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US in Progress #3

"European audiences are more film-educated"


- Cineuropa sat down with Jamund Washington, Nana Mensah, Baff Akoto and Gabe Klinger at US in Progress Paris to chat about the current and future independent film environment

US in Progress #3

For the third and final joint interview with the US in Progress participants, Cineuropa gathered together Jamund Washington (producer of Queen of Glory), Nana Mensah (producer of Queen of Glory), Baff Akoto (producer of Queen of Glory) and Gabe Klinger (director of Porto Mon Amour). The four young filmmakers, hailing from diverse backgrounds ranging from Ghana to Brazil, via London, exchanged their opinions on the current and future independent film environment during a chat characterised by idealisation and a smidgen of pessimism.

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Cineuropa: What is your opinion of film festivals? What role do they play?
Jamund Washington:
Anything that gets people to go and sit and watch your story is great.

Nana Mensah: At this point, in the way the game has been shaped, it would not be possible to make independent films without festivals; they are great entry points for films outside the system. There is a sort of renaissance that allows people like me to make films now – the barriers are lower.

Why come here to Paris, to Europe?
In Paris, I can put my fingers on the pulse of European culture. I think Queen of Glory has more meaning here than perhaps in an American market. With its visual aspects and its African topic, our film has links with Europe. We have already received such a warm reception here in France, so I’m hoping that will continue.

JW: European audiences are more film-educated. We feel like the audience will better understand the stage that we are now at. Not that there are no places where you can find that audience in the United States… I’m just generalising.

Gabe Klinger: Parisian moviegoers are the most sophisticated in the world, and that’s a fact! No one can contest that.

Baff Akoto: The French would contest that (laughs). But seriously, film is culture here, as opposed to predominantly entertainment, which is the case in the US.

JW: Yes, culture in the US is like a small subculture of big entertainment.

Do you have an opinion on the European film-financing system?
: I know that the co-production financing system is good. And the soft money in Europe attracts everybody in America from big studio productions to small indie films because it allows a lot of projects to get made that would not necessarily find money. And it provides a framework, too, alternatives that are available for films that would never get financed in America.

How do you feel about digitisation?
: In England, a lot of films only get the chance to break out because of digital prints. Anything that helps smaller films to become more visible is good.

GK: I’m going to be the contrarian. Because digital is not an archival medium, and so we are risking losing all the digital information in 25 years, all these files and DCPs can be corrupted and become inaccessible. In terms of circulation, digital is going to be your best friend, but still… For Porto Mon Amour, we will use digital distribution and on-film copies. It is a luxury; a lot of producers would spend the money on something else. It is the way I want to engage with an audience that still appreciates watching a movie on film. It’s just more expensive.

How do you see the future for independent films?
JW: I wish I knew – it would make my life a lot easier.

BA: Netflix!

JW: I don’t know; I think a lot of stuff is going to happen… We should just keep telling stories.

GK: It is exciting because there is a lot of demand for content right now, and that’s because of the new platform for distribution. Unfortunately, most of it is not in theatres… We will see… The pessimist in me says that the content we are producing now is not going to live very long in cinemas.

BA: Cinema is not going to die, though. No one goes to church, and people still go to the cinema; it is the one place where we still commune. 

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