Don’t throw away your shot at quiet markets

Briege Whitehead, head of Australia’s White Spark Pictures, reflects on MIPTV and shares her tips on how emerging producers can make the most out of quiet markets. 

MIPTV has come and gone, and while its future in the expanding calendar of industry events is reviewed, the chatter continues around how quiet Cannes was. Though some broadcasters and distributors might be weighing-up its cost-benefit, I am still wading through my MIPTV follow-up, having what can only be described as one of my most successful markets.

The quieter market enabled meetings that were more meaningful and robust, and key decision makers – who are often unavailable to newer attendees – had more flexibility than at previous markets.

In addition, MIPTV, with its MIPDoc and MIPFormats bolt-ons, has evolved into a marketplace that offers factual producers a wealth of development, financing and collaboration opportunities in one location, and for those like me who don’t operate out of European or US production hubs, it remains an unparalleled event at which to meet influential people face-to-face.

For new producers, this market – and others that are perceived as quiet – should be viewed as a real opportunity, especially if you do your homework and planning in advance.

Reach out to key contacts and get them in the diary before the event – but don’t rush to fill every slot. Breathing space in your schedule can allow a great meeting to continue, or as I’ve found, slot in people you meet at the market.

Having a great slate is vital. Don’t turn up with nothing to pitch, or a roster of shows that you’ve been touting for ages. You need a fresh slate every time, with content that will appeal to the range of people you’d like to meet. Do your research so you know what distributors and broadcasters are currently acquiring and where they may have gaps – and don’t waste your opportunity by pitching something that obviously isn’t for them. Also, remember to give due attention to the presentation of your ideas – programmes will look more polished on a beautifully designed flyer, rather than pitched from a dog-eared notebook. Similarly, producers do not have to express all their creativity via their wardrobe, and must dress the part. If you are looking for investment, look worthy of it.

Reach out to key contacts and get them in the diary before the event – but don’t rush to fill every slot. Breathing space in your schedule can allow a great meeting to continue, or as I’ve found, slot in people you meet at the market. In a quiet market, approaching a booth to inquire on an executive’s availability may also pay dividends. However, don’t be annoying or pushy with the front desk staff. They wield a lot of power.

It can be tempting to save money by not registering, hoping for meetings in coffee bars or hotel lobbies. However, to maximize your attendance, you will need full access. You can spend any free time walking the floor, checking out what’s being promoted or attending a conference. Every day, the Palais generated high-quality impromptu meetings for me, even surpassing late nights at The Grand.

Also, always keep an open mind. Accept as many invitations as possible, from drinks on a stand to a networking breakfast or launch party. You just never know who you might meet and what connections you could make. Ensure you have plenty of business cards, and always ask people for theirs and make notes on it of where/when you met for follow-up. In addition, this may be obvious, but pace yourself with the booze. You want to be memorable – but for the right reasons.

If you come home buzzing with possibilities, act on them in a timely fashion. Don’t let opportunities die through inaction, and aim to follow up on every contact. In our rapidly changing world, where people regularly swap roles and ideas constantly ebb and flow, keeping front-of-mind as you grow your business will hold you in good stead.

Whitehead founded White Spark Pictures in Perth in 2016. Her credits include immersive VR film The Antarctica Experience. She is currently producing three 13-part factual series for international distribution. Her recent credits include Impossible Planet, 35 Serial Killers the World Wants to Forget, 72 Cutest Animals, 72 Dangerous Places to Live and Top Jobs for Dogs.

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