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Nikolaj Nikitin • Direttore finanziario e operativo, T-Port

"Oggi è difficile attirare l'attenzione del settore senza una strategia chiara e un concetto di distribuzione di successo"


- Abbiamo parlato con il direttore finanziario e operativo, recentemente nominato, dell'associazione no profit indipendente con sede a Berlino che si occupa di promuovere i talenti emergenti

Nikolaj Nikitin  • Direttore finanziario e operativo, T-Port

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

T-Port is an independent non-profit association based in Berlin, supported by the Creative Europe – MEDIA programme, the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund and Tel Aviv University. It is aimed at promoting emerging talent and facilitating the distribution of short films within the professional film industry. We spoke to its recently appointed head of finance and operations, industry veteran Nikolaj Nikitin.

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Cineuropa: With your extensive experience in film curation and distribution, how do you envision T-Port evolving under your leadership, especially in terms of fostering connections between young filmmakers and industry professionals?
Nikolaj Nikitin:
I believe the work of my colleagues at T-Port and myself is now more important than ever. In the age of digitalisation, the number of new films being produced can be overwhelming, and it is very difficult to get the industry’s attention nowadays without a clear strategy and successful distribution concept. This goes especially for young filmmakers, who don’t have a proven track record in the industry yet. Working for two decades for the Berlinale and now for Tallinn’s PÖFF, I know how much an A-list festival can help to establish young filmmakers’ career paths and nourish talent. But there are only very few slots available at the major (short-) film festivals, and the competition is much higher.

This is where T-Port comes in, by working as a talent hub, connecting young filmmakers and industry professionals. Our USP is that we are the only platform exclusively focusing on short films and connecting the filmmakers with industry professionals worldwide as a pure B2B service. Even so, some shorts on our platform are open to the public, and we have an ongoing calendar offering special programmes for free, such as our recent programme for International Women’s Day. I want to ensure the growth of our network on both ends – with more films available, and more professionals scouting and screening them. We want to become the place in Europe and around the globe for meeting and discovering new talents.

As an online service, we are very democratic and much more diverse than any physical event could ever be. This is something I want to focus on in my work to include even more underrepresented and diverse filmmakers from all geographies. We have wonderful success stories where shorts have been scouted from our platform for a successful festival and distribution run.

The fact that we function as a market allows us to have shorts online for festival programmers, even ahead of their world premieres. We all know that festival and industry representatives are facing reduced budgets, so a growing number of them are using T-Port to scout new films and find the next talent. For our filmmakers, next to being visible with their shorts, which we know have a much shorter distribution life than feature films, they also profit from our network and our industry offers.

How do you plan to contribute to T-Port’s mission of promoting emerging talent in the film industry?
With my 30 years of experience in different fields of the audiovisual industry, I especially want to find new content partners for T-Port and widen our network. Right now, we have around 60 partners, including film festivals, film schools and national promotional bodies. I want to raise this number and include non-cinema-related partners. For example, we are the perfect fit for all foundations and non-film-industry representatives who want to launch a short-film competition on a topic close to their agenda. We have a big pool of filmmakers, and our newsletters and outreach activities reach the perfect target audience for such endeavours.

Our priority is for the represented talents on our platform to profit from the collaborations we have, so the more the merrier and the higher the benefit for our filmmakers. As our content is not geo-blocked, we can cooperate with partners from all around the world, which is one of our main core goals. We recently developed a pilot section called “Point of View”, where five film schools collaborate by making films by their students available to each other. Remembering my own cinema studies, I know that film students just see the classics and very seldom see the films of their peers (besides those of their fellow students, of course). I see huge potential in growing this collaboration and widening it, so students can see films from their peers from all around the world.

I also want to strengthen our workshop and seminar modules, as I have a lot of experience in that field, and we know that topics like the distribution and monetisation of short films are of huge interest within our target audience and with our stakeholders.

Another path we wish to follow is opening up more towards the public and offering selected short films to them. And, last but not least, to focus on our hybrid model, presenting curated programmes from our online catalogue at film festivals and events as an on-site experience. Last year, for example, we saw a very successful on-site screening of our Lighthouse Selection at the Torino Short Film Market.

As you attended the Clermont-Ferrand International Film Festival and Market as well as the Berlinale with Amos Geva, what specific goals or initiatives did you have in mind for T-Port during this event, and how do you see it impacting the platform's future endeavours?
Being together with Amos for the first time at Clermont-Ferrand, I realised why this festival is considered to be number one in the world of shorts. Just like at the Berlinale or Cannes, there is a physical marketplace for shorts with many important (sales) companies and countries represented and present during the event. Being selected for Clermont-Ferrand is really a huge step for young and established short-film makers, as many decision makers are present. That is also the reason why we have continued to participate in the Talent Connexion programme for several years now. Each year, we select five filmmakers from our pool through a call to present their next short film at Clermont, and at a packed event, they pitch their projects, obtaining important feedback and contacts. This is a very rewarding experience.

In addition, at this year’s Clermont-Ferrand, we were able to meet up with many of our partners, and discuss new collaborations and ideas. Just after Clermont, we continued to the Berlinale with dozens of successful meetings and also participated in the industry event Encourage, focused on German film schools.

My next stop will be Cannes, where I will actively take part in the Short Film Corner and the Short Film Conference. I am very grateful to our Cannes colleagues for all their effort and the support they give to short-film makers, while my colleague Amos will cover important German festivals like Dresden and Oberhausen, and our team will do likewise at the Sehsüchte Student Festival in Potsdam.

Besides Clermont-Ferrand, in November, several T-Port talents will attend the Script Pool training at PÖFF, and in the summer, we will present European Film Promotion’s Future Frames shorts at Karlovy Vary, on site. Since COVID-19, it sure has been great to travel again and promote our work in face-to-face meetings, but also to discover new short films and talents at festivals.

We must always bear in mind that all filmmakers who are now well known and successful started off with shorts, and the mission to nourish them is our most important task in order to keep our industry alive and kicking.

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