“Written on the occasion of EDN’s 10th Anniversary”.
So far, so good. The EDN model that we developed for events like this in Southern Europe proved again that it works. Yes, our ideas in 1996 of building up some promotional activities for the development of the documentary sector in the Southern and later in the Eastern part of Europe have brought professionals together and brought forward new people who have ideas for documentaries. So far, so good. All in all I think that EDN and the pan-European training programmes like Eurodoc, EAVE, Ex Oriente and Discovery Campus have done well in the cross-border professionalisation of the sector. Matchmaking has happened, networking takes place, a strong small family works for the good of the documentary in times when the genre has never had a better image and where the aesthetic development, the film language also has developed. So far, so good.
But now that a young, strong generation of professionals from most of the European countries are able to move around, know how to pitch, know each other, do co-productions – and meet in nice places like the Sunny Side of the Doc and IDFA – there is more than a worry to be attached to the way that public television is going in Europe. The competitive atmosphere of the commercial channels, the hunting for ratings, the strong and constant formatting of slots, the commercial breaks, the same money to be spent to fill more and more slots… and first of all the domesticity of programming that has made many people give up on TV in general… where does that take us, where does that take EDN?
Back in 1996 when Anita Reher and I were employed and started to work in Skindergade in Copenhagen with PeÅ Holmquist as our first chairperson, I am not so sure that strategies were formulated. The joy of building up EDN to what it is today was closely linked to the ambition that this association was to be what the members wanted it to be. Therefore the workshops, therefore the individual consultations and the general advice to the members, therefore the continuation of an independent DOX and a TV Guide, therefore the South and the East European efforts, therefore the close and good relationship with the MEDIA Programme administration.
Ten years have passed and EDN is still an important mechanism in the European documentary landscape. But a lot has changed around EDN. First of all in the television world. Is it possible to build up a mobilising front to fight the “provincialisation” of TV programming? Can the MEDIA Programme and the EBU do something to secure international quality and perspective? Can EDN influence the national broadcasters – or at least make the people “inside”, the committed commissioning editors, feel that they are not alone, that there is an association that not only supports the development, talent and projects, stimulates the sector in countries where it is needed, an association that can – it sounds like MI5 – infiltrate public television on one hand and at the same time help all the talent who know that public television is hopeless in terms of funding? Where should they go? Is there space for an alternative European documentary channel? Funded by the EU et al.?
Think about the many director-producers who work on their own, have grown up to think internationally, very often with a wonderful multinational background. They have no chance at all on television, but they want their works to travel in other media. There is a stronger-than-ever need to make alliances that can stop the decrease of creative, high-quality documentaries on public television.