Weronika Czołnowska • Head of Industry, New Horizons
"Polish cinema's international presence is very strong, and I am certain it will remain so"
- At New Horizons, Cineuropa talked with the head of industry about the latest edition of the event and what Polish cinema will bring in the future
The latest edition of the leading Polish festival New Horizons has drawn to a close. In Wrocław, we had a chance to meet and discuss with Weronika Czołnowska, the Head of Industry, who shared her experience of this year’s New Horizons Studio+ and Polish Days along with her expectations for the future of Polish cinema.
Cineuropa: After two editions that ran either online or in a hybrid version, the industry section of New Horizons had a physical session. How was that for you and how different was it compared to pre-pandemic editions?
Weronika Czołnowska: There is no comparison to either the online or the hybrid version, that is for sure. The event this year was vibrant and dynamic. There were over 220 meetings in 2 days, not to mention additional informal ones. We had meetings overbooking on the first day. The atmosphere was comparable to the pre-pandemic editions with around 230 guests, participants, and observers (in 2019 we had a record of approx. 270 attendants).
On its 13th year, New Horizons Studio+ continues to bring new talents to the scene. What are the main criteria for a project to be selected in this programme and what was the feedback you received for this year?
Talking about New Horizons Studio+ talents, the 2020 project To the North by Mihai Mincan and Ioana Lascăr has been selected for Venice’s Orizzonti and the 2019 project How is Katia? [+see also:
interview: Christina Tynkevych
film profile] by Christina Tynkevych and Olga Matat has premiered at the Locarno Film Festival. New Horizons Studio+’s primary focus is on promotion and marketing at the stage of development. Its aim is to draw first and second-time filmmakers’ attention to the importance of communication, building up a long-term strategy and setting common goals between a director and a producer. The main criteria are the quality and potential of the project and the team behind it. However, what also matters while choosing the final 8 projects is variety in the sense of subject matter, style of cinema, the exact stage of the projects’ development, the filmmakers’ experiences and background. It is crucial that the group is diverse as the exchanging experiences and encouraging further international collaborations are a very important part of the Studio and convey the Creative Europe (co-organiser) and EAVE (partner) spirit. The participants' feedback proved that the topic of promotion always needs exploring and that many friendships were formed indeed, which may result in professional cooperations in the future.
During the Studio+ programme, a special lecture on mental health in the film industry was organised. Could you share with us some highlights and why it was important to feature such a lecture?
With all the uncertainties and challenges always existing in our industry but deepened by the pandemic, it is very important to talk about wellbeing far beyond work-life balance discussions. There are many issues and needs for improvement, especially as our work is based on passion and sometimes it is hard to keep a healthy balance. The numbers concerning the mental state of film industry members presented during the lecture were disturbing. The approach of lecturer Janka Neustupova was very practical, concentrating on raising awareness, prevention and giving the practical tools for how to monitor wellbeing and improve it if needed, also emphasising the importance of an accredited support on every production. It might be revolutionary to promote “a proactive way of dealing with mental health and wellbeing, instead of ending up firefighting” in production.
As for Polish Days, yet another year was packed with projects that aim to have their voice heard internationally, did you observe any trending topics that are being explored by this year’s selection?
The range of topics and genres is vast (from what we can call classic dramas to more experimental thrillers, dramedies and family movies). What is noticeable for sure is the number of female voices, represented both by protagonists of different ages and backgrounds as well as filmmakers.
One of the previous Polish Days title, Bread and Salt, will premiere in Venice. Do you have any other successful projects to share from recent years and what are your expectations on Polish cinema?
Polish cinema’s international presence is very strong, and I am certain it will remain so. There are many success stories, to name just a few: the films presented at Polish Days last year Woman on the Roof [+see also:
film profile] by Anna Jadowska and Roving Woman by Michał Chmielewski premiered at Tribeca, Fucking Bornholm [+see also:
interview: Anna Kazejak
film profile] by Anna Kazejak at Karlovy Vary, Other People [+see also:
interview: Aleksandra Terpińska
film profile] by Aleksandra Terpińska at Tallinn Black Nights. It is worth mentioning the debut film Prime Time [+see also:
interview: Jakub Piątek
film profile] by Jakub Piątek which took part in New Horizons Studio+ 2019 at the stage of development, was presented a year later as a work-in-progress at the online edition of Polish Days 2020 and then premiered at Sundance 2021. I am sure there are more to come.
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