Torsten Frehse • CEO, European Work in Progress
“It's a way to get a first impression of the filmmaker’s ‘signature’, which is especially important with younger directors”
by Teresa Vena
- In Cologne, ongoing film projects will be presented as works in progress to a professional network of producers, distributors and festival programmers
From 17-19 October, the fifth edition of European Work in Progress (EWIP) will take place in Cologne. The initiative was instigated by German distributors' association AG Verleih, represented by Torsten Frehse, who is also the CEO of EWIP. Frehse is the founder of Berlin-based distributor Neue Visionen and has 25 years of experience in the field. We spoke to him about the aims of the platform, its structure and its target audience.
Cineuropa: How does EWIP differ from other production markets?
Torsten Frehse: We are bridging a gap. There have been more and more platforms for works in progress popping up in recent years. Until now, however, they were a special feature of the Eastern European markets; there were very few in Central Europe. This was because the financing situation there was somewhat different. In Eastern Europe, people were more often looking for gap financing, and the overall budgets were usually lower. So we are focusing on Central Europe, and we want to facilitate co-productions and basic financing as well as different forms of funding. Our programme should be interesting for distributors, sales agents and festivals.
Why is the Cologne Film Festival the best partner for you?
We did some research into the most complementary opportunities, and we talked to different festivals. When we came up with the idea, it was at a time when the Cologne Film Festival was going through a change. It was still called Cologne Conference at the time, and specialised in TV productions. But it wanted to develop more in the direction of cinema. Nevertheless, the connection with television has remained, and that is also interesting for us, as the editors from the broadcasters can also be addressed directly. In addition, we have received a lot of support from the Filmstiftung NRW.
As a distributor, what do you look for at this stage in the films’ progress?
I am someone who, as a distributor, is very interested in the works in progress and who often goes to similar platforms to ours. I get a lot of scripts from which I have to judge a film. Besides this, I like to have the chance to see a film as a work in progress. It's a nice, “middle” form. At this stage, it's certain that the movie will be finished. It's a way to get a first impression of the filmmaker’s “signature”, which is especially important with younger directors. Work-in-progress presentations have become more important in the last ten to 15 years because technological developments have made them easier than they would have been with 35 mm. In addition, EWIP is right up our alley for us as AG Verleih, a distributors' association. We can roughly assess whether the films will do well on the market. And since we know all of the market players, we also have a sense of who would be interested in such a platform.
How are the various projects selected?
The projects are submitted, and that results in about 75-80 projects being reviewed. What is important is the production stage of the film and the fact that it must not yet have distribution.
How are the projects then presented on site? What are the rules?
For each project, a maximum of eight minutes from the film can be shown. It must not be a trailer, but excerpts from the movie. Then the producers are interviewed on stage. They give information about the status of the film, and they state what they need. Because of the moderation and the time limit, the presentations are very standardised, so that the same conditions exist for everyone. This is also important for the jury. Of course, it then depends on the individual participants how committed and creative they are.
This year, you are collaborating with the TorinoFilmLab for the first time. What synergies do you expect to achieve with this?
The TorinoFilmLab is a highly renowned platform, and we complement each other very well because Torino doesn't have its own work-in-progress strand. But the films are supervised there, even before production starts. That's a seal of quality for the projects.
What other events are planned this year in addition to the pitching sessions?
We have several key case studies again, where we compare the distribution campaigns of different films. We also have a new conference, the International Distribution Summit, which is for distributors and world sales agents, and will focus on innovative concepts in distribution. One of the focal points will also be the topic of green distribution, and we also want to discuss how we, as distributors and world sales agents, can work more closely with cinemas in terms of generating customer loyalty.
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