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SARAJEVO 2020 CineLink Industry Days

The Balkan industry joins forces in the face of the crisis


- Heads of film centres from the region took part in a CineLink Talk entitled "The Response of Public Film Bodies to Pandemics and Their Future Role in the Southeast European Film Industry"

The Balkan industry joins forces in the face of the crisis
The participants in the talk

Heads of public film bodies in Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia — Chris Marcich of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC), Sehad Čekić of Film Centre Montenegro (FCM) and Gordan Matić of Film Centre Serbia (FCS) — took part in the Sarajevo Film Festival's CineLink Talk last week, entitled "The Response of Public Film Bodies to Pandemics and Their Future Role in the Southeast European Film Industry."

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Moderated by Sarajevo's head of industry Jovan Marjanović, the discussion tackled topics such as support to production, exhibition and distribution during the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of regional co-productions, the changing needs of audiences, and the need for a viable regional streaming platform.

In Croatia, as the pandemic developed and productions and cinemas shut down, the government put in place some measures to support creative industries. "The government intervened and helped, especially smaller enterprises, through the crisis. Freelance artists were given some support," said Marcich. "In the short term, we have survived. Cinemas are opening on 20 August and there's the sense of a comeback, but we need production to pick up for cinemas to have films to show."

In Montenegro, the national film body decided to bridge the gap by financing activities that can be done under safety measure. "We at Film Centre Montenegro invested more money into funding script and project development, which brought good results and an increase in the quality of the projects," said Čekić.

"However, it is a big question how the needs of the audience will change by the time these films are completed," he warned. "There will be changes in expectations from audiences when it comes to produced films. This is an unknown territory — what will be the role of festivals, what kind of films will be there, do we need to make more commercial films?"

All three territories depend strongly on mutual co-productions and partnerships with bigger European industries, each being too small to gather full production budgets on their own. This is why regional film centres started working on harmonising their regulations before the pandemic struck.

"We supported seven minority co-productions this spring and we are opening a new call for projects in autumn," said Matić. "This is crucial for us and this is why, earlier in the year, we prepared documents intended to synchronise rules and regulations between regional film funds, so that producers can more easily apply to more than one fund. We will continue with this work as soon as possible."

During the pandemic and the closing of cinemas, audiences turned to streaming platforms. But big players such as Netflix or HBO have very little interest in local content, let alone in investing in local productions, and while each of the territories saw some new local platforms pop up, there is a need for a stronger provider of content that would cover the whole region.

"I think we need to put more emphasis on cooperation between us to launch viable platforms that would be interesting to the public. Each country is too small, we need TVs and film centres and rights holders to rally for this," said Marcich. 

The talk was organized by CineLink and presented by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.

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