DocLab does Doc/Fest

Reflections from Sheffield

DocLab Birmingham 2018 participants

Naomi de Souza

I have never experienced anything like Sheffield Documentary Festival. From the tenacious and spectacular voices present in the documentaries, to the inspiring talks and incredible virtual reality experiences, my mind is still processing what a phenomenal four days we had. A particular highlight was the Q and A sessions after the documentaries, and gaining an understanding of how the director transmuted their ideas and creative vision into hard-hitting yet poignant content.

For me, the two films that will stay with me for a long time were Minding the Gap and Under the Wire. It did not surprise me to hear that Bing Liu, the director of Minding the Gap won the 'New Talent' and 'Doc Audience' Awards.

Despite this year's subject matter being particularly intense, every documentary that I saw felt like an essential watch. To some degree, they also felt like an observation of the pressing challenges we face in today's climate and what we must do. In the audience Q and A after Bruce Lee and the Outlaw for example, the audience felt compelled to ask how they could help the protagonist. This was not just created to entertain, but to effect change.

Sheffield Doc/Fest enabled me to see the wild, dark, and unapologetic content from some of the world's most talented filmmakers. Without The Grierson Trust, this opportunity would just not have been possible. Thank you to The Trust for reminding me that our aspirations in journalism and the media are attainable and achievable. 

Ellie Conway

For a weekend in early June the northern city of Sheffield becomes a documentary lovers’ paradise and this year I was lucky enough to attend as a participant of The Grierson Trust’s 2018 DocLab.

The weekend was an incredible, inspiring whirlwind of films, talks, networking events and parties but as I sat on the train home I was more sure than ever that factual entertainment was the industry I wanted to work in.

Over the long weekend I had the chance to see some amazing documentaries, though sadly not as many as I would have liked, thank goodness for the doc player! A few that stood out for me personally were, Of Fathers and Sons, a brutal yet touching insight into the male relationships in a radical Islamic family, and Three Identical Strangers, a shocking, stranger- than-fiction tale of separation that had the whole festival talking. The breadth of documentaries on show really opened my eyes to the different forms a documentary can take and they are already inspiring me in my own work.

On the Sunday afternoon came the part of the weekend we were all excited about and dreading in equal measure: the chance to pitch our own documentary ideas to a panel of experienced commissioners. Here was our chance to put into practise everything we’d learnt in Birmingham and show off our ideas. Pitching to Lorraine Heggessey and Jo Clinton-Davis was undeniably terrifying but the positive feedback and encouragement we all received meant we left the pitching session to attend The Grierson Trust drinks in high spirits. Whilst at the drinks I had the chance to interact with people from the top factual production companies in the UK, some of whom even had films on at the festival. This was undoubtedly one of my highlights of the weekend; getting the chance to talk to people in the industry about their own work was inspiring but they also all took an interest in my own ideas and thanks to the doc lab training i felt able to articulate them with confidence.

I am already excited for Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019 but I am even more excited for what might happen in the interim as I begin my journey as a young documentary filmmaker.

Published: 11 July 2018

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