FNE at SOFA: Agent School Helps Structure Original European Projects

    Participants of the 1st SOFA Workshop Participants of the 1st SOFA Workshop

    WROCLAW: A festival box office database, an interactive cinema programming system and a short film incubator are just a few of innovative projects developed at the first edition of the School of Film Agents.

    A new training program for young industry professionals from CEE along with Germany, Central Asia and the Caucasus, SOFA (School of Film Agents) finished its workshop sessions 19-30 August in Wroclaw. Some 11 participants brought to SOFA progressive ideas for their countries and the European film industry, meeting with coaches who are top film professionals and experts in their fields including Sibylle Kurz, Ewa Puszczynska, Marion Döring and Renate Rose. After two weeks of intense training on constructing a business plan, pitching a project and getting it financed, each participant is now set to develop their idea over the next 1-2 years.

    "I am very proud of my participants, as we just witnessed 10 very clear and profound presentations," organizer Nikolaj Nikitin told FNE. "Thanks to the work of our experts and the interaction between the members of the workshop, these last two weeks brought structure to all of these projects. They all have not only an original idea, but a strong, concrete business plan and a course of action that they are going to take after they leave Wrocław. I am also very excited that they all could be presented in front of such important decision makers as Susanne Ding (Media Program/Creative Europe, Brussels), Miroslav Mogorovic (European Film Festival Palic/Soul Food, Belgrade) and Joanna Wendorff-Ostergaard (Media Desk Poland, mediadeskpoland.eu/‎), who all gave their pointers to the participants. These are projects that are ready to be started and they are very significant because they are all aimed at promoting European cinema

    The Serbian entry for the program was Sonja Topalovic, who works at Soul Food, an international sales and distribution company, as festival and marketing manager. Her SOFA project was FBO-Festival Box Office, an innovative on-line database that would compile all of the information about a film's performance during festivals. The website would allow access to a number of festivals, the number of festival screenings, the audience attendance and the total ticket sales income. It is designed as an interactive tool for all film professionals including producers, distributors, film agents and festival programmers who will gain access to an international statistical analysis of about 4,000 festivals.

    Slovakia was represented by Eva Križková & Eva Pavlovičová, co-founders of Kinečko magazine and the Filmtopia company, which specializes in documentary and art house films distribution. They brought to SOFA a project for a high school film festival, Film Generation, that would engage Slovak youth in cinema and encourage audience development among the young. The project entails training teachers who would then lead interactive film courses, during which students would be familiarized with Slovak cinema and engaged in preparing their own festival. The creators plan to start with three high-schools in 2013/2014 and reach up to a 100 schools by 2020. The project's main aim is to educate a new generation of cinema goers and help revive the country's film industry as a result.

    Poland's Jan Naszewski, head of industry and international promotion at T-Mobile New Horizons IFF and CEO at his own label, New Europe Film Sales, came to SOFA with the hope of filling a gap in the production industry. His project, Film Incubator, will engage already established and recognized filmmakers in creating short features. Naszewski's experience in short form distribution led him to the realization that there is a market for these kinds of productions, which would result in marrying a great outlet for the filmmakers' creativity with the needs of the market. The program would also allow directors who have had a successful first film to work on a smaller project while they are developing their second full-length feature and thus sustain the presence on the international market while their short film travels the festival circuit and other industry events. Film Incubator would approach the most promising filmmakers and help them develop the short project they have always dreamed of making.

    An experienced film professional, Mira Staleva, brought to Wrocław a plan to develop her ongoing project Bulgarian Film Promotion. The main aim of this initiative is to create a structure that would help upcoming Bulgarian filmmakers and promote their works outside the country. This would entail supporting the National Bulgarian Film Center, presenting Bulgarian films at the big international festivals and markets and providing information about upcoming productions, filmmakers and releases. Apart from extensive field work during industry events, Bulgarian Film Promotion will also develop a website, newsletter and coordinate film-oriented social media activities.

    While most participants were focused an audience development, Georgian entry Ketie Danelia faces a different problem - lack of arthouse cinemas in Georgia. She has been actively involved in the audiovisual sector since 2006. Since 2010 she has been working for the Georgian National Film Center (GNFC) as a manager for the film export and distribution department on multiple international and local projects. Her solution to the need for a non-multiplex cinema is Unique Screen, an arthouse film establishment located in the very center of Tbilisi in the building known as House of Cinema. Since the active chain of cinemas collapsed with the meltdown of the Soviet Union, the main objective of this project is to create a space where distributors can meet public demand and screen European films to a Georgian audience.

    Experienced German film professional Johannes Rexin is focusing on a unique project to join German and Polish cinema audiences. TransOdra is a traveling film festival created to familiarize viewers with challenging European cinema in chosen locations along the German-Polish border from the Baltic Sea to the Czech mountains in the south. The project targets students from universities on both sides of the boarder, who will engage in mutual exchange of their film tastes and knowledge. As the festival grows into fully fledged form in 2016, when the city of Wrocław will be Cultural Capital of Europe, the project will include open-air screenings, activities on ships bringing the viewers to specific locations, discussion clubs and a film selection focused on issues of cultural identity and borders.

    Melinda Boros, head of acquisitions at Romania's Clorofilm Inc and a producer at Look TV , brought to SOFA a set of educational training programs focused both on adult and young audience members. The Studio Workshops are planned as an initiative within the framework of CASA TIFF, a cultural arts center dedicated to promoting film literacy in Romania. She proposes training perspective students about all aspects of film making and engaging them in creative activities such as acting, screenwriting and shooting their own project. The first series of workshops will include six meetings (three for children, three for adults) leading up to a final gathering at the the annual Transylvania International Film Festival (TIFF, tiff.ro). Boros hopes to install a fundamental knowledge of film in viewers, who will now have the tools to recognize how a given movie was made and to gauge its quality.

    Ukrainian participant Ivan Vasyliovych Kozlenko, deputy general director and the director of the film archive at the National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre, visited Wrocław to develop a project focusing on the cultural identity of his country's audiences. The Ukrainian Film Museum would be a distinct project realized within the framework of the film archive. The museum's would utilize the massive collection of films already owned by the center to create a canon the best and most significant Ukrainian past and contemporary cinema to present to local and international audiences. Since many titles were banned in the past, the museum will familiarize modern viewers with all available material. The venue will be an interactive institution, meeting the international standards of film exhibition. A permanent exhibitions on projection, documents and photographs, costumes and film equipment are all planned. A state-of-the-art cinema will be programmed in arthouse style with topical retrospectives and festivals in order to put screenings in cultural and historical context.

    Gábor Böszörményi, founder and managing director of Mozinet, proposed interactive projects allowing audiences to program what will be screened at arthouse cinemas. The main aim of the initiative is to allow social interaction connected to the act of visiting the cinema, an approach considered one of the top solutions to the drop in arthouse cinema attendance. Interaktiv Cinema will be a multilingual website where each viewer will be able to find a list of titles available in his country, as well as a database of local cinemas. The visitor will be able to create a screening of a film he'd like to see or join an existing event. This platform will be closely connected to all types of social media, making it essential that viewers engage the process to see films they'd like to see.

    Estonian film producer, distributor and agent Leana Jalukse, who has managed the Co-Production Market of the Baltic Event for four years and also represents FilmEstonia, the Estonian Film Commission, came to SOFA to focus on the goal of boosting documentary film releases in her country. DokTok is a project aimed at establishing a distribution system for Estonian documentaries. Jalukse was approached not only by Estonian documentary makers but also cinemas, museums and culture centers looking for content to fill their programs. The main task for this project is to create a catalog of documentaries available for distribution and to connect with the owners of venues where screenings could take place. Jalukse plans a two-fold approach - regular distribution but with a special focus on making each title and event with a guest speaker or a filmmaker present and available to the audience and preparing special, thematic packages of documentaries that could be sold to schools, museums and other institutions.