By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

Yes, Virginia, there is life after MipDoc. And it comes in the form of Sunny Side of the Doc, the international documentary market, which took place in La Rochelle, France — 700 km northwest of Cannes on the Atlantic Coast— at the end of June.

“Sunny Side is a great moment between MIP-TV and MIPCOM to sit down with our co-production partners from France, Germany and Italy to discuss projects,” said Marije Plaum, a Sales and Co-Production executive at Amsterdam-based independent production and distribution company Off the Fence.

The company, in conjunction with French co-producer MC4, hosted a joint cocktail party at the 18th annual event in honor of its newest bit of programming, The TARA Project—A Journey Into the Heart of the Climate Machine. The doc takes an in-depth look at an expedition of elite scientists who journeyed to the top of the world seeking explanations and solutions to the growing problem of global warming.

“We feel that the launch at Sunny Side of the Doc provides the perfect opportunity to introduce this most worthy program to the international community, and pursue co-production opportunities,” said Ellen Windemuth, managing director of Off the Fence, prior to the market. Plaum confirmed that roughly half of Off the Fence’s meetings were about TARA, yet she also felt that Sunny Side served as the perfect venue to “pick up projects from French and German broadcasters and producers” who seemed to attend the market in great numbers. Plaum’s only gripe was that she wished more broadcasters from the United Kingdom would attend. “Maybe next time,” she said.

One U.K. rep who did manage to make it to La Rochelle was Edwina Thring, head of Acquisitions and Co-Productions for National Geographic Television International , who concurred that Sunny Side is a useful market between MIP and MIPCOM. “It’s a good opportunity to follow up with broadcasters we met at MIP and meet others we’ll follow up with at MIPCOM in October,” said Thring.

Yet while many TV companies seem to view the market as simply a link between the two bigger affairs near the warmer waters of Cannes’ Mediterranean coast, Thring found that a number of European broadcasters and commissioning editors were in attendance who don’t even attend MIP or MIPCOM. “When Sunny Side first started, it was predominantly a French market,” she said, “but it’s gotten bigger since it’s focused on one element: documentaries.”

And that growth shows. This year’s market saw a 12 percent increase in exhibitors, going from 90 booths to 107. A total of 1,902 participants were recorded, in addition to 310 international commissioning editors and buyers from 126 TV channels representing 46 countries. There were also 73 international journalists in attendance, and a whopping 2,546 screenings took place.

“It is the international market for documentaries,” said Yves Jeanneau, commissaire general of Sunny Side, in a statement. “No other event is competing with us on this very specific challenge. We don’t mix the genres. We focus and we’ll keep focusing on the cinema and television dealing with reality.”

It’s this unapologetic need to cast a spotlight on documentaries that keeps people coming back year after year.

“Finding sufficient funding [to make a documentary] is still a big struggle for documentarians,” said Off the Fence’s Plaum. But she feels that Sunny Side is the perfect place to make it all come together. “It’s relaxed and it’s focused. Documentaries are the only things we deal with when we’re here.”

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