Krakow Film Festival 2024

«We want to foster and support the non-fiction community on both sides of the Irish border»

DOCS IRELAND: Head of Industry & Marketplace Roisin Geraghty on the secrets to a well-rounded festival industry event, this year's programme, the legacy of Irish documentary.

The fifth Docs Ireland runs through 25 June, 2023 in Belfast. After our conversation with its Festival Director Michele Devlin, we turn our attention to the Industry side of the festival. The event kicks off today with an Emerging Talent Training Day hosted by the Docs Society, before featured a slew of panels, workshops, talks, and more.

With the fifth Doc Ireland currently underway, Modern Times Review spoke with its Head of Industry & Marketplace Roisin Geraghty. Here, we speak on the secrets to a well-rounded festival industry event, this year’s programme, the legacy of Irish documentaries, and more.

Our mission with the Docs Ireland industry programme is to develop, nurture and showcase the documentary filmmaking talent of the island of Ireland, from emerging to established filmmakers.

As Head of Industry @ Docs Ireland, how do you define your role and responsibilities? What was your path to this position?

My role at Docs Ireland is to curate and manage all elements of the industry programme, including the marketplace, our pitching competition, the IGNITE Talent Development Programme, as well as all ancillary industry panels, case studies and events at the festival.

Like most people working in film and festivals, my path to Docs Ireland was far from straight-forward. I began my career in the US, working with the Gotham (formerly the Independent Filmmaker Project), a non-profit organisation supporting independent filmmakers, most significantly through their Independent Film Week project market. This gave me an excellent grounding in, and understanding of, the importance of film talent development and advocacy.

Since returning home I’ve worked a freelance film producer, as well as in many programming and project management roles across film festivals in Ireland and the UK, including GAZE LGBT Film Festival, Cork International Film Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival. I joined Docs Ireland in 2019, the first year of the festival, and it has been a privilege to aid in the growth and development of the festival.

Like most people working in film and festivals, my path to Docs Ireland was far from straight-forward.

What is the ultimate goal of the Industry programme of Docs Ireland?

Our mission with the Docs Ireland industry programme is to develop, nurture and showcase the documentary filmmaking talent of the island of Ireland, from emerging to established filmmakers. We want to foster and support the non-fiction community on both sides of the Irish border, so that the industry can be more sustainable and continue to flourish.

A film festival industry programme includes many elements like panels, workshops, masterclasses, etc. In your opinion, what makes for a well-rounded industry programme?

For our festival, a well-rounded industry programme contains elements that are tailored to filmmakers at all stages of their careers. Our festival is still in its infancy, building each and every year, but our fundamental mission is to aid in the sustainable growth of the industry, and indeed, the sustainable growth of our festival.

Year on year we are continuing to progress, and our focus is on an industry programme that encompasses engagement with all aspects of the documentary filmmaking process – creative conversations, project development, financing and production, and not forgetting the vital processes of sales, distribution and audience development for documentary. This year we are hosting an event called Engaging Audiences: Creative Practices for Documentary Distribution, which will bring together innovators in the realm of non-fiction filmmaking to present on the methods they have utilised in finding new ways to reach audiences.

Year on year we are continuing to progress, and our focus is on an industry programme that encompasses engagement with all aspects of the documentary filmmaking process.

Can you speak on some of the commonalities across the 2023 Docs Ireland Industry programme? In the sense of themes presented, or areas of focus…

There are a number of initiatives that anchor the Docs Ireland programme each year, namely the festival’s project marketplace, the Northern Ireland Screen Pitch, and the IGNITE Documentary Talent Development Programme. Another fundamental area of focus for us is co-production. In 2022, we focused on European Co-Production, inviting documentary producers from around Europe to attend our festival market and participate in a keynote panel exploring this area. This year, our focus is co-production on the island of Ireland – what’s working, what’s not, and how we can more successfully collaborate across the border between north & south. We will do this through an open co-production forum at the festival – Celebrating the Gains, Addressing the Gaps – Creative Cross-Border Collaborations – featuring key stakeholders from the industry on the island, will who provide an array of cross-border perspectives.

In addition to this, our industry programme will explore other points of relevance in the documentary industry, including current festival curatorial practices, the state of the broadcast landscape, and the place of markets in the non-fiction ecosystem.

Since Docs Ireland is, of course, an Ireland-based event, it puts much focus on films from the area. Can you explain the legacy or history of Irish documentaries, and what sort of stories contemporary Irish filmmakers are telling?

Considering the long and troubled history of our country, we steeped in stories that lend themselves well to the art and constructs of documentary film. In Northern Ireland in particular, there is a strong tradition of non-fiction filmmaking rooted in our peculiar and traumatic history. This tradition has acted as a foundation for Irish documentaries, but the focus has been evolving and developing in the 21st century.

Many Irish documentary filmmakers are now looking outward, and tell stories by but not of our country. I see this year on year in the projects presented at the Docs Ireland Marketplace, and in the Irish feature documentaries being produced. For example, this year’s Pull Focus Irish Documentary Competition contains films exploring the international pro-#nuclear movement (Atomic Hope), the experiences of migrants internationally (I Must Away) and the current conditions of people living in Beirut (In the Shadow of Beirut), amongst many other themes and subject matters.

Considering the long and troubled history of our country, we steeped in stories that lend themselves well to the art and constructs of documentary film.

What are some films, filmmakers, or filmographies that kickstarted your interest in documentary?

Not quite what you are asking here, but I can very clearly pin-point where my interest in the feature documentary form began. While still at college, I volunteered at a small documentary festival called Guth Gafa, on the very rural north-west coast of Ireland. It was the days long before streaming platforms were offering a plethora of doc content online, and my exposure to documentary had been quite minimal. After spending the weekend seeing filmmakers like Kim Longinotto present their work on the big screen, I was converted and began to educate myself in the non-fiction form. My love for documentary has not waned in the many years since!

Steve Rickinson
Steve Rickinson
Steve lives in Bucharest, Romania. He is Communications Manager and Industry Editor of MTR.

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