“I’m afraid we will soon be exclusively preaching to the converted”
Industry Report: Documentary
Iva Plemić Divjak • Producer, Horopter Film Production
The Serbian producer, one of the 2021 Emerging Producers, talks about her work and producing documentaries nowadays
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Iva Plemić Divjak: The nature and dynamics of documentary filmmaking resonates with me more than any other kind of production work. The small crews chosen on merit as much as on gut feeling; patiently navigating the story together; progressing in a very natural way; having freedom to follow, if the truth (let’s call it that way) you are trying to capture shifts into a different register and takes you into a new direction. There’s way less artificial drama and much more flexibility then in making fiction.
Since the space given to cinematic documentaries in the mainstream media is shrinking dramatically, due to the global terror of ratings, I’m afraid we will soon be exclusively preaching to the converted, which is the most futile way of trying to instigate political change.
How do you deal with the current pandemic situation as a producer? What are your main concerns (or opportunities)?
I am very much trying to focus on the positive consequences of the pandemic. To mention but a few: Having the most influential people in the industry verbalizing their concepts and rationalizing their priorities in person, to the audience larger than they ever would otherwise, if there wasn’t for the overall onlineness; the fact that “mingling” (as much as I MISS the travels) is replaced by the luxurious number of (alas, online) one-on-ones, which I always preferred to the “casual”, en passant pitchings over a glass of wine.
Having a considerable track record in crisis situations, I re-calibrated my priorities quite automatically, trying to focus on the possible. I don’t consider this to be lowering the bar, but rather a way of trying to outsmart this challenging situation and trying to reduce frustration-induced meltdowns to the minimum.
What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
Going back to the cinemas sooner rather than later is the utmost priority. The second one would be the finalization of this covid-related evolution of online platforms, and hopefully, shaping and regulating the online environment according to the needs of the viewers, while also making it worthwhile for the filmmakers and producers.
What projects do you have underway (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
I am producing two documentary features by Mladen Kovačević, Another Spring, about one of the biggest medical feats of our civilization – eradication of smallpox, by focusing on its most inspiring chapters – the ‘72 epidemic in Yugoslavia; and Beginnings, an experimental diary film to be shot around the world, once we regain that privilege.
EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2022 edition is 31 March 2021.
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