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ZAGREBDOX 2020 ZagrebDox Pro

Marina Burić • Producer, ZagrebDox Pro

“Nothing can stop documentary filmmakers”


- We chatted to ZagrebDox Pro producer Marina Burić to get her take on the very first online edition of the training and pitching programme, which wrapped on Monday

Marina Burić  • Producer, ZagrebDox Pro

ZagrebDox is one of the festivals that was forced to be postponed owing to the outbreak of COVID-19, and at the same time, its training and pitching programme, ZagrebDox Pro, had to reformat its 16th edition and go digital. As the first online edition of the event wrapped on Monday, also handing out its awards (see the news), we had a chance to talk with ZagrebDox Pro producer Marina Burić, who shared her experience of this year’s proceedings.

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Cineuropa: After unspooling for 15 years in a row, ZagrebDox and ZagrebDox Pro did not run in their traditional format this year. How did you cope with this decision, and how was it organising something completely different?
Marina Burić:
When it became clear that the festival couldn’t take place in its traditional format, we quickly realised that we could still do the ZagrebDox Pro training and pitching programme online. We put together a small team of people who would be able to come to the office and make it possible for 25 participants from 12 project teams from 11 countries to connect on a daily basis with tutors Leena Pasanen and Stefano Tealdi, who are quarantined in Italy. Combining a YouTube channel and Zoom conferencing tool, we managed to really adapt the preparatory workshop to the online environment, and it worked wonderfully – even better than we had been hoping for. Both the participants and the tutors were more than happy with the process.

What was the main goal of the online version, and what did you change?
When we realised that we needed to adapt the programme to the online environment, our main focus was how to do it in a way that would best benefit the participants and their projects. So, we came up with the idea of a pitching video as the new format. This approach of presenting a project seemed closer and more naturally connected to what filmmakers do professionally.

Pitch Forum is one of the key elements of ZagrebDox Pro, and it had to go online. How did the pitching go on Monday?
The participants turned out to be incredibly creative in making their pitching videos. We also got some positive feedback from the panel of decision makers, who also said they recognised some advantages for the project teams that the video format offers. One of the advantages – and this is something I see as a way to level the playing field – is the fact that at a pitching session, everyone has to speak English, and naturally, not everyone has the same proficiency. So, a pitch by a native speaker or someone with really good English always feels more convincing. This doesn't always correspond with the quality of the project, but it is hard for the audience of the pitching events and the decision makers to completely turn off this perception. So, if they are making a video, they have more time to practise and rehearse their talk as well.

Nevertheless, was it still difficult to train your participants to do something new, and how did the decision makers respond to it?
Our tutors adapted the methodology that they have been using for the last ten years to the new format incredibly quickly, and they were amazing. But I am seeing that we can do even more. One of the key factors for decision makers is to see if the project team is made up of the kind of people they want to work with, and the video format could be something that improves the chances for the filmmakers to introduce and present themselves effectively. Also, the format of the pitching video, when combined with well-prepared text and visual materials, might prove to be of use to filmmakers outside and independently of the pitching events, in order to present their project to potential partners in a more thorough, detailed and dynamic way. We recorded the pitching session, and we will be sending it to many interested industry professionals and decision makers: we are looking forward to their feedback.

We are still in the midst of the pandemic and the consequent crisis for festivals, the industry and production, but based on your experience, how do you think that the system will be affected by these postponements and cancellations? Can you also see this crisis becoming a subject for upcoming documentaries to tackle as well?
Of course, there will be many films made that are inspired by this crisis, but judging by the creativity of our participants in only one week, I'd say that nothing can stop documentary filmmakers and that they will become even more resourceful if all of the members of their crew are isolated in their own rooms. I expect not only many films documenting the coronavirus crisis and its immediate consequences, but also, and maybe more importantly, a wide array of social, political and economic topics that will stem from it.

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