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“There is a need for a more thorough approach to funding women’s projects”

Industry Report: Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Alexia Muíños Ruiz • Director of programmes, European Women’s Audiovisual Network


In Trieste, we discussed the EWA Mentoring Programme for producers and how the landscape has changed in the ten years since EWA was founded

Alexia Muíños Ruiz • Director of programmes, European Women’s Audiovisual Network

In cooperation with When East Meets West (WEMW), the EWA Mentoring Programme for producers took place at Trieste from 22-25 January. We met up with Alexia Muíños Ruiz, director of programmes at the European Women’s Audiovisual Network (EWA), to talk about the activities of the network, which is now turning ten.

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Cineuropa: Tell us more about your presence at WEMW.
Alexia Muíños Ruiz: We are very proud, as there’s a big number of projects by participants in the mentoring programme that have been pitched, as well as many projects in the different sections of WEMW which see the involvement of other EWA members. The EWA Network was launched in 2013, but we started the mentoring programme in Trieste back in 2018, as we identified it as the perfect festival in terms of the quality of the industry experts and pitches, the size of the festival and the friendly ambiance, which merged perfectly with the immense professionalism of the organisers and participants.

This year, the programme, which is supported by Creative Europe, was bigger than in previous years, as we had 16 mentees participating – matched to 16 mentors – coming from several countries, with very different stories but all united by their intense enthusiasm to gain this professional experience.

When and where did it start?
Trieste is our landing pad, as it is the last physical meeting for this year’s participants. The programme lasts 11 months, with this edition’s kick-off at the Thessaloniki Film Festival in March 2022, involving the mentees, mentors and tutors. There, we explain how the programme is developed and how it is meant to work. Then, given that we have such a huge variety of nationalities, we simulate a co-production market, with one-to-one meetings with the other participants, in order to gain an insight into co-production schemes. There are also specific seminars. In Thessaloniki, one of those focused on the art of impactful communication in an international context: it was very challenging and interesting, as we really dug into the cultural differences in the approaches and presentations.

After Thessaloniki, we went on with weekly, online meetings between mentees and mentors. We met in person again with a catch-up at Cannes, and with an evening co-production event at the Marché du Film, which was a great experience as well, especially for one of the mentees, who came there for the first time, in the company of the network and her mentors. That makes such an impressive first experience all the more different. Then there were group meetings and a couple of seminars.

More specifically, how is the programme developed?
The mentoring programme is not project-orientated, although projects can naturally arise thanks to the EWA network. Pamfir [+see also:
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, for instance, is a success story for us: the mentor met with the mentee here, and they decided to co-produce together. It’s very rewarding looking at the journey that this beautiful film has made, and is still making today.

Participants are invited to think about the mission of their company and how to facilitate the way they produce, as well as sharing experiences and also concerns, such as how to combine family and work. Mentoring is very special; it’s something you do because you feel like you have to share and open doors for the next generations. And mentors can also benefit from being part of the programme, as they can learn while passing on their experience. They nurture bonds, just like they would in an extended family; it has happened that they have started to co-produce and to think of projects together with their mentees, or with other participants in the programme. It is a sort of highway to success. And even if we call it European, the participants come from beyond these borders: there are European members living in the USA or South America, on the other side of the Mediterranean Basin, Iran and Georgia, just to name a few. We receive a lot of submissions from Ukrainian producers.

After ten years, how has the landscape changed, and how do you see the future of EWA?
Compared to the beginning of the mentoring programme, we are receiving an increasing number of requests to take part from Eastern countries, maybe because there are fewer national schemes for supporting women producers there. But in general, the number of women in the sector is growing, and now we can focus more on quality and on gathering funds for projects made by women. There is a need for a more thorough approach to funding women’s projects.

And at EWA, although our reputation is well established, we always have to be vigilant when it comes to maintaining and increasing the funds, as it is a matter of inclusion: we want anybody and everybody to be able to afford to take part in it, we need to constantly raise funding, and we want to create more and more projects in partnership with festivals, as is the case with Trieste, which is our life partner.

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