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Signe Zeilich-Jensen • Head of Holland Film Meeting

"The Holland Film Meeting is not a 'one-event show'"


- Signe Zeilich-Jensen looks back at her experience as head of the Holland Film Meeting, while preparing the event’s upcoming edition, which will be held on 24–27 September, in Utrecht

Signe Zeilich-Jensen  • Head of Holland Film Meeting
Signe Zeilich-Jensen (© Lucia Guglielmetti)

The Holland Film Meeting (HFM) will celebrate its 28th edition between September 24 – 27. With the selection of projects for the event’s co-production platform still underway, Cineuropa caught up with Signe Zeilich-Jensen, who is stepping down as head of HFM after five years. It’s time to look back while keeping an eye in the future.

Cineuropa: What is your assessment of the last five years as head of the HFM?
Signe Zeilich-Jensen:
It was a very inspiring time. My background was on youth and children films and I got introduced to the European film financing system. I was lucky to come on board when the HFM was already established. Some partnerships have been reinforced; others were introduced like, by instance, the collaboration with EAVE. In my opinion it is crucial to play an active part in the European film industry infrastructure, in which all the events and organisations involved are being transparent with each other and sharing information on how they can really help projects and filmmakers. This is not a “one-event show”. Besides EAVE, we also had other fruitful partnerships such as with Meetings on the Bridge, from Istanbul, Cinelink, from Sarajevo, and New Nordic Films, from Haugesund. They were strategic for the HFM to grow and to host new participants. In addition, we also have a close association with Cannes’ Producers Network, a collaboration that will again enable one of the producers with a project in HFM Co-Production Platform to benefit from a full accreditation for the event in 2016.

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Co-productions are the core of Europe’s film industry. What makes the HFM an appealing event for professionals looking for co-producers?
The importance of a co-production forum is massive. Even if we are living in an increasingly globalised and digital world, we will always need a face-to-face experience in this business. Co-producing is based on trust; it’s not a simple financial agreement. Chemistry needs to be right. Digital communication is a fact but it can’t replace personal meetings in festivals and markets. We try to organise good matchmaking meetings between professionals, held in the relaxing atmosphere of a former monastery! They can also easily hold a more informal meeting with a film fund representative or with a sales agent – not everything needs to be structured and planned in advance. Besides, the HFM is organised under the umbrella of the Netherlands Film Festival; which focuses on local productions, so it takes almost no effort to have access to both emerging and established Dutch directors and producers around. Moreover, Utrecht is a lovely small place with a lot of advantages compared to big cities.

What can we expect from the upcoming edition?
We are currently finishing the selection process for the co-production platform. There will be around 20 projects, some of them from Dutch professionals, and we will try to balance the number of projects from newcomers and from established directors. We want universal stories and filmmakers with a unique vision. Co-producing is becoming more and more important, but it is also getting more difficult to reach the audiences. There is a big gap between ambition and reality and we will have a panel about that topic.

We will also have two guest countries, Belgium and Germany, and therefore, a higher number of delegates from our neighbouring countries. We will organise a session with the Belgium French Speaking Community, bringing together Belgian and Dutch professionals. As for Germany, the FFA has been our partner for years and we will now co-organise a session targeting scriptwriters, during which they will be able to discuss with German and Dutch experts.

We will also continue with the Work-In-Progress session, which will show images from five films in postproduction – films that had been presented at the coproduction platforms in previous editions. This year we will screen, among others, images from the new projects by Terence Davies and Marion Hänsel.

How do you perceive the Dutch audiovisual industry nowadays?
I see a lot of emerging directors using a more international language and willing to make films that might cross borders and reach international audiences. And that is exciting!

Regarding public support, we still have to see the type of films that the new Production Incentive of the Netherlands Film Fund will stimulate. The tax incentive is very technical and it might end up favouring big-budget productions. I think it is a good thing for big films but when it comes to smaller art-house projects, we also need to find ways to support them. The public television, which has been, traditionally, a big supporter of feature films, documentaries and children series, is also facing cuts and this will certainly affect production budgets in the upcoming years. The consequences of the cuts are not yet clear for us. It is an interesting time. I am not sure how optimistic I am, but I still see a lot of quality people wanting to make films in Holland and going for the co-production path.

What’s next for you?
I don’t know yet, but I am interested in children’s films and film literacy projects, which educate new audiences and open up the horizons to younger generations. How do you know what you can actually relate to, if you are not exposed to diversity? Perhaps that is something I should focus in the future…

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