Should a Content-driven Producer Attend MIPCOM? Takeaways from the Cannes Market (#2)

Attending MIPCOM definitely doesn’t come cheap with respect to time, energy and expense.

But should a small- to mid-size nonfiction producer sign up for a costly round-trip to the Cannes market?

Earlier this summer at WESTDOC, LA-based producer Tom Jennings spoke up at my sold-out workshop with Stephen Harris.

  • He reflected that commissions are getting harder and harder to nail down.
  • Particularly for a producer of content-driven television like himself.

My advice was:

  • “Step out of the herd.”
  • “Go to MIPCOM!”
  • “And I’ll help show the way.”

This week:

  • What happened to Tom along the Croisette?

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Background

Tom Jennings has produced more than 400 hours of content-driven specials and series:

  • In work-for-hire roles from 1995-2004.
  • And since 2004 as LA-based Tom Jennings Productions.
  • His clients have included Discovery, Nat Geo, Smithsonian, ID, A&E, History, PBS, CBS and MSNBC.

Recent productions include:

Prior to 1995, Tom was a journalist.

  • Notably, he was the first reporter to arrive at the Nicole Simpson crime scene.

Why Go to Cannes?

Earlier this week we chatted with Tom about his decision to invest in his trip to Cannes and also to assess the outcomes.

  • “The US landscape is veering ever more towards character-driven reality TV.”
  • “It’s not the kind of programming that I enjoy making.”
  • “I needed to find new ways to make content-driven programs. I needed a wider platform.”
  • “When Peter said ‘Do MIPCOM!’ I was very intimidated.  I had no experience in the international markets.”
  • “I called several network commissioners who I had worked with, and they all supported the plan.”
  • “They gave two reasons:
    • “Access to decision-makers who I didn’t know.
    • “Raised stature among the ones who already knew my work and who would see me as participating on a new level just because I ‘showed up’ in Cannes.”

Tom’s Takeaways

Tom says that the results far exceeded his expectations. Here are his Takeaways:

1. Preparation

  • “Lots of friends and colleagues shared their contacts.”
  • “I had set up 15+/- meetings before I touched down in Nice.”
  • “I booked early, and my hotel was very close to the Palais.  That turned out to be a lifesaver because working the market was exhausting, and I needed rest time.”

2. Persistence

  • “Everyone encouraged me to just front up to the exhibits and request a meeting.”
  • “For example, several executives at NGC US encouraged me to persist in seeking a meeting with a top NGC International executive who is based in London.”
  • “He did find time for me, and it turned out that he knew and really liked my work. It was a huge professional boost to find this unexpected level of recognition from outside the US.”
  • “I never would have gained such access by working the angles from my LA base.”
  • “The outcome: I’m working on a promising proposal for NGCI.”
  • “Similarly, I met with the Smithsonian Channel, and a project idea we’ve been talking about for several months was pushed to the next level in Cannes.”

3. Partnerships

  • “Dozens of distributors wanted to meet with me. It was overwhelming. They all wanted to know ‘Do you have international rights that we can sell?’”
  • “But guess what? Because the US is a work-for-hire market, I own very few rights.”
  • “However the larger-scale distributors, for example Off-the-Fence and eOne offered to match my US-targeted concepts with their international buyers.”
  • Autentic, a German producer, distributor and channel operator also shared my editorial values.”
  • “I have developed a potential 3D video franchise based on beautiful stereographic stills from the 19th and early 20th centuries.  I discovered a viable international distribution network for properly budgeted, nonfiction 3D films.”
  • “Singapore’s Angie Swee from Very! is exploring a copro for the Asian regional market.”
  • “These are all exciting prospects because they promise the equity that US producers like me find so hard to retain at home!”

Last Thoughts

  • “I really loved the sense of camaraderie I found over there among the factual producers and commissioning editors.  Many of them have been going to MIPCOM for a long time.  Once there, those folks really made me feel welcome.”
  • “At the Singapore / MDA stand, Peter introduced me to Kathy Lee from Filmat36. Her company’s show reel is brilliant… better than 80 percent of the well-regarded filmmakers whose work I see in the US.”
  • “I felt grateful for the recognition that I have earned as a US filmmaker. I appreciated the access that I enjoy and saw that it is a much harder journey for highly-skilled filmmakers who don’t share my location and background.”

Next

  • “MIPCOM and other international markets are on my radar.”
  • “Just ‘showing up’ does elevate my stature.”
  • “And it opens up numerous new markets and the partners to exploit them.”

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Markets Attending / Speaking Engagements
Peter Hamilton / DocumentaryTelevision.com 

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One comment

  1. Mike Reynolds says:

    Just a small FYI. It would have been even less costly for Tom Jennings to go to MIPCOM if he had stayed in an apartment, or hooked up with others he knew and rented a villa.

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