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BALTIC SEA DOCS 2019

Zane Balčus • Project manager, Baltic Sea Docs

“We are a platform that opens up opportunities for the international market”

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- We met up with Zane Balčus, project manager of Riga's Baltic Sea Docs, a pitching forum taking place this year from 3-7 September

Zane Balčus  • Project manager, Baltic Sea Docs
(© Karlovy Vary International Film Festival)

We sat down for a coffee with Zane Balčus, project manager of the 23rd edition of Baltic Sea Docs, one of the most prominent European co-financing forums. We spoke about the programme of the event, the role of tutors and decision-makers, and the forum's long-term plans, among other topics.

This year, decision-makers from IDFA Bertha Fund (Netherlands), filmdelights (Austria), Cat&Docs (France), Taskovski Films (UK), EODocs (Netherlands), Syndicado (Canada), First Hand Films (Switzerland), CuriosityStream (USA) and Visions du Réel (Switzerland), as well as broadcasters LRT (Lithuania), RTSH (Albania), ERR (Estonia), BBC (UK), LTV (Latvia), Al Jazeera (Qatar), MDR (Germany), NHK (Japan), SVT (Sweden), Czech Television, Current Time TV (USA) and YLE (Finland), will be attending the forum. For further information about Baltic Sea Docs, please click here.

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Cineuropa: What is the mission of Baltic Sea Docs?
Zane Balčus: Baltic Sea Docs is the main pitching forum in the Baltic countries, and it aims to showcase documentary projects in the works from the Baltic Sea region and other former Soviet countries. We are a platform that opens up opportunities for the international market. We also accept submissions from third countries that are co-producing with any of the countries from the region, or projects from third countries with subjects revolving around the Baltic nations or the wider post-Soviet region.

How many submissions did you receive this year?
We received about 120 submissions, and we had to whittle that down to 25 projects. These must all be feature-length films, and we are mostly looking for creative documentaries.

How do the tutoring activities help the directors and producers to pitch their works? How is it structured?
The whole event lasts five days, but the filmmakers work intensively with the tutors for two days – normally, we have six international tutors and one editing consultant ready to help – during which time they improve and rehearse their seven-minute pitches before meeting the decision-makers on the last two days [this year, the pitching sessions will take place from 6-7 September]. Later during the day, the filmmakers may have a chance to meet interested decision-makers and discuss possible collaborations.

Besides the pitching forum, what are this year's main parallel initiatives?
This is the 15th year that Riga has hosted the event. In addition to the pitching part, we organise a series of parallel screenings here in the capital and in five other Latvian towns – we have chosen to present eight documentaries for this year's programme – and these are well received by the local community. Moreover, we have a separate pitching session organised in partnership with the Russian festival Artdoc Fest. The working language is Russian, and ten projects by auteurs from the countries of the former Soviet Union can participate in the event. Part of the upcoming Artdoc Fest will also take place in Riga in October.

What's the industry’s response to Baltic Sea Docs?
On the whole, the event has built a solid reputation. One of our main strengths is that Baltic Sea Docs is very “compact” in terms of networking and establishing direct contact with the decision-makers. Plus, attendance for participants representing their projects is free, which makes it even more affordable and attractive.

What are your long-term goals? What areas would you like to develop in the future?
The overall structure of the event works well, and we do want to keep it “compact” and as accessible as it is now. Of course, we're always open to finding new ways of making it even more attractive for the industry, and we wish to continue this positive trend. Certainly, we would like to increase our connections with emerging markets – such as Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia, and in fact, we've received a few submissions from these countries this year – and improve our visibility in these territories.

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