Doccie filmmakers weighed in on challenges to broadcasting. 

There is a growing demand for investigative documentary filmmaking, believes Swiss journalist and film producer, Jean-Philipie Ceppi.

Ceppi, who moderated a panel on documentaries at the 10th annual Global Investigative Journalism Conference (GIJC17) told audiences that, “The market is expanding and the demand is there.”

“Only in 2017 there’s more than a 100 co-production markets in the world,” he added.

United States-based broadcaster and Director of the Enterprise Documentary Fund for the International Documentary Association, Carrie Lozano, spoke about the challenges faced by investigative filmmakers in her country. “Documentary film is thriving in terms of opportunity but the financial model is a complete mess, totally disrupted and it creates an inequality issue,” she said.

She added that the complex nature of investigative documentary filmmaking can make it challenging to get the story out.

Director of the documentary film Bitter Grapes, (a story about slavery on South African vineyards), Tom Heinemann, told the audience about his own experience of filming the project and what makes a successful documentary film.  “If you can find a story that has not been told before then you are on top,” said Heinemann. He added that filmmakers needed to market their projects.

Ceppi presented a business model for how to approach investigative documentary filmmaking. Here are his top ten tips:


1. Monitor the investigative documentary market

Ceppi advised filmmakers to study their market and know what trends and initiatives are available in their region. Look for co-production opportunities.


2. Identify your local film commission

Identify where you can get access to funding and grants for filming and documentaries.  “Everywhere in the world, these people are keen to at least hear your project and your pitch.” Getting writing support for drafting a pitch is important.


3. Identify a television/cinema production company

“Work with a professional production company or set up yours. These people are supposed to be the specialists for finding the money and covering your costs and trying to mount a suitable and reasonable budget with you.


4. Do you have the skills?

Get assistance for the skills you may lack. “It’s important to stay a bit humble about the kind of work you know how to do and don’t know how to do.


5. Based on your investigative project, write a convincing synopsis

Pitching is important. “You only have 10 minutes to get as much money as you can.”


6. Set up a reasonable budget

Producers must know how much money and time you will need for the film project. Be precise about your production time frame in your budget. “The longer the film, the more expensive it will be.”


7. Proceed to shooting ONLY once your financial round table is set

The more financially stressful period should be when you’re putting together your pitch or proposal. Wait for the confirmation of funds before starting the filming process.


8. Get involved in the screening process

“Even when you’re hired by a network, it is very important to embody your project. That means you should personally be in touch with people going to talk about your project.


9. Be sure to take great care of your network

The distributors, the press and other producers should know your face. Showing your face is part of the investment.


10. Follow your film in festivals and markets

“Follow the life of your film that is how you get more grants.” Be aware of where your projects are being broadcast.


PHOTO: Tom Heinemann and Carrie Lozano share a laugh before taking questions from the audience during their session on documentaries. Photo: Ntaoleng Lechela