Martina Bleis and Kathi Bildhauer • Co-directors, Berlinale Co-Production Market
“We are very happy and proud that so many female filmmakers are being represented”
by Vassilis Economou
- We had a chance to chat to Martina Bleis and Kathi Bildhauer, two of the co-directors of the Berlinale Co-Production Market (9-13 February), to find out more about this year’s edition
This year’s Berlinale Co-Production Market runs from 9-13 February, and we had a chance to get the low-down on the upcoming edition from Martina Bleis and Kathi Bildhauer, who head up the most important co-production event in Berlin.
Cineuropa: Since last year, the Berlinale Co-Production Market has started one day earlier; how has this been working out for you?
Martina Bleis and Kathi Bildhauer: Last year, our main location, the Berlin House of Representatives, was needed by the politicians during the week, so we had to use it during the weekend. This change worked out well, and we’ve kept it for this year’s edition. We also moved the Co-Pro Series to be a day earlier, so now all Co-Pro events are more compact, enabling our participants to attend everything.
Are there any highlights for your 16th edition?
Our highlights are our projects, as usual! We are also extremely pleased to welcome back two former projects as case studies of finished films showing at the Berlinale: Divine Love [+see also:
film profile] and Photograph. We are still focusing on the improvement of the situation for women in our industry, as well as opening doors for producers to get in touch with literary agents, publishers, casting directors and selected consultants.
Is it hard to restrict yourselves to just 22 selected projects, and what are the qualities that you are looking for in a project?
Of course! There were many promising projects, and many that we believe will become great films, but they weren’t fit for the Official Selection – because they are not advanced enough yet (they have no script or financing, for example) or they are too far along and are prepping to shoot. We are also looking for projects that not everyone knows about yet and that have not attended too many markets. Also, we know that for first-time directors, it’s harder to make a co-production and receive funding from outside their home territories. Finally, the producers should be open-minded and accept artistic contributions from their co-producers; it’s not only about money.
The ideal project might come from an experienced producer and a well-known director who want to explore working with different countries or partners than they usually do, as a new step for them, be it budget- or story-wise. But we are also looking for artistic discoveries by seasoned producers.
Are social issues still the main topics being explored in the new projects?
First of all, we are very happy and proud that so many female filmmakers are being represented – as producers, they always have been, but now we have almost 50% female directors. Plus, women need to be – and are becoming – protagonists of the stories more often.
Social issues are a broad field, and hopefully they will remain important for filmmakers who want to give them heightened visibility. This year, we see a trend towards family stories – fathers in particular play an important role in many of the projects. Also, LGBTQ stories are starting to come from countries where freedom of sexual orientation is in jeopardy or non-existent. Furthermore, indigenous filmmakers are stepping out into the international co-production scene more confidently – not only with their stories, but also with their storytelling. Representation is an important keyword here – telling stories from a distinctive, personal perspective, and not only for an arthouse audience, but also for the people that the stories are about. We even have indigenous genre projects in both our feature and series selection, which we believe have great commercial potential.
Co-Pro Series is clearly expanding, with more projects and unspooling over more days. Is series the format that the industry is looking for to reinvent itself?
It was impossible to limit the selection to eight projects this year, and we are curious to see if a comedy project can benefit from its participation, as we have selected our first-ever dramedy. Also, the two-day programme will allow more time for meetings. We think series and film will continue to exist in parallel; however, film producers now tend to do series.
This year’s selection is multifaceted, with a lot of crime titles and thrillers, but all boasting strong local roots and distinctive stories. They range from topical, real locations such as the Faroe Islands, Lapland and New Zealand, to spies in the post-World War I Swiss Alps and a post-World War II criminal gang from Austria. It is very diverse, and it was a fun experience discovering these different approaches.
The Talent Project Market is an integral part of the Co-Production Market, and one project has been selected for the Rotterdam-Berlinale Express. Are you planning to incorporate any more projects in the main sections?
The overlap this year with Peaches by Jenny Suen is quite rare; it was not planned. It was just accepted both for IFFR’s CineMart and for Berlinale Talents. However, we often have producers and directors coming back to the Official Selection who were part of the Talent Project Market with their projects, making it a hub for discoveries. Carla Simón, Ritesh Batra, and producers Maria Zamora and Elad Gavish – all of them started out at the Talent Project Market.
Are you wary of the over-saturation of co-production markets in recent years?
We are not, because we believe in what we do and in the quality of the collaborations we create. With 270 finished projects, our work is clearly being recognised. There are many market events that serve as meeting places for producers; these platforms are important workspaces at their respective festivals, and they all help people to make connections. Although what we really appreciate is if a market or event has its own formula and does not simply copy an existing one – rather, it should be targeted and make a difference.
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