After three and a half days of intense Rotterdam Lab activity, producers Yvonne Wellie and Casey Cooper Johnson described their experience (so far) to IFFR Pro.
German producer Wellie was nominated by Film und Medien Stiftung NRW and works with Cologne-based Weydemann Bros. Californian Johnson is based in Kosovo, where he is developing his feature debut Zana with Antoneta Kastrati. He was nominated by the Kosova Film Centre.
"In a nutshell Rotterdam Lab has been a real crash course for me," commented Johnson. "I know a lot about on the ground actual production and shooting but this whole thing, the workshops and the roundtables, has really taken me through a very good intensive on co-productions, co-financing, marketing strategies, deliverables. On that level it has been amazing as I have a ton of real practical information… Co-production is more fluid and flexible, but a slow beast. It seems like a fantastic way for financing films, a very community oriented approach. Just seeing how this European approach to co-production really engenders a very community-oriented way of supporting each other throughout our careers. It is very supportive."
Wellie was equally enthusiastic. "The Lab not only fulfills my expectations but exceeds them," she said. Wellie has been seeking out international co-producers for future projects. "In our company we are doing cinema fiction films for national and international cinema, and we did some co-productions over the last years but we wanted to go further with this [La sed, Claudia Pedraza] and find new partners. I am very interested in the Lab colleagues who are more or less at the same stage as producers as I am. I think there is great creativity we can combine by cooperating."
Added Johnson: "My first aim was to find the established industry people that weren’t in the Lab, but I have found in the past days that the 56 producers in this lab provide a wealth of insight, potential collaborations, so that has been a really pleasant surprise to find such an amazing group of people to get to know very quickly."
Immediate connection to the Industry
Rotterdam Lab manager Inke van Loocke articulated the offer to filmmakers and producers. "I think the strength of the Rotterdam Lab is that it is an in-market lab, so what we do for the producers is not only offer them a programme but also a much more immediate connection to the industry. The programme is closely connected to CineMart, participants attend all social events, and the speakers invited are CineMart regulars. This makes it much easier for them to find their connections when they are here for the first time, or never attended a market before. We also support them when they want to take meetings for their own projects, and I think that is one of the strengths of the Rotterdam Lab. It is a crossover, so whether you are a beginning producer or a more experienced producer it is equally interesting. Especially because in the Lab, there are around 24 countries represented, so the producers also learn a lot from one another and build long lasting international relationships."
"People can feel really free to express their own experiences, talk about their successes but their own hardships as well which makes it a very supportive environment to be in."