Erol Mintaş • Founder and artistic director, Academy of Moving People and Images
“The initiative has stimulated debate on diversity issues and inclusion within the Finnish industry”
- The non-institutional academy founded by the Helsinki-based filmmaker is an open platform teaching “mobile people” the crafts of filmmaking
We took the opportunity to speak to Erol Mintaş, founder and artistic director of the Academy of Moving People and Images (AMPI). The non-institutional academy, based in Helsinki, represents a commendable educational effort to make the film industry more inclusive. Every two years, a group of eight to 12 “mobile people” are selected by a jury consisting of the director himself, the academy’s lecturers and the members of its advisory board. We found out more about the AMPI’s activities during our chat with the Kurdish filmmaker.
Cineuropa: What is the AMPI’s main mission?
Erol Mintaş: As you might imagine, diversity and discovering new voices have always been an issue for me as a filmmaker, coming from a Kurdish background and trying to make my films in Turkey. So the challenge was to create spaces for everyone where they could tell their own stories. The idea has been with me for a long time. When I moved to Finland in 2017, I was planning to make a one-week workshop with “mobile people” – namely, people arriving in Finland for different reasons, be they immigrants, asylum seekers, students or employees – and make a short together. Then I was looking for the location and some support to organise that, and I realised that it wasn’t enough to challenge the system and the structural problems of the industry. So, I started to think about how to involve the industry and the institutions in the process, and put them in a position where they could take more responsibility as the gatekeepers.
As of today, the AMPI is a platform for mobile/moving people. We aim to create a new learning model and a sustainable pedagogical platform where people who have arrived in Finland from different backgrounds get to co-work and learn together. Because of our philosophy and mission, we prefer to keep it “non-institutional” and “unregistered”. We dream of initiating change to re-build a discrimination-free film industry in Finland and abroad.
What subjects do you teach?
As a group of lecturers, we come from different backgrounds. We teach creative writing, film theory, screenwriting, script development, directing, acting, producing, editing, sound, cinematography and lighting. Our participants start from the study of creative writing, then they develop their script, learn other filmmaking tasks during the process, pitch it to some industry reps and, once ready, they enter pre-production. Our teaching is mostly hands-on, and the classes follow the entire filmmaking process step by step. So, for example, when they enter production, we host some of the directing, cinematography and sound classes on the sets, and so on. All of the students work on each other’s projects and perform the essential roles on the set. Once they wrap filming, we start post-production classes and later organise graduation screenings. The first graduation screening took place in Helsinki’s Bio Rex Cinemas in January 2020, and we managed to pack out the theatre. The initiative stimulated debate on diversity issues and inclusion within the Finnish industry. We hope this will bring some specific changes in the existing structure of the industry.
What about AMPI+?
Besides our main programme, with the AMPI+ initiative, we organise some advanced workshops for mobile filmmakers who have some prior experience. These normally last one to two weeks. So far, we have organised directing, editing, lighting and cinematography, screenwriting and acting workshops under the AMPI+ banner.
Who are your partners?
We have already received funding from the Kone Foundation, which supports the main costs of running the academy – for instance, the working grants for the lecturers until the end of 2022 and the acquisition of some filming equipment. The non-institutional nature of the academy, however, makes things challenging when it comes to funding. For the time being, we’ve got many partners on board, such as the Aalto University, the Finnish branch of the Goethe-Institut, Artlab Productions, G.A.P., HIAP, the Design Museum of Helsinki, the Finnish Film Foundation (SES), the Museum of Impossible Forms, Taidekoulu MAA, Caisa, Publics and the Helsinki Vocational Adult Institute. But those institutions are not investing any funds; they merely provide us with a fee-free space for our workshops. Since we’re not structured, and because of how essential it is to be mobile in between those institutions, our classes and workshops take place in different venues offered by our partners – for example, one can take place at the Finnish Film Foundation, another in the Design Museum of Helsinki, and so on. The direct involvement of the institution raises their awareness, and in addition, it helps our students connect with them. Moreover, we have an advisory board, which supports our activities and helps students network.
Are you looking for new partners?
Yes, we’re always open to new collaborations and need more support. At the moment, we’re developing new partnerships with institutions based in Sweden, Istanbul and Berlin. We dream of creating a network for the academy where filmmakers can exchange knowledge and experience across borders.
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