JIHLAVA: FNE asked Hana Rezková about new trends in the documentary market and the projects the IDF (www.dokweb.net) runs not only at Jihlava IDFF but throughout the year.
This year in Jihlava IDF has Ex Oriente, a workshop established by the Institute of Documentary (IDF, www.dokweb.net) in 2003 and East Silver Market, a market for East European documentaries.
FNE: IDF has changed its programme at Jihlava Film Festival (www.dokument-festival.cz) this year. What are the changes and why?
IDF used to have a pitching forum here at Jihlava but we decided to change how we organise the various activities of IDF throughout the year.
This year we are hosting two main activities at Jihlava Film Festival. The first one is Part Two of Ex Oriente workshop - a training program with three separate sessions per year.
Most of the tutors come to work with Eastern European projects which are in development or are in production. These tutors also take part in the production program of the festival, for example Mads Brügger or Siniša Jurićić. Jurićić also gave a well-attended masterclass and there was the screening of Sofia's Last Ambulance - a project IDF helped develop and finance.
The second action that we organize in Jihlava is the East Silver Market. It was founded together with the festival but it runs year round with the main part of the market taking place in Jihlava. Each year we select about 300 East European documentaries from about 800 films submitted for the East Silver Market.
FNE: Why is it necessary to have a selection process?
The number of documentary films produced in Eastern Europe is not that low. Television produces a lot of content, and we would like to support not necessarily only films that would go into the theatrical distribution but also good quality television documentaries. So out of the 800 documentaries that are submitted we try to select about 300 that we think have the potential to be sold to other countries.
FNE: How do you measure the results of East Silver Market?
East Silver Market is a meeting point. Sometimes it takes longer for the buyers to decide. IDF publishes annually the statistics for the whole year and actually the market not only helps to sell the films but also improves festival releases.
For example, if a producer doesn't have a sales agent, the film - throughout the whole year not only during Jihlava Festival - is included in the East Silver Caravan, a package of films tailored and put together for different festivals. For each festival we create a different package according to its profile. Producers without a sales agent don't have to do anything. If the festival asks for a submission fee, this will go through the East Silver Caravan.
FNE: IDF seems to have a lot of projects. How many people were involved?
Actually all the activities of IDF are connected so we do everything with 10 people. We help the development of the projects with Ex Oriente Film, then help to finance them in the pitching Forum in Prague in March, then we help the film being financed and also structured in postproduction with Doc Launch, and when the films are completed they are automatically submitted to East Silver.
So we are constantly in touch with the whole network of East European filmmakers. Another part of the job is that we apply for all the international grants in order to be financed ourselves.
FNE: What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
I guess the biggest challenge is the same every year: how to cope with the new trends in the market because very often we have to react to something new. For example right now we feel that the market and the televisions have lower budgets for coproductions, so it's difficult for us to find that types of financing for the films at the production stage. At the same time European televisions buy fewer and fewer creative documentaries.
FNE: How to you bring them together?
We have East Silver TV Focus, a program similar to East Silver Caravan. We send packages of carefully selected films to certain buyers that we know. It's much easier than to only do the market but we do this throughout the year. There are more and more festivals worldwide and some of them pay a screening fee, so sometimes there could be even more financing coming from the screening fees to the producers than from the television buyers.
So the biggest challenge is always to keep up with new trends and recently the documentary market has been turbulent because televisions are scared of the internet.
FNE: What new project would you like to try next?
After this edition and before the Prague pitching session in March we would like to make a survey of the real situation in international television and we would like to present a panel that would present some new elements of financing. But every year is the same challenge so...
FNE: Do you think people are doing more quality documentaries now than previously?
Yes, I think that the production of the documentaries has gone up in the past 10 years. There are several reasons for this. One of them is that in Europe the documentary film market is supported by the MEDIA Program (http://ec.europa.eu). MEDIA has put a lot of financing into the supporting activities such as organisation, pitching forums, training programs - all these are initiatives that trigger production. They encourage the filmmakers to make films, they put them together with the tutors, so the films have more chances to for proper development throughout that process.
So yes, there are more documentaries and therefore the amount of brilliant documentaries is higher. But, of course, the amount of great documentaries and the amount of documentaries in general is proportional. What is problematic right now is that production is encouraged but at the same time there is a trend towards shrinking financing, especially from TV.
There is a lot of enthusiasm for documentaries right now - the viewers are interested, and they would like to see them in the cinemas, especially in the Czech Republic - but at the same time the producers and directors get very frustrated by the difficult situation for financing locally. For example there is a problematic situation right now in Czech Republic and also in Hungary, and at the same time European broadcasters are getting weaker in terms of financing creative documentaries. These two tendencies kind of go against each other.