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Paul Pauwels • Director, EDN

Pitching docs in Lisbon


- EDN and Apordoc have organised THE LAB, a development workshop in advance of the 16th Lisbon Docs pitching forum to be held in October. Cineuropa caught up with EDN director Paul Pauwels

Paul Pauwels  • Director, EDN

Cineuropa caught up with EDN director Paul Pauwels in Lisbon, on the first day of THE LAB – a preliminary development workshop organised three months before the 16th Lisbon Docs main pitching forum.

Cineuropa: Can we say that THE LAB is an introduction to Lisbon Docs? What is the reason behind its organisation?
Paul Pauwels:
 I would say it is an extra service to Portuguese documentary filmmakers. In Lisbon Docs' previous editions, we felt that some local producers and documentary directors were not well introduced to the changing European market. And that led, sometimes, to some level of difference – not quality-level differences, but development-level differences. So we are now providing participants with preliminary information about the market and with a lot of hints, and they still have about three months to prepare themselves for the main pitching sessions. We want to make sure that everyone – both local and international participants - will be at the same level in October.

What can we expect from the upcoming Lisbon Docs?

We will try to have a mix of different projects – web-documentaries, TV-orientated projects and also documentaries with potential for theatrical distribution. We will have about 20 projects, and that mix is important, as participants can learn from each other. Someone who is preparing a web-documentary might end up considering restructuring the project and turning it into something else. One of the main selection criteria, apart from the strength of the story, is going to be the visual style of the project. When I make a selection, I always have a question at the back of my mind: “Would this be strong enough to go to the cinema?” Then, of course, we also have a geographical spread. Even though it is being discussed nowadays, we are still living in a united Europe, and it’s all about co-production. It is important that people meet and check the opportunities to co-produce with other countries.

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As the director of the EDN, is it easy for you to spot the current trends in Europe’s documentary making?
Firstly, I see the rise of creative documentary. Documentary has been – and still is – TV-orientated. But I see more and more projects that do indeed have cinematic value, and they actually make it to the theatres. Talking about production, the input of television has become a lot less important, but fortunately this is being compensated for by film funds, which are now much more into co-productions. And these regional funds tend to go for the more artistic qualities of the project: storytelling and audience appeal are very important questions. Then – and I hope I am not being overly optimistic – I guess there is a tendency for public broadcasters to pay more attention to documentary again, and also to the longer forms of documentary (perhaps not a lot of 90-minute projects, but certainly many 75-minute documentaries). That is happening in the Netherlands and in Scandinavia, and hopefully it will happen in Belgium soon as well - there will be a new contract between the government and VRT that will state that the Flemish broadcaster will have to pay more attention to documentary and work with external producers. I can only be very happy about that! Besides that, I see a tendency to make documentaries designed for kids. There are initiatives being developed and focused on children. Furthermore, the educational system is getting involved in showing documentaries and in teaching people how to read images. I think that will be quite important in the future. We are now educating tomorrow’s audiences.

In the last decade, there was a wave of films that blurred the boundaries between documentary and fiction. In your opinion, will this trend last?
I think documentary might end up returning to its more traditional form! I like that mix of reality and fiction, but it seems like a trend to me. And every trend comes to an end at some point. Perhaps we will get back to documentary in its purest form: strong characters, and strong situations from which a good story develops. If you have that, what else do you need?

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