which are only for documentaries, so documentaries are competing with animation and support for new fiction film talent in the same funding programme.
EDN: When and why did you decide to venture in to the international documentary market?
SV: We feel that we have an obligation to go outside of Spain with the stories we want to tell and the Spanish TV channels are mainly interested in projects with a national focus and not current affairs programmes. It is very difficult to get funding for documentaries in Spain.
EDN: You were selected for the MIPDOC International Pitch in Cannes with the project The Afghan Warriors. Can you tell us what this project is about and where you are in the process?
SV: Our new documentary The Afghan Warriors is a story about the women's struggle for freedom and equality in today's Afghanistan. Ten years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghan women continue to be submitted to repression and intolerance. Some of these women have decided to challenge the country's traditions and the female boxer Sadaf Rahimi is a symbol of this fight.
Sadaf Rahimi will be the only woman that will represent Afghanistan in the 2012 London Olympic Games. She knows that this might be her only opportunity ever to participate in the Olympics. Paradoxically, she trains with the Afghan Women’s Boxing Team in the Ghazi National Stadium where the Taliban carried out public executions of women found guilty of adultery or prostitution. The Afghan Warriors will follow Sadaf’s participation in the Olympics and will tell the stories of Afghan women who fight to defend their rights in the country.
The Afghan Warriors is in development and we have 30 % of the budget in place. We have letters of interest from broadcasters - Canal + (Spain) and Canal Extremadura TV (Spain) - and from distributors – First Hand Films (Switzerland), SHK Distribution (France) and Motion Pictures (Spain). We have submitted the project to public and private funds.
Now we’re searching co-productions and presales, since the documentary transmits a universal message, the fight for freedom, and has a potential to reach European and international audience.
The strengths of the film are the universal theme, strong characters and the sport. The runtime of the documentary will be 55 minutes but this can change and we can make another version, this will depend on the agreements reached with the co-producers and financial partners.
EDN: How did you come across this story?
SV: The idea for The Afghan Warriors came across Antonio Pampliega, director of the documentary Life beyond the Battle that we produced in 2011. He’s a spanish journalist who has lived in Afghanistan and during the last four years he has reported on the situation of countries like Siria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan.
He talked with us about the Afghan women’s boxing team and the possibility that one of the young boxers will represent Afghanistan at the Olympics. We were interested in the theme and we started to develop the documentary because the topic covered is urgent and needs to be made this year.
For the first time, female boxing will be an Olympic sport in London 2012. It has been the last sport, which were for men only.
Secondly, many of the girls that today are training in Afghanistan will probably get married soon and it will be their husbands who decide if they can continue to do sport.
Finally, the future of Afghanistan is unsure. The international troops will leave Afghanistan in 2014. Karzai’s government is talking with the Taliban and the rights of Afghan women, like Sadaf, can be the losers in this negotiation. And at the moment Afghanistan is the most dangerous country for women.
For all these reasons we trust in this story.
EDN: You have also launched a crowd funding campaign for The Afghan Warriors. Can you tell more about this campaign and what your goal is?
SV: Making DOC Producciones S.L. has launched a crowd funding campaign to part-finance the documentary. The campaign hopes to raise 10.000 Euro through small contributions from people keen that the documentary will be realised. Anyone wanting to support the project The Afghan Warriors can do so through the website Indiegogo, with whom MIPDOC and the International Pitch are collaborating:
Each financial contribution will be rewarded, from being acknowledged in the end credits, to being invited to collaborate as an associate director of the documentary. Other rewards include DVDs, posters or tickets for the documentary’s opening night in Madrid.
EDN: Is this the first time you have connected a crowd funding campaign to one of your projects?
SV: Yes, this is the first time that we have connected a crowd funding campaign to one of our documentaries. It's a slow process because you need to spread your campaign on the Internet. Our friends are the best promotion and their contributions are very important.
EDN: At the MIPDOC International Pitch six documentary projects pitch in front of a panel of commissioning editors. What did you expect from the pitching there and how was it to participate?
SV: Our participation at the MIPDOC International Pitch has allowed us to present our new documentary project The Afghan Warriors in front of a panel of international commissioning editors. Now, we know their impressions and their feelings about The Afghan Warriors and this is important to involve them in our project.
The comments from the jury will be very useful for future meetings and presentations of the documentary. After the pitch, we know that we need to change some things but we are moving in the right direction.
Moreover, meeting the other pitchers has allowed us to meet directors and producers who are making great stories, we have learned about their methods of work and we have shared experiences related to the documentary industry.
EDN: Why did you decide to submit your project for the MIPDOC pitch?
SV: After we started the development of this project the pitch at MIPDOC was the first important pitch in the calendar that fit the timing of the status of the project. We have now a lot of research material and will start the production in June.
EDN: Was this your first time at MIPDOC? What did you expect to get out of attending the market? Did you have a number of pre set goals you wanted to have fulfilled during your attendance?
SV: Yes, this has been our first time at MIPDOC and our participation has helped us to introduce Making DOC Producciones S.L. in a big market and we have promoted The Afghan Warriors. These were two of our main goals and to achieve them it was very important to participate at the MIPDOC International Pitch.
Since we were busy preparing the pitch before coming we did not have time to set up a lot of meetings in advance. So a lot of the time is spent catching the persons we want to meet. When we were at Sunny Side of the Doc last year we set up more meetings before arriving and while being there we were also part of the EDN Umbrella stand, which facilitated a lot of the networking. Besides getting a discount for the markets and getting all the info from the EDN Financing Guide another benefit from being a member of EDN is the facilitating of the networking and a short cut to meeting the right people.
After attending MIPDOC our network has increased. We have met with commissioning editors, broadcasters and distributors and we expect that the interest we experienced at MIPDOC will be agreements in the coming months. As I have explained the current situation for documentaries in Spain, for this we need to search international partners to make The Afghan Warriors.
EDN: What is your advice for people participating at a MIP or a similar market?
SV: Don’t be afraid – be your self. If you trust in your project in will transmit in both your meetings and if you pitch.
EDN: Which other projects are you involved in at the moment and what lies ahead for you and Making DOC Producciones?
SV: The main objective of Making DOC Producciones S.L. for this year is to produce The Afghan Warriors. We will record this summer in Kabul and London, and during the Olympic Games we will have two crews - one filming in London with Sadaf and the other team will be in Kabul where they will record the impact of Sadaf's participation in the Olympics. The documentary will be finished in November.
In addition to The Afghan Warriors, Making DOC Producciones S.L. is producing a documentary in Spain. It’s about alternative therapies such as music therapy or phototherapy in people with Huntington's Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. We have just started shooting.
Our last project is a short documentary for Red Cross Spain and ACOOR Foundation. It’s about women with difficulties finding a job.
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