WARSAW: After her first four months as General Director of the Polish Film Institute FNE spoke to Magdalena Sroka about what has been accomplished over the past ten years and what direction the Polish Film Institute will take in future.
1 What do you see as the most important direction of development for the Polish film in the coming year?
We have identified a number of priorities for the year 2016. The first of these is a separate support framework for minority co-productions. With that in mind, within our expert assessment system we have created a special commission, headed by Andrzej Jakimowski, director of Sztuczki (Tricks). We have already seen 16 projects submitted to this commission in the first round alone.
Secondly, we aim to support film for young and family audiences. We have created a separate envelope for these projects, both in the development and production stage of feature-length animated and narrative films. We want to attract young audiences, and support the best projects for these young viewers. I hope that filmmakers will collaborate with writers of popular novels for young adults — writers whose experience we are also excited to rely on — to develop fantastic ideas that will go on to become successful films.
Finally, there's development. In response to voices from the filmmaking community, we have simplified many of our procedures, while also increasing their effectiveness. In contemporary filmmaking, the importance of effective project development cannot be overstated. Every responsible producer knows that.
2 How important are European coproductions and especially minority coproductions for the development of the Polish film industry and what opportunities do you see for cooperation with neighbouring countries in film production, education and distribution.
The increasing role of international coproductions is a trend that is becoming clear on the entire European market. Support from the Polish Film Institute for these projects is often crucial; our involvement shows the foreign producers and film institutes that a project is serious and its producers are trustworthy. We try to participate in all important, multinational and interesting projects produced in our region. I believe that over the past decade Polish producers and other film professionals have proved their worth.
Last December, we launched another platform for international cooperation: the Polish-German Film Fund, established based on its predecessor, the Polish-German Co-Development Fund. This frameworks allows support for project development and co-production between Polish and German coproducers. This film fund was created jointly by the Polish Film Institute, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg GmbH, and Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung GmbH. This could be an interesting opportunity for productions with smaller budgets.
3 What is the role of film in the Polish cultural identity?
Cinema has long played a crucial role in shaping Polish identity. Filmmakers always tried to comment on everyday reality and continue to do so, but they also address events that played a significant part in the history of our nation. At the same time, Polish films often carried a universal message and posed questions that were relevant for audiences around the world, thus making them appealing to viewers with different cultural backgrounds. The human condition, human stories, the choices we make that are determined by outside circumstance, the weaknesses from which we are unable to escape… These were the themes of the greatest films by Andrzej Wajda, and of Paweł Pawlikowski's Ida — I truly believe that.
4 How does the recognition of Polish film internationally promote not only the Polish film but also Poland as a country?
The international success of Polish cinema and the exposure it has been getting in top media around the world create new opportunities for increasing interest in our country and its history. Films and the questions they pose often resonate with audiences long after the screening is over. We are currently enjoying a good time for Polish cinema; the number of new projects from abroad looking for production partners in Poland is increasing. And all this is happening despite our lack of tax incentives.
5 Looking back over the achievements of the Polish Film Institute of the past ten years what are the major achievements and what do you consider still needs to be done?
Ten years of the Polish Film Institute, helmed by my predecessor Agnieszka Odorowicz, brought about a complete change in Polish cinema. We have managed to create a dependable system of supporting film production, we have created a network of regional film funds. The film industry has grown, with over one hundred new production companies entering the market. Funds from the Polish Film Institute have also been used to modernize cinema infrastructure; it was the Polish Film Institute that fostered the process of cinema digitization in Poland. Polish films have become very popular with audiences. I also consider allowing the careers of two generations of filmmakers and producers to get off the ground to be one of our greatest successes. These filmmakers now determine the future of Polish cinema — also on the international stage.
A key task for the future is introducing a system of tax breaks and incentives for the film industry. Currently Polish entrepreneurs are simply disadvantaged, since the legal systems of almost all European countries, and especially countries in our region, have introduced such incentives long ago. Poland needs to become more competitive. We can't win by beautiful locations alone; as a country, we need tax incentives to attract investors and major productions, including films from Hollywood.
In June 2015 the selection committee headed by Agnieszka Holland unanimously recommended Magdalena Sroka for the position of the new General Director of the Polish Film Institute. On October 3, Magdalena Sroka replaced Agnieszka Odorowicz at the helm of the Polish Film Institute.
Magdalena Sroka graduated from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow in Polish Philology, specializing in theatre studies. She is a cultural event manager, producer and coordinator of international projects, and an expert in the field of culture and the arts. From 1998 to 2003, she worked for the Krakow 2000 Festival Office, where she was responsible for cultural projects organized in Krakow as European Capital of Culture.
She co-authored the first paper on strategy for the promotion of Krakow in the years 2003 to 2007. She cooperated with the EXPO 2005 programming office. She also established the Krakow Film Commission and the Regional Film Fund in Krakow, and served as an expert for the Congress of Polish Culture (Kongres Kultury Polskiej). From 2008 through 2010, Magdalena Sroka served as director of the Krakow Festival Office, organizing cultural events in Krakow. From 2010 through 2015 she was deputy mayor of Krakow for culture and city promotion.