David Herman says that while the setting and tenor of his documentary FAIR PLAY are located in England, the story’s themes are universal. The film revolves around a troupe of actors with learning disabilities, filmed throughout the production of The Choice, an acclaimed play about abortion. Against the backdrop of rehearsals, the players confront the painful subject matter and the challenges of being different.
As an independent producer and farmer who lives in a community with adults with learning disabilities in England, Herman says his intentions went beyond telling a story, to provide a voice for the people he has come to know well. “The eccentric Englishness of the cast blurs the distinctions between what is considered ‘normal’ and what is not, adding to the experience of confronting prejudices.”
But the challenges of reaching the U.S. market as an independent producer abroad proved enormous––even for Herman, who is originally from South Africa and has produced news stories and independent documentaries around the world since the early 1980s. ITVS International, with its targeted outreach to non-U.S. producers, was “a godsend,” he says. “From program content, deliverables, promotion and finding a broadcaster, the road had been prepared.”
Herman believes that these tough economic times only add to the need for American audiences to be exposed to issues beyond the borders of the United States. “The understanding of the interlinked nature of our Global Village is fundamental to making our way through these complex times. This, of course, is taking place in an environment of shrinking opportunities for documentaries of this kind to find any funding. The collaborative international co-production budgets––ITVS helps to enable––are critical to keeping these vital international voices alive.”
Support from ITVS International makes connecting to U.S. viewers a lot easier, Herman says. “Storytelling is the air I breathe. The chance of finding an audience for a documentary about a subject I believe in passionately is sufficient to tilt against windmills of any dimensions. The only disheartening part of the process is that it is becoming more complex to find ways to reach those audiences while sustaining the means of production. However, as long as there remain interesting stories to be told and people who wish to see them, dedicated filmmakers will meet the challenge. Thanks ITVS for the help! ”
FAIR PLAY aired on the Documentary Channel in January 2009. It is now available for download through ITVS’s digital partners.
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