ON THE BLOG: On the ground at CPH:DOX

Creative Europe funds several strands of the Copenhagen's International Documentary Festival, CPH:DOX, including its industry activities, its laboratory style talent development and training programme and its pitching forum. 

This year we attended the festival to gain further insights into how the events operate and what we can learn from the filmmakers, distributors and decision makers on the documentary frontline. 


CPH:CONFERENCE is a unique five day industry event, exploring the intersections of film, art, science, technology and social change in an intensive programme of case studies, keynotes, workshops and discussions on the most trending topics of our industry. Each of the five days of the conference is dedicated to a different overall theme and is carefully orchestrated by internationally renowned curators.

We attended several discussions and panels across the five days and selected our favourite snippets and advice to share with you. For an in-depth account of day three, read our blog post here

The future of the documentary market

    • "You never know the path you didn't take...Ultimately you hope that what you saw in the film initially will resonate with audiences."
    • “You have to think about why you’re buying this film and who’s it for – asking who is going to see this film starts at the production stage and goes through sales and distribution.”
    • "There's a sense of urgency [to release strategies] now...people want to see everything on every platform immediately. You often need partners [such as BBC Storyville] and we do a lot of event-driven releases."
    • "Language doesn't factor into our decisions, it's the subject matter that's important."

- Eve Gabereau, Founder & CEO of Modern Films UK, whose recent releases include MEDIA-funded titles such as Happy as Lazzaro, Yuli and Border 

    • "Think of your audience. Think forward. Start packaging your film as early possible. Take film stills, start your social media campaign."
    • "It’s scary when the whole market leans heavily on one or two platforms. For now they’re the ruler in this world, and they’re fighting to stay this way. Most of us will say yes to a Netflix deal. They have 117 million subscribers, they have cash and they’re holding the steering wheel for our industry."

- Philippa Kowarsky, Managing Director at Cinephil 

    • "Documentary is political...it's about broadening your horizons and changing your view of the world. That's a fundamental premise of my programming."

- Elizabeth Wood, Director & Head of Programming at Bertha DocHouse UK

    • "A good film isn't enough to draw in an audience...cinemas need to raise the bar."

- Jakob Abrahamsson, CEO of Nonstop Entertainment, Sweden

    • “To keep documentary as an artform, to keep this business running, there is only one way – to make it for cinemas. Then TV can buy it, that’s another thing. We must keep the cinema language, we must keep the artist language, that’s how it was born.”

- Victor Kossakovsky, director of Aquarela


CPH:FORUM is CPH:DOX’s financing and co-production event dedicated to facilitating the development and financing of creative and visually strong film projects with international potential, whether they are features, series or new media projects. 

Over the course of the three days, top producers and highly acknowledged directors from all over the world took to the stage to pitch 35 carefully selected projects in different pitch set-ups to an audience of industry professionals, including potential co-production partners, financiers and distributors.

"It was a great privilege to be part of CPH:FORUM, especially as up-and-coming filmmakers, surrounded by the crème de la crème of the international documentary industry. From handpicked talents to established masters, the FORUM was marked by progressive cultural attitudes and highly professional organisation and management. We are extremely proud of having been able to stand on that stage and we hope to be back again.”

- Viki Réka Kiss, producer of Somewhere in Europe, a documentary co-production between Hungary and the UK

Viki's credits also include MEDIA-funded films A Woman Captured and Son of Saul, and is currently participating in Ji.hlava's 2019 Emerging Producers programme (funded by Creative Europe's Training scheme). 


"CPH:LAB is the incubation programme of CPH:DOX through which creative technologists and storytellers collaborate to develop new forms of expression in documentary. For this year’s programme we moved away from film to concentrate on immersive storytelling, creating a space where nine teams could develop new concepts and, with the help of a diverse team of international mentors, work on the idea and format, the story and a pitch, while creating a first-stage prototype over the course of a week in September.

Now the participants are back at DOX, after a few months of individual mentoring, and are ready to seek funding. Here at the festival, we have been working on finance and roll-out plans with a new set of international experts, and we held a prototype party where the participants showed their works in progress to a select group of potential partners, before taking one-on-one meetings in parallel Forum sessions.

The works themselves are across multiple formats: VR, AR, art installations, audio experiences, live events and theatrical experiences. There was a huge amount of buzz around the projects at the festival - they collectively represent some of the most exciting work being produced in Europe today. They having been attracting considerable attention from film festivals such as Venice, Sheffield and IDFA, art galleries, museums and theatres, as well as offers of support from organisations such as Sundance and MIT.

We hope to see them presented in the exhibition at DOX next year - and we will start to see some of them popping up all over the world before that."

Mark Atkin, Head of Studies at CPH:LAB

"CPH:LAB has taken Climate Symphony to places we could only have dreamed about before embarking on the lab. The combination of professional development/support and access to markets is unparalleled for those working in immersive and multi-disciplinary work. The whole experience has been inspiring and we've made valuable connections that will benefit us in this project and beyond."

- Katharine Round, Producer & Co-Director of Climate Symphony (UK), one of CPH:LAB's 2019 projects

Submissions for the 2019/2020 LAB will open 15 April with the first workshop starting on 13 September.

Read more about CPH:DOX's talent development programme here