#FEEDback holds its second session at Cottbus
by Vladan Petkovic
- The second session of #FEEDback took place as part of connecting cottbus on 6 November
After its first session at the Transilvania International Film Festival in Cluj-Napoca in June, the #FEEDback (Film Eastern Europe Dialogue) platform continued its work at connecting cottbus on 6 November.
This initiative brings together leading professionals from the European film industry in a think-tank environment to devise and develop new, collaborative strategies that can benefit film production and distribution in the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
In Cottbus, the working group consisted of Simon Perry (Film i Vast), Mirsad Purivatra (Sarajevo City of Film Fund), Hrvoje Hribar (director of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre), Miroslav Mogorović (producer, Art&Popcorn, Serbia), Nana Janelidze (director of the Georgian National Film Center), Darko Bašeski (director of the Macedonian Film Agency), Robert Balinski (international relations, Polish Film Institute) and Jožko Rutar (director of the Slovenian Film Centre).
In a closed session, the working group came up with three crucial points that were then discussed at an open presentation, moderated by Perry. The first point tackles national funds’ approach to international co-productions and reciprocity: “National film agencies to reserve funding specifically for minority co-productions and adopt clear policies of reciprocity with other countries for the joint funding of each other’s projects; these policies to be implemented proactively through direct relationships established between the leaders (or empowered representatives) of film agencies, who will work together to seek out and signal early production support for projects to be undertaken on a reciprocal basis.”
Alexander Riis of German production company Neue Mediopolis, which frequently works with Balkan and Turkish filmmakers, said, “Recognising a project early on and not waiting for it to receive money in its home country would be very useful, because we are always waiting, and that makes the financing so slow that it takes more than two years.”
Janelidze said that it would be impossible for her to do as the head of Georgia's film centre, because the law prevents such an option, and there is a committee that must approve the financing of a co-production.
Bašeski argued, “We all have laws and rules, but if I meet a producer and I like their project, I can encourage them to apply. I can't confirm support, because I don't know all the details, but we would like to have more competition and more quality projects submitted.”
As for the problem of achieving reciprocity, Purivatra said: “Slovenia supported Bosnian projects three years in a row, and then when a Slovenian project was proposed to the Bosnian fund, the committee rejected it. The reaction from the other side was almost immediate, and the Slovenian fund didn't support a Bosnian project the next year. This brings us back to the question: who is the decision-maker? What is the hierarchy? Maybe it's better to send decision-makers to some of the co-production markets, like here at connecting cottbus.”
Hribar argued, “If you have a group of people who can look ahead and share resources, invest properly in good will and in good projects, one way or another, you're going to get it back within two or three years. You have to find the right people.”
The second point was the idea of a regional VoD platform: “A network of VoD platforms to be set up in the countries of the region, offering – on a non-exclusive basis – a comprehensive library of films (recent and archival), produced and co-produced by each country. Funding for this is to be provided either via a public-private partnership with a commercial operator or through new, direct action by the national agency, in either case with EU support.”
While such a network functions in the EU, namely the EuroVod (which also had numerous problems in setting up because of individual copyright laws and geo-blocking), in South-East Europe, VoD itself still has a low penetration level, while piracy remains high.
“In Romania, on one hand we have one of the fastest broadband connections in Europe, while on the other, despite the fact that the country is underscreened, we have just a couple of VoD platforms, and they are mostly used for Hollywood blockbusters,” said Romanian producer Alex Traila, who was moderating the Cluj session of #FEEDback in June. “But people are interested because many don't have the time to go to the cinema. A higher-quality offering, including local movies, would help to raise more interest. Local films barely work in theatres.”
Finally, the third point tackled film education: “The curriculum of film schools and university media studies departments to include educational courses dedicated to the cinema of other countries of the region that share cultural, historical or linguistic ties; theoretical courses to be supplemented by practical exchange programmes designed to encourage collaborative exercises in cross-border filmmaking within the region, this initiative to link closely with the introduction of VoD platforms as described above.”
Hribar said, “In Croatia, we are trying to influence the official makers of curriculums in order to strengthen audiovisual education in schools, as this is where, in a way, the future of our industry lies.”
The third and final session of #FEEDback will be held at Trieste Film Festival's When East Meets West, and the final results will be presented at the 2016 Berlinale.