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ROTTERDAM 2019 IFFR Pro

Experts at the IFFR Pro Hub panels leave nothing to chance

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- Covering self-presentation and preparing for international markets, this year’s Pro Hub panels armed emerging filmmakers with useful tools to help them get their movies out into the world

Experts at the IFFR Pro Hub panels leave nothing to chance
Laurin Dietrich, Vanja Kaludjercic, Lison Hervé, Charlotte Serrand and Marjorie Bendeck during the “Pitch Your Film to Buyers, Sales Agents, Publicists and Festivals” session (© Melle Meivogel)

The IFFR Pro Hub panels (26-30 January), organised by IFFR Pro during International Film Festival Rotterdam, provided a way in for filmmakers wishing to meet the professionals attending this year’s Pro Days (CineMart and Reality Check), as well as an opportunity to hone their as-yet untested skills. Directors and their producers had the chance to arrange one-on-one meetings and listen to experienced professionals sharing their insight on what makes a film work – be it at an international market, at an A-list festival, on Twitter or during a few minutes-long pitch. 

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The event kicked off with “Make the Most of the Film Festival”, moderated by Wendy Mitchell and featuring the participation of IFFR programmer Léo Soesanto, filmmakers and producers Babak Jalali and Dominga Sotomayor, sales agent Tejinder Jouhal (HanWay Films), industry consultant Hayet Benkara and Paolo Bertolin (the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight). It was followed by “Film, Art and Commissioned Works” and “The Power of Social Media: Using Its Language in Storytelling and Criticism”, organised as part of the Rabbit Hole thematic programme, with contributions from Eric Allen Hatch, art collective ClusterduckYoana Pavlova and Aapo Nikkanen.

On 27 January, during “The Perfect Match – The Director/Producer Relationship”, Hayet Benkara encouraged filmmakers (or, as she called them, “creators”) Bani Khoshnoudi and Elsa Reyes Garcés (the team behind Fireflies, a drama about an Iranian immigrant in Mexico presented at the festival), Caetano Gotardo and Lara Lima (Your Bones and Your Eyes), and Simona Kostova and Ceylan Ataman-Checa (Thirty [+see also:
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) to discuss the specifics of their professional relationship – a relationship that requires a firm belief in the project, but also honesty and a critical eye. “I wanted to take my time, and Elsa’s enthusiasm and initiative were very important to me,” admitted director Khoshnoudi. “My father builds houses, and making a film is very similar. If the foundation is strong, the rest goes very quickly,” she said, with Benkara summing up: “I have always been interested in relationships because in this industry, you spend your days talking to people, convincing them and charming them. Or being charmed. These panels are made to share.” 

Aside from two pitching sessions, the filmmakers, coached by Bonnie Williams and Marjorie Bendeck, got to test out their newly acquired skills in public during “Pitch Your Film to Buyers, Sales Agents, Publicists and Festivals” (Monday 28 January). Constructive feedback and occasional witticisms were provided by Vanja Kaludjercic (MUBI), Lorna-Lee Torres (Magnolia Pictures), Laurin Dietrich (WOLF), film consultant and development producer Delly ShiraziLison Hervé (Stray Dogs) and Charlotte Serrand (La Roche-sur-Yon International Film Festival). The experts encouraged the visibly nervous participants – who were touting projects ranging from the already finished Sisters of the Wilderness, through Brain Follmer’s flick Untitled, described as “Black Mirror with the strangeness of The Lobster [+see also:
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”, to Dinosaur, pitched by Almudena Monzú, about old men who are convinced that they will be rejuvenated after sucking their young Cuban boyfriends’ blood – to give an idea of the tone of the film, while also adding some concrete information about the project, preferably at the beginning. As pointed out by Kaludjercic, learning to “tighten up the story” is crucial. “Reading about a project on paper and seeing you present it are two different things. If there is authenticity, you can feel the passion behind it.” Also, while personal touches are always welcomed, it’s advisable to remain professional. “Your energy reminded me of someone reading a children’s story. It was entertaining, but if you pitch to potential co-producers, you can tone it down to make it a bit more serious,” advised Dietrich.

Tough love also came courtesy of international consultant Marika Kozlovska during her informative presentation “How to Deliver Your Film and Develop an International Market Strategy” (29 January), which was followed by “Maximise the International Potential of Your Film and Reach an Audience”. “By working with at least 30 projects a year, I’ve learnt that the feedback from the industry, or the lack thereof, will already show you the result of the film. I understand how much you want it to be seen, but it’s your wish, and maybe others don’t share it,” she said, pointing out that while there is no magic formula, sometimes you only get one chance to impress. Kozlovska also listed, in great detail, what should be done in order to secure the international career of the film, from choosing the right festival, through figuring out what the movie’s audience is, to establishing relationships with journalists, producers, sales agents, programmers, funds and promotional agencies. But, as she pointed out repeatedly, it’s really all about research. “Check the company’s portfolio before the meeting. You can’t go to Wild Bunch or The Match Factory and ask: ‘So, what do you do?’ You are supposed to know these things,” she explained. “Every person you meet, keep in touch with and share experiences with them. You don’t have to go to every single market, but it’s an investment you have to consider.” But that’s only after first setting out your aims, establishing your target audience and figuring out the potential of the filmmakers you work with. “As Albert Einstein once said, life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving,” she told Cineuropa. “So keep on moving at international markets by being present, preparing sufficiently and bringing your films to the audience.” 

The event was rounded off by “The Perfect Score: The Craft of the Composer/Filmmaker Collaboration” with director Ena SendijarevićElla van der WoudeVincent Sinceretti, and producer and music supervisor Madeleine Molyneaux, who discussed the process of developing the score for Take Me Somewhere Nice [+see also:
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, presented at the festival, in the Tiger Competition.

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