Janneke Staarink: We might need new models.

Janneke Staarink has been the Managing Director of IFFR since 2010. From 2010 to 2014 she and Rutger Wolfson were both the board and management; since last year she has done the same with Bero Beyer. Bero and Janneke will take turns blogging about their experiences and ideas for the festival.

At this festival we collaborate with a large number of parties: companies, the local council, the state, the audience, filmmakers, film professionals, other festivals and institutions, to name but a few of the most important ones. As the Managing Director I do business with a plethora of different people and I encounter many cooperation styles. Together with my colleagues I am increasingly aware that the models we use may no longer be the models of the future. To me these observations are always fascinating.

As is the case in many sectors of industry, the world of cinema is in transition: film companies are collapsing, the internet is creating entirely new distribution frameworks and there is – in my opinion justified – criticism of the film industry’s lack of diversity. We really need to work on that. IFFR also develops continuously. That’s part and parcel of being a festival, but at IFFR it’s also in its DNA as far as I’m concerned. As per usual we will pay close attention to new developments and where relevant try to get involved. We see a lot of opportunities. That’s a cliché, but as is often the case, there’s a kernel of truth to it. Flexibility and the will to respond and reflect are part of how we work: on the basis of an open attitude and unfettered ambition. That attitude is extremely important to me and I can safely say that our organisation is structured around the former. We have composed a fabulously skilled, open minded, relentlessly energetic and flexible team. I now know that few organisations have staff with the attitude displayed by my colleagues at IFFR. In my view that is the only way to really move forward as an organisation. At the same time, it feels like a massive luxury.

Storytelling in virtual reality

We have recently started collaborating with VR Days Europe a festival that focuses on virtual reality as multi-disciplinary practice: in art, but also psychology, in businesses, politics and games. As yet we do not know where or what this cooperation will lead to exactly, but we share the same drive to innovate and discover. And that is what such a new cooperation is all about for me. We are both open to new developments and want to learn from each other. For instance, VR Days Europe is interested in how we have created a comprehensive infrastructure to help film productions develop and to find funding for the latter using our co-production market CineMart. As a festival we are looking for our role in the world of virtual reality. The VR world seems to do well at cooperating with the business community: VR is, for example, already used in the medical and construction sectors while the development of fiction films that we as a film festival focus on is basically still in its infancy. That’s interesting because such a new medium changes a lot for storytelling. Viewers no longer ‘passively’ watch a screen as they do when watching a film, but are part of a world and have to ‘act’ in it. As we already witnessed in workshops, the actors also have to reorient themselves with this in mind. As do directors as they suddenly have to word their directions differently and will have to write scripts in new ways. And what about subtitling for example? VR is developing exponentially and that is the most interesting phase to be involved in: you can learn a great deal, share your own knowledge, but also direct developments and help shape them. For the coming edition we will primarily inventory what the issues are for future VR filmmakers and ascertain whether we can help fund a couple of projects. Afterwards, we will thoroughly evaluate matters in order to determine our future role.

Succes is usually no coincidence

Exchanging ideas and expertise is definitely not limited to the technological domain. It is just as important in the city. This is why we have launched the new brand Rotterdam Xpanded in conjunction with Kunsthal Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. A cooperation aimed at attracting more foreign visitors to Rotterdam at various times of the year using a top-flight, international programme. We thereby decided to give the old structure – a cultural institution has an ambitious plan, goes in search of funding, programmes something which results in people coming to town for it, a large number of parties benefit from the success and the new audience but nothing floats back to the cultural institutions – that structure we wanted to give a radical makeover. We want to see whether the parties who benefit at the end of the chain of successful programming in the city could be involved from the start. Because as far as I’m concerned together you can agree on success in advance, in a joint force between institutions, the local council and the business community. Success is usually not a coincidence. To this end, all these parties gain a say in scheduling (when the programming will be) and the profiling. So far, all the parties we have spoken to agree with the basic premise. Now all that remains is for more parties to join in to make the concept really take off. Further convincing them of that then suddenly seems very much like the old structure… so we still have a long way to go!

As a festival we continue to seek out new ties and initiatives that can make us more resilient as an organization, more outwardly appealing and allow us to play a meaningful role in the various sectors we operate in. Whether that be film or as one of the major players in Rotterdam.