The producer incubator

"The more co-producers you bring on board, the more voices you are bringing to the project," is just one of many pearls of wisdom passed unto promising producers by their experienced colleagues at the 5-day training workshop Rotterdam Lab. Organized by CineMart and running for sixteen years now, the 2016 edition of Rotterdam Lab welcomed 61 producers from 24 countries, originating from diverse film industries as Singapore, Egypt, Latin America, Europe or U.S.

By IFFR Young Film Critic Martin Kudláč

"We have emerging producers, producers that have either made a couple of shorts or made one feature film, and we have experienced producers but only with local experience with intention to conquer the international market. And we try to keep that balance," says the attending demographics Inke Van Loocke, zooming into the type of 'labbies' - as they are known in the festival vernacular - the workshop is tailored for. David Pope, the lab´s moderator and consultant for the last eight years shines a light on the selection process: “The producers in the Lab are selected by partner organisations. This could be national screen agencies or producers´ organisations.

The first day a pitching session was followed by a pitching training and the next day this was concluded by pitching in front of experts, putting the training into practice. “The programme is not focused on the projects the producers are working on themselves, as much as on their own development as producers,” adds Van Loocke. The Lab´s organisers have their finger on the pulse reassures Pope: “it is a changing landscape, the conversations also evolve for example in terms of distribution platforms. We are sensitive and inclusive to the programme, but also to the universal commonalities in producing that never change – developing and maintaining creative and business relationships, communication, sharing of ideas...”

Marleen Slot, the founder of the production company Viking Film, presented a case study on two films co-produced by Viking Film that screen at the current edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam: the Hivos Tiger Award competing title Oscuro Animal and the award-swooping film Neon Bull. Slot spoke candidly about the co-production process between Latin America and Europe, revealed the technicalities of budget building in detailed financial vivisection.

Leadership resonated strongly in Katriel Schory´s speech who has been the executive director of the Israel Film Fund for the last 17 years. Schory, a veteran in film industry who financed 230 films, stressed out professional integrity, creative discipline and risk-taking. He noted that there actually two leaders on a film project, director and producer, although producer “manages time, money and creative people.” Schory not only went through the producers´ touchstones but managed to deliver it in a almost motivational speech format, elevating the spirits of the promising producers.

“The great elements of the Rotterdam Lab are the networking opportunities. You have a chance to meet up-and-coming producers and you can see what people are starting to do in other countries, you start to see the future producers. I had already a chance to talk to some of them about some co-production opportunities and we had some discussions with people from Asia and Europe,” says David Herrera from Bogota who is no stranger to such programmes, having attended DocMontevideo or Power to the Pixel among others. “Other great things are the masterclasses and expert meetings. We had a very diverse and open range on various divisions for example advices and feedback from sales agents, distributions, crowd-funding and marketing”, summarises Herrera complimenting another side of the Rotterdam Lab. “We were able to meet experts and industry professionals, CineMart invited very experienced people who were really accessible. They were quite open in letting us know what they thought about your projects.”

Making the best out of the networking opportunities is one of the intentions of the Lab´s organisers. “What I feel is the strength of Rotterdam Lab, is that the workshop is parallel to CineMart. We try to participate as much as possible on the events organised by CineMart. At the beginning of the programme, we encouraged everybody “If you can make it to the meetings, do it,” says Loocke.

“I really hope to come back in the future,” concludes Herrera before his final session. The Rotterdam Lab is supposed to open doors for promising filmmakers and build lasting bridges for future business arrangements, whether in terms of coproduction or grant opportunities. “We invite all the participants to come back to CineMart as guests the next year. They can reconnect with everybody they met the last time. Hopefully, some of them will apply for CineMart. We have past labbies who are now at CineMart with their own projects. We also try to connect them to the festival,” Loocke highlights the pragmatics of the workshop.