On the ground at AIDC

Tess Hutson shares her experience

The Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) is not for the faint hearted. For serious conference goers, it’s a full three days dedicated to building connections, sharing ideas, and taking in the wisdom offered by the many international speakers. A day could consist of anything from pitching training and roundtables, to panel discussions breaking down the current landscape of the industry.

But what’s it really like? Here, local documentary filmmaker Tess Hutson shares her experience of attending AIDC with a project to pitch. One of 15 practitioners we supported to attend the conference this year, Tess was a participant of the FACTory Pitching Forum with her project A Place To Stand, also supported by Film Victoria.

I attended AIDC as a participant of the FACTory Pitching Forum and with the generous support of Film Victoria.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to pitching training with Brigid O’Shea, head of DOK Leipzig’s DOK Industry. Brigid shared insights into marketplace etiquette and the mechanics of the pitch, giving robust and thorough feedback to each team. Sharing this process with the other pitching teams was invaluable for me as there was a lot of experience and generosity in the room.

When I wasn’t rehearsing the pitch or trying to chew my lunch at record speeds (an important skill), I attended masterclasses and panel discussions, hearing about the changing landscape of the international documentary industry. I also attended roundtables with buyers, commissioners, and funders, learning more about what they’re currently looking for and how Australian producers might work with them. I would have liked to be in roughly five places at once for the entire conference, there’s so much on offer. Thankfully, the AIDC team thought of this and there's a podcast of the sessions.

The FACTory Pitching Forum was definitely a highlight of the conference. Listening to the panel’s feedback for each pitch was as helpful as the pitching experience itself. Producer Jane Robertson and I received thoughtful and encouraging feedback for our pitch for feature documentary A Place To Stand, which is a deeply personal exploration of family violence, and had some promising meetings afterwards. We also received the Doc Edge Award and we’re looking forward to attending the Doc Edge Festival in New Zealand later this year. Thanks to AIDC and Doc Edge for the opportunity.

I was quite nervous that the pitching experience would be a cut-throat and impersonal one, but I am happy to report that this wasn’t the case at all. The general feeling of AIDC was incredibly welcoming and supportive, with countless opportunities to connect and absorb. I have a feeling that I’ll look back at AIDC as a pivotal moment in the development of the film and for my career in general. My thanks to Film Victoria for getting me there.


Top five tips for making a strong pitch: 

  • The golden rule: do not go overtime. Even if you’re not in a timed environment, be sure to keep your pitch succinct
  • Contextualise the story you’re telling
  • Know your audience - both the intended audience and the one you’re pitching to
  • Tell the whole story. Build drama, identify your characters, and articulate how the story will end
  • Be specific about what you need and ask for it. 


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Image: Vic team. Michael Mcmahon and Sean Cousins pitching RAW, with Susie Jones and Brigid O’Shea as moderators. Photo by: Daniel Aulsebrook