Ben Kempas
Kampas is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

More than 2000 documentary professionals attended this year’s edition of Sunny Side of the Doc. For two of them, their role at the market changed radically.

Paul Pauwels, until recently an independent producer, now works as commissioning editor for Flemish broadcaster VRT. And Leena Pasanen is leaving Finnish YLE Teema to become the new director of EDN.

paul-pauwels_01“Ladies and Gentlemen, Paul Pauwels has now left the building.” Ending with these words, an email from Paul announced his departure from Periscope Productions in May. When he told friends about his new job as Programme Manager for VRT, they warned him: “Watch out, Paul, you’re going to spend half your life in meeting rooms.” He replied, “Hey, that’s nice: sitting and listening to other people and being paid for it.” Having worked with many commissioning editors before, Paul Pauwels had a pretty good idea of the job. “But I was not really prepared for the amount of meetings within the channel and for the amount of paperwork that’s waiting for you. It’s a huge organisation.”

One day before Sunny Side of the Doc started, EDN announced the name of their next director: Leena Pasanen. Still a commissioning editor for YLE, she is only finishing projects she is currently involved in, viewing rough cuts in Marseille. Congratulations everywhere. “I have mixed feelings,” she says. “I found some really, really nice projects here, and I’m not able to take them anymore because I’m already leaving YLE at the end of September. Whenever I see something and say, ‘I want to have this,’ then I can’t do it. It’s a bit sad. On the other hand, I’m already thinking about all the possibilities that I can see in the future with EDN. That’s very, very exciting.”

Paul Pauwels is constantly surrounded by producers passing him A4 sheets and sample reels. “It’s very strange to be on the other side because they’re doing exactly what I did before. It’s very inspiring to see all these ideas come by, and people hoping that you can help them. It’s less inspiring to know that you will not be able to help everybody. At Canvas, with our limited resources, we can’t do too many co-productions.” At EDN workshops, Paul used to tell fellow producers: “Give commissioning editors some time to breathe and to go to the toilet without being accompanied by someone who’s pitching.” However, Paul’s impression at Sunny Side is that this kind of guerrilla pitching is less aggressive than it used to be. “People behave quite well.” He admits that as a producer he always felt “a bit ashamed” when trying to pitch to buyers. “I thought I was invading their privacy.”

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