Kristof Bilsen • Producer, Limerick Films
“People will always want to share experiences in a cinema environment”
- Interview with Kristof Bilsen, producer for Belgian company Limerick Films and selected for the 2019 Emerging Producers programme
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Kristof Bilsen: I started producing and directing documentaries because it forces me to focus on one segment of the complicated world we live in, exploring the contradictions, various sensitivities and points-of-view of a story. Documentaries can invite people to think and rethink their ideas and presumptions and can indeed instigate change; although I prefer to see them as status checks. Instead, to force them to change the world, I see them as catalysts of empathy and kindness and curiosity. And then of course they do widen our perspective on the world we live in.
What qualities should a documentary producer have these days?
In an ever changing financing and distribution landscape, the concept of the creative producer should really embrace creativity – on all levels. Right from when you start to distill ideas that could make it into films through to eventually making them and until finding an audience in the most inspiring ways possible. Nothing can be taken for granted – any high production country can easily become a low to very low in production – so I believe collaboration is key and trust a must. Also, censorship is peeking around the corner almost everywhere now. So being brave and realistic and a dreamer and being very very patient are bare necessities, both for the producers as for the directors.
What do you think is the future of distribution of documentary films?
Both theatrical distribution, online (S)VOD and episodic and VR (360°, etc. etc.) will have their place in the scope of storytelling. They all go in tandem. Yet, I don’t believe that Cinema docs are dead and dying. People will always want to share experiences in a cinema environment. The rise of community cinema’s and activist screening places shows a keen interest in this shared experience of watching and discussing documentary films. People are hungry to have safe spaces to see and debate on topics that matter to them.
What projects do you have under way (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
Mother – in postproduction, release this year: Pomm works with Europeans afflicted by Alzheimer’s in Thailand, while she tries to sort out her own life as a struggling single mother.
The Perfect Family (development): A ﬁlm about people who are ﬁlling the gaps in our ever unﬁnished social lives, about those who are happy to play some of the roles we cannot fulﬁll.
Emerging Producers is a promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the Emerging Producers 2020 edition is 15 March, 2019. Click here.
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