WESTDOC 2013, a four-day conference for documentary filmmakers was held at the Landmark Theaters on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 15-18 September 2013.

Marked by a substantial change in the digital age, WESTDOC dedicated a considerable portion of its programming slate to the digital space, including its first-ever digital keynote speaker Kelly Day, CEO of Blip.  A dream come true to attendees. WESTDOC offered an eclectic event presenting panels, face-to-face meetings, sit-down group discussions and roundtables with more than 150 top industry executives.

Open to all documentary and reality tv professionals, and those interested in the genres, more than 500 people attended WESTDOC this year. “We create a community in this vital part of the industry on the West Coast,” says co-founder Richard Propper.

PitchFest has had tremendous success. The first two PitchFest winners secured theatrical, broadcast and digital distribution,  “First Position” and “Indie Game: The Movie”. Last year’s winner Spirit/Will/Loss” and runner-up “Heart: Flatline to Finish Line” are both in post-production.

The 2013 Pitcher Award and a  $7,500 cash prize by by sponsors Merrill Lynch Wealth Management were awarded to the team behind “Tempest Storm: Burlesque Queen,” an in-progress feature documentary that captures the tumultuous life of the legendary and controversial entertainer.

“Caregivers”, the runner-up project by producer Stephanie Howard, received a Zacuto camera rig.  Her documentary chronicles the heroes behind the heroes: the wives and family members who care for their wounded veterans, injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What are the broadcasters and production companies looking for? Scripted, non-scripted, reality, format, factual, indie, edgy, provocative? Participants had the opportunity to hear first hand what works and doesn’t, present projects, interact with executives and other filmmakers.  So, why attend WESTDOC?  To sell or buy probably it is put it too simplistically but isn’t it? Oxygen prides itself for being the most provocative female network. “We like a bite to our shows” says Annie Gerhart Manager of Development, Oxygen Media.

Monday afternoon’s luncheon was crowned with the West Coast premiere of Emmy Award-winning director Michael Jorgensen “Unclaimed” chronicling the dramatic and emotional journey of war-torn Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce who has dedicated his life “to leaving no man behind” followed by a Q&A.  A teary and emotional audience touched by such an important subject many years after the war.

Additional panels covered financing & funding, packaging and selling one-offs or series, the role of agents increasingly becoming much more involved in the development of reality TV, the art of pitching cleverly titled the “Son Of A Pitch: The Future Of Pitching In The Digital Age”; as well as key topics such as digital distribution models and the future of documentaries.

Social interaction and networking closed the conference on both Monday and Tuesday with a cocktail party.  Landmark Theaters proved to be the perfect venue for the conference with comfortable screening rooms also used for panels and discussions.

WESTDOC prides itself as  the only Los Angeles based organization to offer such a conference. More info on WESTDOC can be accessed at www.westdoc.com.