Kamen Balkanski • Acting director, Bulgarian National Film Center
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Cineuropa spoke to Bulgarian National Film Center acting director Kamen Balkanski during the Center's most elaborate film event, the Golden Rose Film Festival, held every autumn in the city of Varna
An art history graduate and the director of the Bulgarian MEDIA desk since 2004, Kamen Balkanski was named as acting director of the Bulgarian National Film Center in October 2015. He sat down with Cineuropa to chat about the Center’s future challenges, the new talents in Bulgarian cinema, as well as the much needed co-production partnerships with the surrounding countries.
Cineuropa: The Bulgarian National Film Center turned 25 this year. Has it reached maturity, or does it still behave like a teenager?
Kamen Balkanski: It is difficult to apply this metaphor to a state institution, but, with some imagination, you could say that it is a mature person with some teenage problems. On one hand, we have a solid CV, but, on the other, we have lots to do in order to make it a brilliant CV.
What is the biggest challenge that faces the Center in 2016?
The main challenge is to make some changes to the rules in order to facilitate the decision-making process and secure the production of high quality films. We also have to make changes regarding the current situation of the digital market, audiences and their new trends and interests.
Bulgarian films have been increasingly popular with film festivals and many say that Bulgarian cinema is currently undergoing an amazing generational handover. Are there new tools for supporting the young directors?
The transition between the generations is a normal process and, yes, we have just experienced it during the Golden Rose Festival, which showcased so many promising young authors, strong films and a clear vision of the future. We have a pretty clear system for support for first-time directors and we spend 10% of our funds on their projects. What we need to do, and what we are working on right now is to make it easier to understand the answer to the question: “What is a debut and who has the right to make it?” When it comes to new tools I would mention the opportunity given to so-called “low-budget” films over the last couple of years. It is a clear and efficient example of a more flexible financing scheme.
No matter how popular they may be abroad, Bulgarian films are not very well received at home, with festival darlings like The Lesson [+see also:
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film profile] or Losers [+see also:
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film profile] almost ignored by domestic audiences. Are there plans for a bigger support for the distribution of domestic films? Or for creating a better cinema network more interested in local cinema than the multiplexes?
Distribution is a crucial issue. But it is a question that producers have to ask themselves long before a movie is in post-production. Having numerous films supported with public money but lacking an audience is not a national or regional phenomenon. This is the reality for many European countries. Our distribution support scheme is limited, and cannot replace the private initiative. We support the production and distribution of films, just as we support cinemas in the programming of Bulgarian and European films.
What we are in desperate need of nowadays is a new programme or financial scheme concerning education and audience development. The younger generation should learn how to watch a movie and to make the distinction between entertainment and art.
The National Film Center annually organises several funding competitions for projects in which Bulgaria is a minority co-production country. In today’s increasingly challenging financial landscape, will the Center keep giving money to projects from other countries? What can be done on a strategic level to improve the efficiency of co-production in the region?
The co-production scheme is very important from my point of view. Bulgaria and the neighbouring countries are low-capacity countries with relatively small audiences and markets. Co-productions, although more complicated on organisational level, are giving us the possibility to widen our audiences and find new distribution and promotion methods. Coming together as a region will make us more visible on a European level, and this could be the added value our efforts have for the region. We have to meet and speak more often and more intensely with our colleagues in the region in order to maintain the reciprocity and the good will.