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REPORT: SOFA Success Stories 2019/2020


- We look at four successful projects that have come into being since their participation in previous editions of the SOFA workshop

REPORT: SOFA Success Stories 2019/2020

The third module of the 2019/2020 edition of SOFA - School for Film Advancement, traditionally held in Vilnius, took place online last week. We look at success stories from the past: the training programme's participants who have managed to realize their projects.

Terezie Křížkovská - NaFilM – National Film Museum, Prague

Before Terezie Křížkovská and her two colleagues Jakub Jiriste and Adela Mrazova started the project NaFilM – National Film Museum, Prague, the very touristic capital of the country with one of Europe's strongest cinematic traditions, did not have a film museum. Terezie joined SOFA to develop the project in 2016.

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The team started with a series of temporary exhibitions to raise awareness and convince people of the value of the concept. With help from friends and colleagues, a number of well-known personalities and philanthropists as well as a crowdfunding campaign, the National Film Museum opened in Prague in January 2019. Housed in the famous Mozarteum building in the city centre, it is a high-tech operation, with a focus on interactive installations and education. The aim is to offer a history of cinema but also to explore the future of filmmaking, with exhibits featuring animation, virtual reality and holograms.

"We built a museum we would actually enjoy ourselves, while keeping in mind how to engage younger generations, instead of simply repeating old methods of exhibiting objects in glass cabinets," says Křížkovská.

NaFilM is supported by the Ministry of Culture, State Film Fund and City of Prague, and has a number of European partners.

Kestutis Drazdauskas - FRONT – Film Republic of Networked Theaters, Lithuania

More than half of Lithuania's population doesn't have access to cinemas as all screens are located in major cities and 90% of the venues are owned by multiplex chains primarily exhibiting Hollywood fare. But the country has an infrastructure left over from the Soviet times, a network of culture houses in smaller towns, and producer Kestutis Drazdauskas came up with the idea to equip and digitise 20-30 of these venues and brought the project to SOFA in 2014. The goal is to spread European and national films and increase their market share to 25% through a centralised, self-sustained distribution system. It would include a crucial training programme for employees of these venues, and eventually create new jobs.

By combining logistic and financial support from the Lithuanian Film Centre, which helped with navigating the bureaucracy of national ministries, and accessing European structural funding, Drazdauskas managed to start with the first cinema, ArleKinas, which opened in the port city of Klaipeda in April 2018.

"We lost a bit of money in the first year but later started gaining on the losses, and 2020 actually started pretty well before Covid struck," says Drazdauskas. "We have managed to build an audience, it's not huge but it's very active and interested in the independent releases and thematic programme."

Other cinemas are currently in the digitisation process.

Agnieszka Kruk - Find Your Story, Poland

Polish screenwriter Agnieszka Kruk, who works with, a company focusing on the education of screenwriters and script consultants, is developing the new online platform Find Your Story. It is intended to facilitate contact between screenwriters, individuals and companies looking for scripts. The platform is not yet running out of concerns for safety and security in cyberspace, as Kruk says: "We are dealing with very sensitive matters, that is ideas and intellectual property. Only when everything is ready will we make the service publicly available."

Submitters will upload stories along with the stage of their development. Interested readers will then see the basic information about projects’ stories and click on a button to find out more, which will send a notification to the story submitter who can then review the reader's profile and decide if they want to give them access. The reader is then obliged to fill in a short evaluation and they can then request contact with the writer.

Everyone can have a free account on the platform, but only those with a paid subscription via various options can upload and view projects.

"It will be a living platform, where everyone can have access to free content that consists of: inspirational stories from the industry, writing/pitching/contract signing tips, news from the market, interviews with successful filmmakers as well as rankings and articles featuring the most successful or promising writers on the platform," says Kruk.

Ivan Kozlenko - Ukrainian National Film Museum, Ukraine

When Ivan Kozlenko joined SOFA in 2013 with his project for the Ukrainian National Film Museum, the National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre, created in 1994 in an old Kyiv film-processing building, was an old, Soviet-style, closed-in institution that hosted some 6,000 films and did little beyond preserving them. Kozlenko and his team of young professionals started to renovate the building, open exhibition spaces and an experimental film/theatre platform, and invited independent cultural initiatives and small creative businesses to join as residents. During the renovation, they maintained the spaces open and allowed visitors to see how the place was changing, which brought them new audiences, media and partners.

Despite numerous obstacles and delays caused by the situation in the region and by state bureaucracy, the Film Museum was opened on 12 September, 2019 with the exhibition VUFKU. Lost&Found about the All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration which shaped the booming Ukrainian film industry in the 1920s. The exhibition lasted until December, attracting some 7,000 visitors, and the next one was planned to open in March, but was interrupted by the Coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Dovzhenko Centre has stopped receiving state funding since January 2020 and Kozlenko has submitted his resignation, to strong reactions both in the country and from the international community. Read more here while we wait for further developments.

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