It’s About Time for Westdoc

It’s time for a trade conference for producers of documentaries that is designed by producers. If you’ve been in the business for the past decade or so, you may well agree that the limited focus of many of the conferences offered to us is disappointing at best. And, why do we have to schlep to […]

It’s time for a trade conference for producers of documentaries that is designed by producers.

If you’ve been in the business for the past decade or so, you may well agree that the limited focus of many of the conferences offered to us is disappointing at best. And, why do we have to schlep to the East Coast when most of the people we want to network with are right here in Los Angeles?

As technological innovations continue to reduce production costs and ever growing programming options fuel the need for even more niche programming, the nonfiction production industry is evolving.

Shouldn’t the events that serve to facilitate the industry evolve as well to meet the industry’s changing needs?

From LATV Fest to IDA and AFM to the New York Festivals, it seems that over the years, most of these organizations are putting on one- or two-day events with only limited attention paid to the specialty genres of documentaries and reality programming — two genres that share many of the same production and financing practices.

As larger venues grow in size, the separation between attendees and those key programming executives they want to talk to grows as well. Quite simply, these events are not facilitating the business.

Where are the basic, intimate seminars and panels where the takeaway information is genuinely useful?

It was these thoughts that sparked my discussions with Richard Propper, a nonfiction broadcast distributor and former president of IDA, and motivated us to come up with what we think is a better idea — an event designed by producers for producers.

The result is our dream event, Westdoc — the West Coast Documentary and Reality Conference, Sept. 14-16, 2009, at the Doubletree Guest Suites in Santa Monica.

For Westdoc, we have amassed a cadre of top-tier programming executives from many of the nation’s top broadcasters to present an event that truly initiates introductions and dialogue among those who buy reality/documentary content and those who make reality/documentary content.

The lineup of programs and events is designed to provide invaluable insight and expertise to both the business and creative arenas of the industry. Among the speakers and moderators will be TLC Executive VP of Programming Steve Cheskin, Discovery Senior VP of Programming Gena McCarthy, ABC Senior VP of Alt Programming John Saade and National Geographic Network Executive VP of Programming Steve Burns.

Thom Beers, founder and CEO of Original Productions, will be providing the keynote. Beers is a prolific supplier of non-fiction television series and home of the cable hits “Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers” and “Ax Men.”

But perhaps best of all, PitchFest, on the third day of the conference, will showcase producers from both Villages pitching new programs to network and development executives in front of a live audience for potential acquisition or co-production funding.

Westdoc will give producers a chance to immerse themselves in a community of the nation’s top echelon of television programmers, discover what these national television broadcast and cable networks are buying and learn how to sell it to them.

And it’s all being held at the central hub of the world’s biggest production community — Los Angeles.