THE BLOG

Thankful for IDFA Documentary Market & RIP Peter Wintonick, 'King of Docs'

11/28/2013 10:40 am ET | Updated Jan 28, 2014
  • Vivian Norris Ph.D. focusing on Globalization and Media Studies

"...Time and memory are the only subjects of every film" -- Peter Wintonick (1953-2013)

For deal making, and bringing one's documentary project to the next level, with great partners, there is nothing like IDFA Documentary Market in Amsterdam each year. This is the place not only to see some of the best documentaries in the world, but for young filmmakers to realize their dreams of putting together concrete projects. Be it the helpful professionals with decades of experience in the First Aid Lab spending time with filmmakers, to the commissioning editors who are actually available and the new breed of PR consultants who are helping films reach their audiences and increase their impact, Amsterdam each November really does make a difference with this event.

This year, during a panel on PR and Marketing of Documentaries, a very practical and honest presentation by Doc PR guru, Freddy Neumann from Denmark, helped young producers and directors see that the process of making a documentary begins long before production, and continues long after the film is completed. For many European documentary filmmakers, as it is during the heavily subsidized production process that many are paid (and can actually survive making docs), the follow-through after the completion of the project, is very close to non-existent.

But things are changing. Everyone has to be much more pro-active and involved with social media campaigns, creating both niche and converting audiences, finding new audiences and reaching those potential audiences through networking with NGOs in the case of social issue films, with government agencies, and professional groups and press which write about the subjects these documentaries confront.

Perhaps one of the most supportive people in the world of documentary, especially where young filmmakers and filmmakers from up and coming parts of the world in terms of docs are concerned, was the late Peter Wintonick, director of such features as Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky in the Media (with Mark Achbar) and Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment. But more recently, many people associate Peter with his work in China and EyeSteelFilm.

I met Peter over recent years at both Sunnyside of the Docs and at Sheffield Doc/Fest, where he seemed to always be helping someone. This year at IDFA, I spoke with a young woman, a documentary filmmaker from South Africa, who had mentored by Peter just this past summer. His impact was felt everywhere. In fact, I would say there are only a handful of truly recognizable folks at doc fests, and Peter Wintonick was probably the most recognizable person, and somehow also everywhere at once.

The memorial tribute gathering of friends and colleagues during IDFA allowed everyone the chance to write in a memorial book, their memories and caring thoughts for Peter's family. At the event, buttons were handed out which read, "Peter-King of Docs." This is perhaps the most fitting tribute of all.