Hot Docs: Market Stays Online, Live Industry Conference Aims to Spark Reconnection

Hot Docs’ market events remain online in 2022 to maximize interactions between feature-doc teams, financiers, and other decision-makers, but its three-day, in-person industry conference is mingling hot topics (Ukraine, equity), first looks (works-in-progress screenings), and networking ops (lounges and lunches) to facilitate what the festival’s industry program director Elizabeth Radshaw calls “moments of serendipity.”

Hot Docs Industry LIVE unfolds April 30 to May 2 in the TIFF Bell Lightbox and nearby Art Gallery of Ontario, repositioning the industry hub in Toronto’s downtown business and entertainment district—familiar ground to many international industry reps—and allowing for deeper integration between Hot Docs’ public screening and industry components.

2022’s transitional, hybrid edition continues the market format of the past two years, online-only editions of the Forum—the festival’s marquee pitch event—and the one-on-one Dealmaker and Distribution Rendezvous meeting programs, which proved successful.

“We were able to bring in buyers that were too busy with Cannes to attend, but they could take a ton of meetings online,” Radshaw told Variety last week. With Covid still causing much uncertainty and restricted travel for many, online fills a critical gap now, she said, and could become a permanent component for market-driven events such as Hot Docs, considering the environmental impact of air travel and other factors.

“The time we spend together is valid and valuable and we’re going to hold a place for that going forward,” Radshaw said, “and for the efficiency of good business will hold space for that online because it’s an access point for people around the world to participate.”

According to the Hot Docs website, more than 200 buyers from over 25 countries (strong numbers from U.S., Canada, U.K. and France) are participating online and/or in person. In terms of who will be physically in town, Radshaw notes that distributors are well represented—most likely because they have a title screening—as are major streamers.

The conference kicks off Saturday morning with a conversation with Oscar-nominated filmmaker (1987’s “Who Killed Vincent Chin”) and self-confessed “loudmouth” Christine Choy, whose ground-breaking work and strong opinions power “The Exiles.” (Most conference sessions will be available online later in the week.)

While all industry passholders can view the virtual Forum pitch sessions (which were held April 26, 27) online starting May 3, industry live-pass holders will get an exclusive advance look via the Hot Docs Forum Talk Back “viewing parties,” where attendees watch select pitches followed by expert feedback.

The Slava Ukraini (May 1) session is an opportunity to hear from filmmakers based in Ukraine who are documenting their experiences, and extend the conversation to filmmakers from other places whose work has also been affected by destabilization and conflict.

Hosted by Julian Carrington, Hot Docs’ first-ever Works-in-Progress Screenings (May 1, 2) showcase six innovative international projects, from Hot Docs alumni, in late stages of production or post; project team members will be available to connect with decision-makers in attendance.

Projects include Carola Fuentes’ and Rafael Valdeavellano’s “Breaking the Brick” (Chile; the country is also in the 2022 festival’s “Made In” spotlight), “The Great Experiment” (U.S.), “Cynara” (Canada), “Joonam” (U.S.), “Eulogy for the Dead Sea” (Canada), and “Company of Steel,” about three young Ukrainian war veterans who return home only to face a new challenges with the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022.

The work-in-progress screening of “Company” and the Slava Ukraini session are made possible through Hot Docs’ partnership with Docudays UA, Ukraine’s largest documentary event, which is held annually in late March in Kyiv, but “postponed due to the war,” its website makes clear.

Hot Docs Industry LIVE closes with Into the New, featuring Marie Nelson and Marsha Cooke discussing what is energizing their work in the roles they have moved into at ABC and ESPN Films.

The full industry schedule is available on the Hot Docs website.

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