Recap IFFR PRO Days 2017
By Nick Cunningham
Even co-production markets undergo self-analysis. CineMart did so over the past year, and what emerged was a shift in emphasis from project and lab activity towards shaping the industry of tomorrow. Propellor looks to pick the pockets of smart innovators from parallel industries in order to improve the film business sector. Boost NL was devised to help get great film projects to final completion through highest-level mentoring, and VR Days is looking to clear away the fog from around the virtual reality sector to determine how its practitioners can turn a profit.
Part of the problem
The existential musing is set to continue into 2017 as CineMart, alongside its fellow European and international co-pro markets, determines how best to continue the business of facilitating the development of new films - especially when there is little guarantee that release platforms can be found for many of them.
"We too may be part of the problem," stresses IFFR director Bero Beyer. "Last year we tried to question the idea that maybe to some extent training programmes and nurturing programmes are actually part of the problem, offering up a certain kind of film that is sealed and delivered within a certain context, and then thrown out into the marketplace, and guess what, they don't really work. And they are skewing what the process is."
...we are trying to broaden the scope of what we are doing as a film community
"We have hosted CineMart for decades now, one of the biggest co-production markets," he continues. "But is it a logical thing to be continuing in its current shape? Isn't it logical to be thinking of other models? Which is why the whole idea that we are having with the Propellor initiative is that we are trying to broaden the scope of what we are doing as a film community."
Shake it up
"But we have to be really aware that we are not just broadening the community but that we really shake it up, in terms of the kinds of films that we show but also realizing that we have a very distinct responsibility in who and what become part of that community. All festivals do. We select, we curate, we put things up, and we play a much bigger role in the life of filmmakers and their careers than is sometimes warranted. Luckily other things happen in other ways as well because it is not a given that things stay the same. In fact the only given is that things will not stay the same. So to embrace that as an inspiration is part of the fun of what IFFR tries to do."
Head of CineMart/IFFR Pro Marit van den Eslhout takes up the argument: "We have to figure out how we are going to implement a lot of the things that we have been doing during this festival into a new action plan for next year. We can only be the facilitator and the platform, and we can create the best atmosphere there is for people, but I think ultimately, when it comes to effecting change, the industry has to do it. Which is why I think Propellor is such a great platform and why we also formed the Think Tank group that is looking at the future of co-pro markets."
"You don't want to be too pedagogical but I think we need to take a step back and say 'ok it is nice that we are catering to all of these very talented filmmakers, and it is nice that we are creating this but it is up to you now to move forward in your career'."
Beyer argues that this self-assessment is both healthy and essential. "It is not a matter of shooting ourselves in the foot - in fact it is quite the opposite," he underlines. "It is opening the window. It is trying to be more creative. It is trying to embrace what is new instead of being afraid of it. Instead of retreating to a little corner and saying that cinema is just this. No, cinema is images, it is time, it is work, it is technology, it is what matters."
"So we have something like the Nuts and Bolts programme of what cinema was at the beginning, a light through a prism or a shadow on a way, and then yesterday we began to address what VR as a narrative and business concept may be. Cinema started as spectacle, but what can you really do on a content level to really go one step further. At the same time doing stuff like seeing whether the cinematic experience itself can be renewed and changed. That is very much Rotterdam, and I hope it will lead to more creativity and also a healthy business environment."