Exclusive: Sunny Side’s Mathieu Béjot on bringing “new blood” to factual

Mathieu Béjot

Sunny Side of the Doc is back as a physical event this week after two years online due to the pandemic, and organiser Mathieu Béjot says it is making emerging talent its priority.

Talking to TBI here at the market in La Rochelle in France, Bejot, who is Sunny Side’s head of strategy and development, tells us around 2,000 guests from 67 countries have made the trip to the scenic seaside town – many for the first time.

The theme of this year’s edition is ‘New Voices’ and Bejot says that he has worked hard to ensure it’s not just the same old faces getting the chance to pitch and be pitched at.

“We really want to bring in some new blood to Sunny Side, because a lot of people are looking for new talent, whether it’s broadcasters, platforms or producers. We wanted to say out loud, you are welcome, we want you, we need you, please come to Sunny Side.”

He continues: “I think it goes hand in hand with the diversity and inclusion movement. It goes hand in hand with what’s been happening with covid – where people have had to link up with international production companies because they could not travel. I think that’s brought different angles on some new subjects that are being pitched.”

Béjot adds that Sunny Side wants to “reflect the growing diversity of the documentary scene” by having more platforms of all sizes attend the event – “we want the big ones, of course, but we also want the more niche platforms.”

Spotify, for example, might not be the most obvious Sunny Side attendee, but the audio platform is here this year and Béjot says that he’s already approached other new players to join in 2023.

Sunny Side’s ambitions go way beyond just inviting fresh faces to La Rochelle, however, with Béjot detailing: “We are launching the Ex Oriente Workshop, with talent from central and eastern Europe – the idea is to [support] emerging producers and filmmakers [from the region].

“We are also reaching out to training institutions – we set up a new students award this year, for instance. We’re making sure they know how business is done and are planning more initiatives in terms of training and mentoring.”

Looking to the future, The Sunny Side boss says he wants to attract “new forms of storytelling, whether it’s podcasts, documentaries written for YouTube, anything that’s non-linear, basically”.

Béjot explains: “Our crowd is very much broadcaster and platform orientated, but at the same time we realise their needs are changing – there’s more and more demand for feature docs, especially with a cinematographic quality, probably inspired by the platforms, and we want to try to reflect and anticipate those changes.

“Nobody has a clear view of how business will be done five years down the road, but we have to keep challenging ourselves.”

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