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“Many coco films have gone on to become real success stories”

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Rebekka Garrido • Director, Connecting Cottbus

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- Berlin-based producer Rebekka Garrido sat down with Cineuropa at Cottbus to discuss the 18th edition of the Connecting Cottbus East-West co-production market

Rebekka Garrido  • Director, Connecting Cottbus
(© Andreas Hartmann)

Berlin-based producer Rebekka Garrido, in her second year as director of Connecting Cottbus, tells us about the 18th edition of the East-West co-production market and the way the industry event has been developing to match the needs of the Eastern European film market.

Cineuropa: How many projects did you receive this year, and what was the general trend?
Rebekka Garrido:
We received a record number of more than 120 applications, which is very high, especially since we only take feature films. Many of them were by very young directors and producers: that was a very strong trend this year, although we always try to have more experienced participants in the mix. The team that won the coco Post Award, Dina Duma and her producer Marija Dimitrova, with their Macedonian project Sister, are very young, for instance.

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Speaking of Macedonia, it is interesting to see what an important place women occupy in this country’s small and relatively new film industry.
Yes, female directors are well supported there, and if you talk to Darko Basheski, the former head of the Macedonian Film Fund, now working as a producer again, he was always a great supporter of women in film, and he was actually very moved when the female duo behind Sister got the prize. Here at coco, what we started last year is that we try to have both genders represented in equal measure, 50/50, amongst our directors and producers, and I think we have been successful in establishing a good balance in this respect.

Are you pleased with the outcome of this edition?
Very happy. I think the final choices were wonderful. Of course, I like all of the projects, but the outcome represents the spirit of Cottbus quite well: the other winner, which took home the coco Best Pitch Award, was a Ukrainian project, Voroshilovgrad,which coincides with our country focus this year. I think the audience at the market, which votes for this prize, made a fantastic choice there.

Why did you turn to Ukraine this year for the country focus?
They have a new tax scheme and a new film-fund situation there. Also, since last year, they have been supporting minority projects, so if there is a project from Ukraine you want to jump on board as a producer, now is the time to do it because they have the money and they want to give money to Ukrainian projects. It’s a moment of renewal there; they are starting again, and now films are being made via the film fund.

What future developments do you envisage for Connecting Cottbus?
We already went much bigger this year, with a new location and a new team, so in terms of extending coco, I think that for now, we have reached a maximum number of changes. But of course, we will keep tweaking and fine-tuning the programme.

As far as the cocoLab is concerned, I want to keep it that way for now because it’s working wonderfully: our participants really like meeting experts and the matches that we organise for them instead of just leaving them to their own devices. Of course, we cannot organise meetings with the funds, because people who bring their projects would think that they are already interested in supporting them, so that’s why the funds stay in the background; but once the projects are tied to the experts, then they are free to meet anyone, and get their feedback and suggestions on what funds to turn to.

After that first phase, the participants have one-to-one meetings, which, for me, are more important than the pitches themselves (you can have a good project with a slightly less impressive pitch without its hurting the project) because when you only have 30 minutes sitting in front of someone, that is when you really do your work as a producer. 

coco can boast a fair number of success stories.
The percentage of coco films that end up being made is very high: 70%-80% are completed. Some take longer, up to two or three years after that, and some get made faster – in certain countries, I get the feeling there is more pressure to work fast because the film-fund situation is changing so dramatically in Eastern Europe, and when elections are coming up, for instance, filmmakers tend to use the money they were granted as fast as possible.

Many coco films went on to become real success stories – some of them end up representing their countries at the Oscars. I’d like to mention, amongst the recent ones we are presenting as case studies this year, The High Sun [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile
]
, A Good Wife [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and Kills on Wheels [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
.

A member of the jury mentioned to me that they were particularly impressed by Sister, also because the pitch came with a promo reel.
Indeed; this is something that we may start stipulating next year because we receive so many projects that it’s important for the candidates to make sure that their vision is clear to us by providing visual material.

Another thing we want to place the emphasis on is inviting potential partners that really fit with our ten projects. Because this is a family-like, niche market, and there is a nucleus of people who always come to Cottbus, but it’s important to put an emphasis on good matches, on guests who are likely to back our participants. I mean, coco only lasts two days – definitely two very busy days, with plenty of activities – but it is essential that our projects are able to make the most of it. 

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