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“The communal experience created a very positive and enriching network of colleagues”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Snezana van Houwelingen, Alejandra Mora • Mentor on and participant in the EWA mentoring programme

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Cineuropa met two producers involved with the EWA mentoring programme, designed to provide coaching and visibility to women professionals

Snezana van Houwelingen, Alejandra Mora • Mentor on and participant in the EWA mentoring programme
Snezana van Houwelingen (left) and Alejandra Mora

Cineuropa met up with producers Snezana van Houwelingen and Alejandra Mora, respectively a mentor on and a participant in the EWA mentoring programme, designed to provide coaching and visibility to women professionals.

Cineuropa: Could you briefly introduce yourselves?
Snezana van Houwelingen: I’m a 38-year-old producer from Serbia. I graduated in Film Production from the Academy of Arts in Belgrade, and completed the EAVE Producers Workshop and EAVE+ programmes. I started my own production company, This and That Productions, which has produced more than 30 internationally acclaimed fiction films, TV series and documentaries. Our film Darkling [+see also:
film review
interview: Dušan Milić
film profile
]
is the Serbian entry for the 2023 Oscars.

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Alejandra Mora: I am a producer at Quatre Films in Valencia, Spain; there, I produce for emerging and up-and-coming talent with original and personal outlooks. I have worked in numerous countries, such as Iran, France, Colombia, Cuba, Uganda and the UAE. In 2022, I was nominated for the Goya Awards in Spain.

What were your expectations prior to the mentoring programme?
SvH:
First, I was expecting to get a mentee from my own region, so I could just introduce her to the existing procedures and platforms in my network. But getting a mentee from Spain gave the mentorship a completely new dimension and shifted the focus to international co-productions, forcing us out of our comfort zones, in order to actively engage in bigger, international projects.

AM: I had just participated in a very prestigious lab in Spain, The Screen, at the Madrid Film School (ECAM). I felt like I had to broaden my knowledge of international co-productions and European funding, networking and so on. The communal experience in the lab created a very positive and enriching network of colleagues. With the EWA programme, I wanted to achieve something similar.

Alejandra, in what specific ways did you improve your project through the programme?
AM:
It created a much greater awareness of the relevance of generating a quality European network to promote the co-production of projects, funding, processes and knowledge exchange. In this sense, Snezana has been a wonderful gift and a great inspiration to me. I admire her very much, and she is a great reference. She has always supported and encouraged me to think big, to be constant and not to give up. We have also worked a lot on financing through European funds and on a model of entrepreneurial sustainability.

Snezana, what was your working methodology?
SvH:
My methodology changed substantially during the project. First, I was just imposing my knowledge and experience on Alejandra, until I saw her unique talents and her personal style. I realised my goal was not to clone myself, but to encourage her to bring out the best in herself, and to convince her she could handle bigger, more complicated international projects. My methodology is also very practical, very hands-on. For instance, we are now co-producing a movie together!

Do you have the impression that the programme can improve the visibility of women in the audiovisual sector? If so, how?
SvH:
The strength of the EWA mentorship programme is that it not only focuses on improving the quantity of women in the AV sector, but mostly on quality. As a woman producer, you have to be twice as good as your male colleagues to be taken seriously. The EWA mentorship programme creates a lifetime support network, which will always be there to boost the visibility of its members at crucial moments in their career, by providing valuable contacts.

AM: The EWA mentoring is an incredible project, as there are few cost-free programmes that provide this level of networking and visibility. What is most interesting is the network we create among us, as well as the network among the filmmakers that form part of the association. There is a lot of potential in the association, and this, undoubtedly, helps create references and find examples that can serve as inspiration. As women, in this case entrepreneurs and producers, we still have many challenges to overcome. This programme puts you on the map of European producers to follow, helps you lay out new paths and puts you on the international stage.

Can you explain, from your point of view, how the interaction with the other participants took place and whether this interaction had any positive effects on the project?
SvH:
The group sessions were not only inspiring on the practical level of what and how to do things, but they were also a source of support and reference, as they allowed experiences to be exchanged with women who are dealing with the same challenges.

AM: The first contact we had was in Thessaloniki in March; we all met there, mentors and mentees. We did several activities where we interacted with one another. We also had interviews with different mentors to gain more in-depth knowledge about the financing and producing options in different regions. The trip allowed me to meet Snezana in person, and we hit it off immediately. Slowly, we tightened our bonds through the different sessions we had on a monthly basis. We’ve also taken advantage of the group tutoring and our visits to different festivals, like Cannes. The most important thing on the programme is the bond you create with your mentor and the rest of your colleagues, thanks to all those months we spend together – and, overall, the possibilities that open up for the future. I am convinced that this programme is going to generate great alliances.

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