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“Working with new voices is the most challenging, but also the best, part of being a producer”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Elisa Fernanda Pirir • Producer, Stær

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The Norway-based producer, selected as one of this year’s Producers on the Move, shared some thoughts about her job, fostering new talent and her upcoming projects

Elisa Fernanda Pirir • Producer, Stær

Cineuropa spoke to Elisa Fernanda Pirir, a producer at Tromsø-based outfit Stær. This year, Pirir was selected as one of the participants in European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move initiative. During our interview, she spoke about how she entered the industry, the challenges of her job and the new projects she is currently working on.

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Cineuropa: What drove you to enter this industry initially?
Elisa Fernanda Pirir: I moved to Norway when I was a teenager and I could speak neither Norwegian nor English. When you are a foreigner in a new country, this is a completely new world, and you can’t communicate any more. Your language and culture almost make you feel like you’re from another planet; you start withdrawing inside your own feelings to communicate. Then cinema appeared, which is a global language and the only way to express yourself anywhere in the world. I was lucky enough to meet somebody here at the local film workshop who could see something in me and teach me how to use a video camera. I was frustrated because from being one of the best students in my class in Guatemala, I became “the girl who could not speak”. When I first started making cinema, everything I knew and everything I liked connected together. I started seeing people and places in a deeper way than words could express. It was at that moment that I understood I had to become a film producer.

What is the most challenging aspect of a producer’s job? Which is the most rewarding?
Working with new voices is the most challenging, but also the best, part of being a producer. I like discovering new talent, new ways of making cinema, and I do work with a lot of filmmakers who come from under-represented groups, especially female directors. Internationally, this is the most under-represented group, but it’s also the one that has a lot of new stories to tell that we haven’t seen before. It is a constant fight, but it makes my work even more important.

What about the challenges and advantages of producing in Norway?
Our support for debutants is limited. Unfortunately, most of the directors with minority backgrounds are struggling to get the support they need to make low-budget films. I hope this will change soon and we can get better representation behind and in front of the camera. This would enable us to make better and more exciting films in our country. Diversity is quality. I still hear people say, “The best movies get the support,” but the best movies for whom? Quality also means new and exciting stories we haven’t heard before, new ways of writing a script, new visual methods with new perspectives we haven’t seen before... We have a big audience who are still waiting to get unique and fresh content. […] It is no secret that it is very difficult to make your debut feature, both as a producer and as a director. We are losing many voices who are fighting for a tiny share of the funding. I would love to get more of a focus on our debutant funding and make it stronger and bigger. While the world is “improving” and audiences are changing, we also need to adapt and challenge ourselves to create new methods of making cinema.

How do you think being one of the Producers on the Move will benefit your career?
This is a unique chance to meet the new generation of producers in Europe, share our experiences and help each other going forwards. And it’s really important for my directors and their projects, too, because we’ll gain international attention and maybe new partners. I’m really looking forward to meeting the rest of the Producers on the Move at Cannes.

What are your next projects on the horizon?
I launched my own company, Stær, on 1 February. We have already premiered our first co-production, Luis Alejandro Yero’s Calls from Moscow [+see also:
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, in the Forum strand of the Berlinale, and it was later screened by the MoMA and has just played at Hot Docs. Stær is currently co-producing Nabil Ayouch’s Touda, Inadelso Cosa’s The Nights Still Smell of Gunpowder and Juan Andres Arango’s Where the River Begins [see the interview].

I’m [also] producing Dalia Huerta Cano’s debut feature, Elena, which will be shot in Guatemala in 2024. The drama is about 19-year-old Elena, who is torn between supporting her activist mother, protesting against the building of a power plant, and following her own path. Elena is made to feel like her life and dreams are not as important as her mother’s fight. Against her own wishes, Elena spends her days supporting her family’s activism. Cesar Diaz is writing the script. [It is] a beautiful and emotional mother-daughter drama about how difficult it is to be the child of the hero.

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