“That’s what we want to address: how the hell do you fund arthouse films nowadays?”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Marjorie Bendeck • Director, Connecting Cottbus
by Marta Bałaga
The head of coco opens up about this year’s edition of the co-production market that focuses primarily on Eastern European cinema
The connecting cottbus co-production market (coco), focusing on Eastern European cinema, will take place from 9-11 November. This edition will introduce 13 feature-film projects in development, and six works in progress or post-production, as well as a slew of other initiatives. Its director, Marjorie Bendeck, gives us the low-down on what visitors can expect.
Cineuropa: Beata Parkanová will be presenting another project at coco this year, Black Blood [see the news]. Is it important to you to make sure that people want to come back?
Marjorie Bendeck: They won an award with The Word [+see also:
interview: Beata Parkanová
film profile] only last year. Yes, people do come back. We have another alumnus project, now returning as a cocoWIP: When You Are 17, from Georgia. That’s our advantage, I think: we don’t have a large selection. We really do keep in touch with the filmmakers and attend their screenings at other festivals. That’s the thing about coco: it’s a small event and a small market, and even during the pandemic, we tried not to add too many online guests. And we do reach out to the people we know.
This year, coco is turning 24. I haven’t been here from the very beginning, as this is my fifth year at the helm, but when you see the names that came here and how their careers have evolved, it’s very fulfilling. What we have is this personal connection. I want to be on a first- and last-name basis with all my guests; I want to be able to recognise their faces.
Knowing your scale seems to be the key. Post-pandemic, many events feel the pressure to grow.
For an event like coco, it would be a big mistake. First of all, autumn is already very crowded. It wouldn’t make sense to try to become more competitive: you’d just start cannibalising each other. It’s about understanding your position in the market and developing within its possibilities. When I started five years ago, my predecessor, Rebekka Garrido, had just launched the WIP section, and I agree with her: the market can’t handle more than six new projects. Also, it’s important to remain focused on our region. Although a few years ago we did expand a little, to include Cyprus and Turkey, mostly because there was a lot of interest within Germany in co-producing with these countries.
You will have some Ukrainian projects this year. Are you going to address what’s going on?
The festival will have a Ukrainian Day on 11 November, when there will be screenings and panels. We want to hear what’s going on, of course. Ukraine is part of our coco family. We have been supporting Ukrainian projects for so many years, building close connections, also thanks to the Odesa International Film Festival. We have built these solid bridges and launched many Ukrainian producers on their way to international careers. This year, these projects also come from people we know, people who have been at coco before. Producer Vika Khomenko, who is now presenting State, was also behind Stop-Zemlia [+see also:
interview: Kateryna Gornostai
film profile]. Valeria Sochyvets was here with Blindfold, and now she is producing Inheritance. It’s a genre project, a very fresh take on the monster embodying Putin as well as the post-Soviet trauma that all of these countries have.
Genre is gaining importance, also in Europe, but not in every region.
It’s a slow process. We would like to head in this direction a bit more, but there are specialised markets for it already, and yes, this region is quite resistant to it. Not because of the lack of talent or topics, but because dark dramas keep on dominating the conversation.
When I go through the submissions, it can be an excruciating process for the soul. But there are many people who want to tell these stories, still, and tell them in the form of a feature film. I would say that 80% of what we receive has this dramatic feel. But there is this 20% with people going for comedy or horror instead. We keep an eye out for these projects because we want to offer a diverse selection. Andrijana Stojković is coming back to coco with her second fiction feature, and it’s a harsh project, I have to say. But you know what? It’s not the whole world that needs to be laughing right now.
There have been many changes within the industry over the past few years. How are you planning to approach this?
We have a feeling that we are starting to come back to the structures we had in 2019. Then again, we were put in a bottle and shaken up, so we are not the same as before. People get tired more easily, so we won’t have any clashing events. We have producers talking about diversification in their activities. We are talking about what it really means to be “green” and how it changes from country to country. Also, we will talk about funding: how the hell do you fund arthouse films nowadays? That’s what we want to address, to go a little bit deeper. What’s the real deal, and what are your options? After all, some countries are cutting funds altogether. Even with our projects, we have experts coming in to prep them, going: “Let’s be realistic. The market is not dying for your films right now.” We want to figure out how we are going to survive in this world.
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