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AIDC opens plum job as new director keeps push for change

David Tiley

As new conference director Alice Burgin reflects on her role, the AIDC advertises for a Partnerships and Business Development Manager.
AIDC opens plum job as new director keeps push for change

Who's missing from this crew? The AIDC challenges itself to engage with the wider documentary sector. Image: AIDC 2016 downshot in ACMI. 

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The Australian International Documentary Conference has advertised for a Partnerships and Business Development Manager who will be responsible ‘for the development, positive positioning, implementation and ongoing management of the AIDC’s business development strategy. This includes developing and maintaining strong relationships with partners, identifying opportunities for new revenue streams and working to budget targets.’

Like any media organisation in our chaotic times, we in ScreenHub and ArtsHub have considerable exposure to this kind of role. It is important to AIDC, which we strongly support, but we also think it would be a fabulous job. 

AIDC links so many sectors and suppliers and stakeholders together, it is ripe for this kind of diplomacy and mutual strengthening. It is at the forefront of the changes in screen media, and it lives out that crucial intersection between branding, commerce, social purpose and revenue which underpins all of us. 

The successful applicant will be working with Alice Burgin, the new conference director, who combines indy festival experience in North America with her insights into the last two conferences for which she worked. 

Read more: Alice Burgin's background in ScreenHub article

‘AIDC is in a really good place’, she said on the phone. ’ We have Film Victoria which is an incredible principle partner and major sponsors like Screen Australia and the broadcasters. We have this incredible relationship with ACMI.

‘It provides so much support which allows us to do some really interesting things. It is an opportunity to push whatever that means and how we can do that. It is something we are still trying to figure out. 

‘We have a real advantage to be able to do this in Melbourne. We are hosted in ACMI X,  a huge open office with people like VRTV, who are making VR documentaries, to gamers and the ACMI programming team. There is a huge amount of creativity and I can walk over to someone’s desk and get the ten names of the hottest people. And I think that collaborating in that workspace is a time saver and it really opens your mind to things you would never have sought out.’

She was the official programmer for the 2017 conference, though she prefers to talk about the creativity as a team process. Besides the mainstream, industry focused sessions, there was a strong emphasis on virtual reality, some key sessions for emerging filmmakers, and the impact strategy hacks. Sessions looked at documentary and sport as a cultural metaphor, questioned the role of awards, and dismantled the true crime film. Familiar topics but getting edgier each year.

‘I’ve been on a huge learning curve,’ she said. ‘I think that people are hungering for interesting and new ideas. So things that we were nervous about worked really, really well. And things that were risks for us were probably what I saw as the better parts of the conference. I think it is a little bit of a lesson in trusting your instincts.

‘Now and then you get a surprise. We ran a session about hybrid docs called This is Not a Documentary. We had to turn people away and it was really interesting the age group trying to get into that session. I think we were spot on to put something on about form, and it is something people have a hunger to explore and talk about. They were all really, really interested in experimentation.’  

Delegates to the AIDC tend to be producers and directors who are not working at the time. There is a basic paradox in here, because the practitioners who are cashed up and can afford it don’t commit to attending. With her experience in North America, Burgin wants filmmakers to create a hole in their schedules to attend. 

‘I really want AIDC to be an event that people are not filming for. In the US people don’t shoot when Hotdocs is on. They are going to pause, or they are getting their films ready for Hotdocs. I think that is a really good goal. Why are people in this industry not making this a priority?

‘It is a goal to make practitioners in the documentary, factual and unscripted sectors have it in their calendars and feel they don’t want to miss out.’

Even worse, the specialist researchers, cinematographers, editors and sound people rarely turn up. The conversations can turn bizarre - how can we talk about form and process without editors, for instance? 

‘Britt Arthur introduced a technical strand and brought in ideas around sound and editing and cinematography, which we will continue as it has been pretty effective. We are always looking at ideas around masterclasses and we consider that to be really important.  Last year we had community consultations with filmmakers in different states. We will do it again this year and find out who they want to meet and what they want to talk about. 

‘I think we can build on what we did this year. I think the idea is to really try and go from our strengths to redefine ourselves to capture a new audience - something we have been focused on for a couple of years now.’

Alice Burgin is a doorway to a new generation of creators, for whom documentary and factual content is based in an industry and a way of exploring the world, but also part of a wider culture.

‘The AIDC is more than a conference’, she said. ‘It's an ongoing discussion about how we think about screen culture in Australia and how we fund it and productions are supported. It’s a very complex issue, probably around power in a lot of ways. 

‘I think AIDC has made some really brave choices in how it is hiring and how it programs and who it invites.  It has always been about being innovative and I think looking to the future.’

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For confidential enquiries about the position, please contact AIDC Operations Manager, Ms Megan Mohell on 0437 425 018. Applications close COB Tuesday 30 May 2017.

In its 30th year, the AIDC has been posting some fascinating material on the history of Australian documentary.

About the author

David Tiley is the editor of Screen Hub.

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