FNE at Ji.hlava IDFF 2020: Emerging Producer: Ildiko Kosztolni - Hungary


    Ildiko Kosztolni is participating in the 2020 Emerging Producers programme of the Ji-hlava International Documentary Film Festival, which runs 27 October - 8 November 2020.

    Ildiko Kosztolni Ildiko Kosztolni is a creative producer at the first Hungarian broadcast investigative programme Blank. She earned an MA degree in European Audiovisual Management and Film Production at the MEGA Plus programme (Media Business School) in Spain. She assisted in the work of the European Commission as a media expert in post-war zones worldwide. She is the founder and producer of iamnewhere.

    FNE: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work over the past six months?

    Ildiko Kosztolni: My work was not directly affected by the pandemic, rather by the vacuum of the film supporting system. There was no application call after the National Film Fund broke off by the end of 2018. Due to the lingering, all-out structural and institutional change, namely, the centralisation of the film and TV funding system, I had no new projects to work on in the course of the past six months.

    The first calls for application were announced only by spring 2020, but none of my project proposals, nine, in total, were funded. Nonetheless, I do hope that even if I am going through a quite difficult period of time as an indie film professional recently, my projects would gain recognition sooner or later. I had only one documentary in the postproduction phase (the final cut was scheduled for mid-March 2020, so we had a huge delay already), but the largest part of the workflow of such kind could go without particular difficulties, except for editing, since we had to shift online, proceeding remotely, which is one of countless ways the coronavirus emergency is impacting the documentary space.

    This latest of my films, The Game of Nerves directed by the highly acclaimed Árpád Sopsits, was completed recently and is set to have its TV premiere late in the autumn of 2020. Besides, we were fortunate to have had three international successes during the last two months, even if two of the festivals could only offer a virtual but great experience.

    FNE: Emerging Producers provides a networking platform for young documentary producers. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has had the effect of cutting off international collaboration, has this changed your approach to networking with colleagues in other countries?

    Ildiko Kosztolni: I have a few projects, including nonfiction features along with some fictional content in different stages of production, mainly in development, so it was crucial to step forward with all of them; i.e. I didn’t stop approaching potential partners abroad despite the coronavirus. The truth is that I am scrambling to keep my projects going under dramatically altered circumstances.

    Since I had to cancel an upcoming shoot for a self-financed film on photography and visual memory, I aimed at making progress on all other fronts where it is possible. Given the fact that two of my films had a powerful run on an international level, I am sure that the positive outcome they had can further broaden both my professional network and visibility.

    The festival attendance and premiere of the nonfiction projects is of utmost and particular importance, before everything else in terms of promotion and real professional connection. It’s the biggest reward when the documentary can finally be seen and appreciated, or even sold, as a best case scenario.

    FNE: Do you expect the landscape of documentary filmmaking to change because of COVID-19?

    Ildiko Kosztolni: I see a special role for documentary filmmakers in this time of immense change. We’re in a slightly different position than most of other industries in the sense that part of our mission is to observe or to document the reality itself. And so we have to be attentive to that and also to the need to push forward.

    However, we can say that the documentary film landscape had similar preexisting conditions; almost no indie filmmakers I know were able to make a living from their work before COVID-19 either, even if they didn’t get into documentaries to make money, for sure. All of us, we signed on to make films with a nonprofit ethos. But another aspect of this question might also be raised. In the past six months the documentary community faced urgent questions not only about the monetisation of their work, but the future of their form, since the public televisions which played the main role in sponsoring documentaries for decades, suddenly had to alter their overall media strategy too. So, it’s an unusual and disturbing challenge of the pandemic, to innovate alternative and sustainable distribution as well as a production model, new platforms and immersive technology for the factual contents dedicated to broadcast TV, not to mention the socially-distanced production arrangements.

    The other severe challenge we need to cope with is also posed by COVID-19: the urgent need of a new work ethic while representing a socially distanced society. Actually, it requires a more fundamental assessment of whether there is a sufficient public interest in filming and whether the risks are proportionate. Making a documentary with real human beings is a contract and the terms have changed dramatically; confidence and transparency are on hold. What I promised is no longer possible. When you introduce a camera into a situation, it changes things.

    But what happens when the world itself is dangerous? Definitely, we have to take into consideration these facts before starting to work on any new project under such circumstances. Reality has been rewired, and it’s quite hard to adapt. But, it doesn’t mean that the documentaries themselves will ever go extinct. In my opinion, only the screen will change, but the content of documentaries, the reality itself can draw the biggest audience, irrevocably. In fact, we may see even more hours of nonfiction getting released by the big streamers and powerful production companies like Netflix, Amazon and so on. I have no doubt that the pandemic will inspire prodigious creative solutions that can have, in general, a favourable impact on documentary filmmaking.

    FNE: Are you working on any projects that are directly related to this crisis? Why or why not?

    Ildiko Kosztolni: In Hungary there is not an extensive range of support dedicated to factual film. Nowadays, after a long shutdown in film financing, there are numerous unprocessed historical traumas, and untold stories which take high-priority over every other topic even if the COVID-19 is considered to be the major issue in the „market of ideas” worldwide.

    Shortly, if there is a project on such a topic already given resources for its production, there is no way for another one to be supported, due to the considerably limited target audience and committed domestic broadcasters available. The decision-making „philosophy” behind is so called portfolio-based; ergo two projects on the same subject can very rarely fit in this agenda.

    After all, I have a project that I started developing six years ago. In the lack of any grant for production received, I decided to go forward on my own. The film unfolds the story of a Gypsy community living in the renowned settlement of the Tokaj wine region, which was locked under quarantine by the outside world due to an atrocious crime in 2006. The shooting was scheduled in mid-October, on the very same day when the lynching of a geography teacher happened. While the victim was not killed because of his ethnicity, racial tensions reached an all-time high. Olaszliszka became the justification for a series of brutal Roma-murders in 2008-2009 resulting in the deaths of six people.

    Based on the above detailed backstory, my actual aim is to see how a whole community already stigmatised can survive a double isolation, what if another danger is threatening the collective of „outlaws”? The village is alone with its tragedy. Should anyone break the curse or is there no chance left for the past to be processed ever, particularly, under the constant fear of an ultimate and irreversible expulsion?

    Ildikó Kosztolni

    Ghetto Balboa (2018), Producer
    Order and Soul (2019), Producer, Screenwriter
    Under the Dance Floor (2020), Creative Producer

    The 24th Ji.hlava IDFF will take place online this year from 27 October - 8 November 2020.