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Vardan Hovhannisyan • Producer/Director & President, Bars Media, Yerevan, Armenia

The International Documentary Market

- Production and co-production of international documentaries from the point of view of a small production company

This interview with Vardan Hovhannisyan was conducted during the Discovery Campus symposia held in Manchester on the 23 and 24 of May 2009.

How do you choose your projects?
We are a small company; twelve people working together, and the project has to be interesting to us. I did a lot about the war because I was in it for five years and I am interested about the human stories in the war. Now we are working on a lot of different projects. The war finished and we are happy, so right now we are working on a humoristic project about donkeys. It is a ‘donkumentary’.
We are also developing a project on archaeology in Afghanistan. It is a country with a lot of history, through its many invasions. We are not only telling a story but learning in the process; that is what makes our profession interesting.

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A lot of your projects have been broadcasted by international channels, like BBC. How do you distribute your films?
It is quite a difficult market, and we spend eighty per cent of the time on the deal-making and bureaucracy, to find the money to do the film we want to do. That’s why we travel a lot; to learn how the market works.

Documentary Campus is also an opportunity for you to do business then.
I have been coming to Documentary Campus since 2003, and it is very interesting because you learn the tendencies, see the films and discuss them, a key element of it.

Do you do co-productions with European countries?
We have worked for the BBC and ARTE, as well as with Japan. When you work in co-productions you sharpen your ideas to fit a concrete audience. Co-productions are a fantastic possibility; although they are difficult bureaucratically - you need to spend a long time at the beginning to sign a contract – you guarantee that your film will be shown.

Which countries do you co-produce with the most?
The last one was with the UK, but we have also worked with France, Germany, Finland and USA. We are working with Japan too.

Documentary Campus, 23 & 24 May 2009
Faster, Keener, Leaner, Meaner: Survival of the Fittest in Factual
Manchester, UK

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