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Sheffield Doc/Fest

An Overview of Sheffield Doc/Fest

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Sheffield Doc/Fest is an important international documentaries film festival that takes place annually in Sheffield, England. The five day schedule includes public screenings of more than 100 films from around the globe, as well as industry-oriented sessions, including pitching opportunities with documentary film funders and investors, controversial discussion panels about aesthetics, new technologies and social responsibility, and in-depth filmmaker masterclasses, as well as a marketplace at which filmmakers show their work to documentary programmers.

Sheffield Doc/Fest is a gathering place for the British documentary film industry. Each year, the industry conference attracts the leading names of British documentary filmmakers and executives in British television. The delegate mix of over 1800 includes documentary and nonfiction film producers, directors, buyers, commissioners and distributors. It is considered a top venue at which to launch new documentary films, pitch ideas and projects in development, meet future co-production partners and get insider tips from some of the world's best documentary filmmakers.

Basic Information

  • Address: Sheffield Doc/Fest, The Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX, UK
  • Telephone: +44 (0)114 276 5141
  • Fax: +44 (0)114 272 1849
  • Frequency: Annual, five days in June. Recently rescheduled from November.
  • Official Website
  • info@sidf.co.uk
  • Festival Map

    Documentary Films Program

    The festival's diverse program presents approximately 120 features, shorts and cross media films from all over the world, plus retrospective spotlight presentations. The program is divided into thematic strands including Arts Docs and Music Docs, plus award categories, including the Special Jury Award, Sheffield Innovation Award, Sheffield Green Award, Sheffield Inspiration Award, Sheffield Youth Jury Award, Sheffield Student Doc Award, and Sheffield Doc/Fest Audience Award.

    Festival Dates and Attendance

    For its 18th edition, Sheffield Doc/Fest is set for June 8-12, 2011. Previous editions were held in November. All films are open to the public and a limited number of free standby tickets are available to students and senior citizens. Some industry events, including masterclasses, are also open to the on a limited basis.

    In 2010, attendance reached a record high of 2229 delegates from around the globe and every area of the documentary and digital media industries. High profile contributors included Joan Rivers, Kevin Macdonald, Danny Cohen and Rolf Harris.

    According to current programmer, Hussain Currimbhoy, "The number of submissions to Doc/Fest has grown every year, further proving not only that the spirit of independent documentary film making is alive and thriving ­ but that Sheffield Doc/Fest is a key festival to launch a documentary into the world."

    Sheffield Doc/Fest History

    The first Sheffield International Documentary Festival, held in 1994, was launched as both an international film festival and a conference for professionals working in documentary production. The first program presented observational American trailblazers such as Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, DA Pennebaker.

    Doc/Fest was the vision of Peter Symes of BBC TV Features Bristol. In 1990, with the support of John Prescott Thomas and Peter Salmon at BBC Bristol, a working party was set up to see if a documentary festival would be a viable proposition. Originally, the festival was to take place in Bristol.

    By 1993 Channel 4, United Artists, Discovery Channel, Central TV, and Granada TV had representatives on the Festival Board, and agreed to provide funding. In the same year, filmmakers and academics in Sheffield suggested the city as a venue. Sheffield was developing its media production base and its cultural industries quarter was expanding. It also had at the two universities, strong film, journalism and media schools with a growing center of postgraduate education at the Northern Media School, a large student population and venues for offices, screenings and debates. Being outside London was seen as a positive advantage. With organizational and funding guidance from Sylvia Harvey and Colin Pons, the festival was launched.

    Founder Peter Symes chaired the festival in 1994 and 1995, then Marion Bowman took over in 1996, followed by Roger James from 1997 to 2000 and Christo Hird from 2001 to 2004. Steve Hewlett has chaired the festival since 2004.

    Festival Directors and Programmers have included Midge MacKenzie, Paula Shirley, Kathy Loizou, Alex Cooke, Sirkka Moeller, Caroline Cooper Charles, Brent Woods and David Teigeler. Current Festival Director Heather Croall took over in 2006. Hussain Currimbhoy is the Festival Programmer.

    The Director and Programmer work in close collaboration with the Board and Advisory Committee to create a rich and challenging program each year. Doc/Fest has long been regarded as an event owned by members of the documentary industry, who are well-represented on both the Board and the Committee.

    Expanded Programs

    Since Heather Croall's appointment as Festival Director, Sheffield Doc/Fest has extended its program from its annual five-day event to include year-round services for the documentary filmmaking industry with training, educational and cultural activities taking place across the UK. The introduction of the MeetMarket in 2006 changed the project pitching process by scheduling one-on-one meetings between filmmakers and buyers. The MeetMarket has established Sheffield Doc/Fest as an important international marketplace for documentary films.

    The festival program now also includes the Crossover 360 strand with sessions and masterclasses dedicated to exploring the digital revolution in broadcasting and the impact that convergence, digitization and interactivity has on documentary production and delivery. In 2007 Crossover Labs were introduced as an all year integral part of Sheffield Doc/Fest, with a pitch competition at the festival in November. This international program of residential labs, is designed to explore the creative and the commercial challenges of developing content and services for digital media. The labs are co-produced by Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover.

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