Of the over 30 documentary ideas that were selected to pitch at this year’s ASD, more than half featured China as subject matter or had Chinese broadcasters/ audiences in mind. This is not surprising, given that attendees from the host nation form the largest delegation of 650 attendees from 43 countries.

ASD reported a notable increase in participation, 27% up on last year. The added benefit of the inaugural sales market attracted more than 120 exhibiting companies, including 20 international distributors and 130 decision makers. The market floor also saw CCTV-9 (Documentary channel) given the largest (and most centralised) booth space. Also, both CCTV-9 and CCTV-10 (Science and Education channel) also held exclusive showcases in the pitching room where they dazzled attendees with their blue-chip productions and outlined their co-pro strategies.

The event also saw the creation of the documentary foundation “Northern Tropic” announced. Co-founded by China Documentary Film Commission and Beijing CCTV Wengong Culture & Media Company, the foundation aims to support film production and coproduction in China and all over the world and is now calling for projects.

At ASD, the projects pitched saw a superb mix of subject matter: Science & Knowledge, Nature & Wildlife, History, Investigation & Current Affairs, Art & Culture, and Travel & Discovery. The decision makers, consisting of commissioning editors and buyers, gave valuable comments to each pitcher, indicating interest (or lack of) and suggesting areas of improvement to each narrative. Besides the Chinese dominance, the French presence was also evident, with a French production winning the Best International Project, one of three awards presented at the ASD, for A Night on Earth (Une Nuit sur Terre). This is an ambitious 4 x 52’ wildlife series by directors Thierry Machado and Stephane Durand, from production house Winds. The series tracks elephants across the Kalahari Dessert at night, and features state-of-the-art infra-red 4K technology that films in full colour in the dark. So instead of watching nocturnal creatures in the usual ghastly greenish hue, one gets ethereal-looking images in full HD colour under the bright starlight – a truly surreal experience for attendees who viewed the trailer at the pitch!

A Night on Earth (Une Nuit sur Terre)

Winds’ producer Barthélémy Fougea, whose company pitched for the first time at ASD, shares more about the technology and the win.

“We have been working over two years trying to find the best technical option to do this. We have worked with USA, Japan, Germany, and France; doing some research over thermique, infra-red and high sensitivity techniques. After these developments, we found a system of modifying the video signal at the entry of the camera, with the collaboration of Canon, and 4K post production workflow to modify the video signal. This technology might be available in the market in a year or two,” shares Fougea, who added that winning the pitch was the encouragement that his producers needed. Still, Winds has more than just encouragement to cling to — through the ASD, they’ve managed to secure preliminary interest from CCTV9, NHK, Fuji TV, National Geographic, ARD, PTS, KBS, EBS, and Bleu Ant Media.