FNE at Mediawave: Mediawave panels look at European cooperation

By Cathy Meils in Szombathely
    The Hungarian international film festival Mediawave (mediawavefestival.hu) wrapped its first edition in Szombathely on May 8, with three days of panels focusing on European cooperation in production, distribution, and regional film funding.

    The festival moved to the western border town of Szombathely from Gyor. Financing was through the regional Gyor Film Fund (www.filmfundgyor.eu), which also backed a workshop for young filmmakers who produced their short films during the eight day event. The participants, half of them Romany, were also funded by a Norwegian cultural initiative.

    The Gyor fund, like new regional funds developing in the south and the east of Hungary, is a service provider for filmmakers looking to work in the regions. All three funds are a response to the concentration of the film industry in Budapest.

    Neighboring regional funds were present to actively court Central European productions with funding. Peter Zawrel of the Vienna Film Fund noted that the Austrian regional fund has financed 14 Hungarian films in the past six years, making it the largest non-German-speaking partner for Austria after France. A new face on the Central European landscape was the FGV Film Fund from Udine, Italy. The fund, which covers the region across eastern Italy into neighboring Slovenia, Croatia and Austria, With limited financing available (the budget was reduced to 250,000 euros for 2010), the Italian fund concentrates on support for documentaries and development support of up to 30,000 euros for feature films.

    One of Hungary's most prolific producers, Laszlo Kantor of Uj Budapest Filmstudio (www.ujbudapestfilmstudio.hu) said that in the eleven years he's been a producer, "The money is the same, but there are more projects." His strategy as a producer is to build an international bridge with the Balkans. The current Bulgarian box office hit Mission London is a choice example of a Kantor film. He advice to other producers: "The pitching forum is very important for two reasons: First, you learn how to sell your product; and second, you see what's coming up on the market." He also shared his reasoning for producing so many films. "If you want to survive as a producer, you need to have several parallel projects."

    For younger filmmakers, distribution was an issue. Serbian filmmaker Boris Mitic was perhaps only half joking when he put forward his new model for selling his films. He plans to set up his own payment system whereby viewers can pay whatever they choose to see his film -- such as a basket of apples. Slovak director/producer Mira Foray said her prize-winning film Foxes was a hit online, with viewers watching it for free. Balancing the need to finance films and the desire for their films to be seen may be the newest topic Central and East European independent filmmakers are facing.

    Zawrel put the European situation into a global perspective when he told fellow panelists, "Europe is producing more films than Hollywood, but there's no market for them."