FNE Q&A: Peter Todorov, Executive Director of Bulgarian National Film Center


    SOFIA: Peter Todorov, the newly appointed Director of the Bulgarian National Film Center, spoke with Film New Europe about what he has accomplished in over a month in the office and about what lies ahead.

    Peter Todorov, credit: Yana LozevaPeter Todorov, an experienced manager of independent cinemas and international film festivals, has been appointed Executive Director of the Bulgarian NFC for a five-year term. This happened after he successfully went through an official application procedure conducted by a special commission nominated by the Ministry of Culture on 7 February 2022.

    FNE: As Film New Europe reported in Peter Todorov Appointed New Director of Bulgarian National Film Center - FilmNewEurope.com, you presented yourself to the committee and you defended your original strategy on the development of the Bulgarian film industry over the next five years. Due to this strategy and to your good performance, you ranked first and you were appointed Executive Director of the Bulgarian National Film Center. Over a month in the office, what are the immediate steps you have taken to start realising your ideas?

    Peter Todorov: At the time of my appointment as Executive Director, the Agency had been blocked for a long time and it was practically not functioning. The Finance Committee was overwhelmed with over 250 projects already approved by the Selective Committees, but still awaiting the final confirmation of their funding. Therefore, before the implementation of any new ideas, I had to get the agency up and make it work again.

    I had one-on-one talks with each member of the Finance Committee and a month later 150 projects managed to be evaluated. So far, over 1.6 m EUR were transferred to their producers. I also had to review the agency’s administrative structure and the amount of the salaries. Unfortunately, the institution had been left understaffed for years. People working there had difficulties in assuming the workload and the high level of responsibilities. Therefore, at the same time, I had to increase the salaries of the incumbent team and to attract new experts.

    On the top of that, since the beginning of 2022, two new financing schemes (the cash rebate scheme and the series support scheme) have been assigned to the agency. As a result, the amount of work increased considerably. In a week's time, I invited five new specialists to join the team. With the increased number of employees and the higher remunerations, the Agency is now much better equipped. I think that we are prepared to meet the challenges coming from the new activities.

    Along with that, we are finalising the work on the regulations and the rules for the implementation of the Film Industry Act. The results will be announced in the coming days and we will introduce them as quickly as possible.

    FNE: What is the budget of the Bulgarian NFC for 2022? What is the percentage dedicated to national production and what part of this percentage will be allotted to the minority participation of Bulgarian producers in future European coproductions?

    Peter Todorov: The budget of the Bulgarian NFC for 2022 is 13 m EUR. About 85% or 11 m EUR will be allotted to national film production. Out of those, 1.5 m EUR will be aimed at Bulgarian minority producers involved in European coproductions. For the first time in the NFC's history, we've opened a special call for children’s and youth films. I decided so because this cinema with rich traditions in my country has somehow been left behind. The call deadlines are announced and we are waiting for the applications.

    FNE: The new cash rebate scheme for the reimbursement of 25% of the eligible costs incurred on the territory of Bulgaria has already been adopted and it is expected to become operational this year. What are the results you expect? How does the national institution plan to attract foreign producers to shoot in Bulgaria?

    Peter Todorov: As I mentioned earlier, this is one of our new schemes. For the three months it has been operational 15 projects applied. That is to say, that the interest in the scheme is very high. Currently, one project is ready for the second step of the procedure. I had urgent meetings with the Finance Committee in order to fix and adopt the right methodology through which the projects will be evaluated and ranked.

    We must be cautious that the scheme functions as it is supposed to, and try to avoid a possible interruption as it happened in some countries. While shooting in Bulgaria foreign producers should rely on regularity and predictability. The cash rebate scheme will be promoted at major film markets like the Cannes Film Market, the Berlinale EFM, and others. We will also increase our presence in the main international film editions and outlets. We will strengthen our activities in launching Bulgaria as the most attractive location on the international film map. We will also light up the fact that we have some of the best trained film crews in the region.

    FNE: What measures do you plan to implement in order to stimulate the digital restoration of Bulgarian film heritage? Will there be any funding for this activity and if so to what extent?

    Peter Todorov, credit: Stefan KutzarovPeter Todorov: This is a bit of a hot potato for the entire industry. However, we are all convinced that the restoration of Bulgarian film heritage must be seriously stimulated. It is highly needed that we create a mechanism allowing the application of legality and correctness for all parties able and willing to participate in the process. We are working with the Ministry of Culture, the Bulgarian National Film Archive, with foundations and private companies experienced in film restoration.

    As part of the Restoration and Development Plan, we have allocated funds for the purchase of specialised equipment. Starting from next autumn and in partnership with one of the leading universities in Sofia, we will announce a special training programme. This way, students will be able to learn how to work with the restoration equipment. At the same time, I do not exclude any public-private partnerships or participations.

    FNE: Most recently, by announcing a special call for film projects dedicated to children, you have taken a first step towards a new focus on this audience, which by the way has rich traditions in Bulgaria. How do Bulgarian artists react to this decision?

    Peter Todorov: Prior to this announcement, authors working in this field had to apply with everyone else, and I don’t think this was fair. Now, with this separate call they have time to prepare their projects and to compete among themselves. Once again, the interest is high. Days after the announcement, we already have some projects submitted, and we hear that other producers are planning to apply.

    FNE: It is known, that the Bulgarian NFC is the main, but also the only important source of finance for Bulgarian cinema. What is your attitude towards the setting of a fund which may add to the state subsidy income deducted from the market?

    Peter Todorov: This issue is an essential point in my strategy and I believe it helped me to win the position. My idea is to create such a fund with contributions from the global digital platforms operating in Bulgaria. Such practices have already been introduced in a number of EU countries, where around 1% of the subscription fees collected by the platforms go to film funds. Digital platforms desire to stream European content; they also show commitment in contributing to local content production.

    FNE: What other immediate measures for the modernisation of the national institution for film do you envisage in the near future?

    Peter Todorov: Recently, we have initiated several talks regarding the digitalisation of the agency. We are working hard on the creation of an online system with the help of which producers will apply online. Our team is also working on the installation of a new website, which will accommodate and facilitate the functioning of the financial schemes. On the other hand, the Agency has a cinema hall. Our idea is to renovate it and adapt it to the needs of various committees by offering them full access. We also intend to purchase a cloud data server and store all the upcoming Bulgarian films there. We believe that this way we will bring the agency into the year 2022 and beyond.

    FNE: The convergence of film and games and the creative specialists, who work in both industries, is a rapid area of growth across the region. How is this cooperation with games developers growing in Bulgaria and does the Bulgarian NFC have any plans to encourage film games convergence and investment?

    Peter Todorov: I am fully aware that most of the Bulgarian animated cinema creators are mainly working in the gaming industry. This sector is quite developed in Bulgaria, therefore making films is more of a hobby for them. I expect ideas on how the agency and the gaming industry can work together. We are speaking with young and educated people, familiar with the regulation of similar processes by the EU Creative Europe programme. We are thinking on the introduction of regulatory changes, which will encourage the cooperation between the Bulgarian NFC, the gaming industry, and the digital platforms. I foresee this process happening in parallel, either by the adoption of a new Film Industry Act or the revision of the existing one.

    Photo credits:

    1: Yana Lozeva

    2: Stefan Kutzarov