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“You will not see any pictures of cute, smiling children with balloons at m:brane”

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Annette Brejner, Lennart Ström • Heads, m:brane

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The managerial and creative helmers of Malmö’s youth content forum tell us more about the mission they have been on since day one

Annette Brejner, Lennart Ström  • Heads, m:brane
(© Fredric Ollerstam/m:brane)

In the mid-2000s, Lennart Ström, a Swede at the BUFF International Children and Young People’s Film Festival in Malmö, began to feel the acute lack of a co-production forum in this particular field. He asked a Dane, Annette Brejner, project coordinator at the Danish Film Institute, to help form a plan. In 2007, again in Malmö, the Financing Forum for Kids Content was born. In 2020, the forum got its current moniker, m:brane. Now, in 2024, Brejner and Ström are still at it, sharing the helm of this savvy operation.

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Cineuropa: How would you describe your respective fields of responsibility?
Lennart Ström:
I do applications for funding and am also, I think, the official face of the forum. My title is managing director.

Annette Brejner: Mine is creative director. I’m in charge of the content, of developing and fine-tuning it further along the way.

You have omitted the “kids” bit in your description, and you also seem keen on exploring and challenging people’s impressions of visual media. Can you share some thoughts on this mission?
LS:
When we started out, the main form was film. Today, possibilities keep opening up with AI, VR, XR and so on. The technological progress has been massive.

AB: This has been our mission since day one. You will not see any pictures of cute, smiling children with balloons at m:brane. We embrace all kinds of content. Our target group is defined as “savvy young audiences”, and we seek out the intelligence within that audience. The response just keeps flowing out of them, and over us.

If you were to highlight an m:brane initiative in particular, which one would it be?
AB:
The RealYoung workshops, where documentary project ideas are presented to both potential co-producers and representatives of the target audience, the youth experts. It’s our tenth year, and it shows no signs of going away – like ripples on water.

LS: I’ve just been to this year’s sessions, and they were deeply impressive. All of the projects got some strong feedback from the youth experts when it came to the direction of the ideas. One of our participants, Swedish director-explorer Mikael Strandberg, a real veteran, burst out with: “Damn it! The best workshop ever!” It’s a highly appreciated operation, all devised by Annette. We were the first to try it out, to some initial scepticism. Today, I see similar initiatives elsewhere. We have IDFA as a partner. We’ve made a mark, that’s for certain.

We’ve just come out of this year’s energetic industry conference. What were some of the highlights for you?
AB:
For me, all of it, more than ever. Our headline, “Igniting New Perspectives: Reshaping Media Creation”, truly came to life. We had people like Mark Shayler, the innovation expert who moderated the conference. He isn’t just playing a part on stage; he lives his mission and his words.

LS: The AI experiment was creatively done. The German participation as the focus country worked great, too. But the day has been brimming with people with a genuine interest in what they’re doing. That’s worth a lot.

How would you evaluate the state of youth culture in general in 2024?
LS: Positively. Young people today are good at helping themselves to what they want, and they have the means to find platforms where they’ll be seen and wanted. They’re active, and I’m optimistic about the future.

AB: I’d like to highlight the interest in a platform like ours – the participants we get nowadays, some of whom would have taken me years to bring in back in the day, now get on board straight away. It’s a proper paradigm shift. We work with museums and tech companies, a plethora of operations not necessarily with much experience with youth, but with an interest, and we can provide a specialist gathering. It’s a fruitful combination, a definite win-win. We’re already deep into discussing the 2025 edition – with great enthusiasm, at that.

The two of you aren’t just a professional team, but also real-life partners. How would you say this works out for you?
AB: We constantly inspire each other. Our competences are different, but our interests are similar or the same. We never tire of talking and finding new angles. We live this together. It can only be to our advantage, as I see it.

LS: We do differ in some of our interests. Annette reads books that I can’t even decipher the title of, but I will innovate and make a great new pasta dish with regular frequency.

AB: On the whole, I’d say we just click great together.

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