Film-makers across Europe are “in shock” after learning the news that the Nipkow Programm has not received backing from the EU’s Creative Europe programme for 2015-2016.
Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily, Nipkow Programm managing director Petra Weisenburger explained that the Berlin-based training initiative had not been successful in the latest round of funding for the next two years and would explore alternative strategies for a survival plan.
In the current financial year, Creative Europe had provided nearly 46% (€180,400) of Nipkow’s overall budget, with the remaining €215,543 coming from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg (MBB) and Germany’s State Minister for Culture and the Media (BKM).
Weisenburger said that MBB’s CEO Kirsten Niehuus had already indicated a desire to see the Nipkow Programm continue to exist, but the situation remains unclear about the funding from BKM for 2015 onwards.
She added that the Nipkow Programm jury of experts will meet during the next Berlinale in February to discuss the initiative’s future strategy.
Founded in 1992, the training programme has spent more than 20 years helping talented film and media professionals to develop successful European co-productions that meet the demands of the pan-European market.
Close to 500 filmmakers from across Europe were selected in this period in two participant categories. The first was as participants developing concrete projects during their stay in Berlin such as Alice Rohrwacher with The Wonders, Bence Fliegauf with Womb, and Mira Fornay with My Dog Killer
The second was as participants without projects who had internships organised at Berlin-based companies as part of their fellowship, such as Jovan Marjanovic, now head of industry at Sarajevo Film Festival and Bosnia & Herzegovina’s representative at Eurimages.
In addition, workshops on topical issues in the film industry have been organised to bring both kinds of participants together in an exchange of experiences and knowhow.
While the fellowships lasted for up to 12 months in the initial years, the Nipkow Programme’s grants are now for stays of between one and four months in Berlin
Veritable roll call
The list of Nipkow Programm’s fellows reads like a roll call of European arthouse cinema with such names as Georgian film-makers Nana Djordjadze and Dito Tsintsadze, Ben Hopkins and John Burgan (UK), writer/director Razvan Radulescu (Romania), Bakhtiar Khudoinazarov (Tadzhikistan), Oleg Novkovic (Serbia), Sergei Loznitsa (Ukraine), Kornél Mundruczó and Sacha Polak (The Netherlands), Maria Drandaki (Greece), Christos Georgiou (Cyprus), Alvaro Brechner (Spain), and producers Leslie Hills (Scotland), Viktoria Petranyi (Hungary), Uljana Kim (Lithuania) and Sarita Sharma (Germany).
And the 2014 line-up of fellows coming to Berlin continues the tradition of diversity with such participants as writer/director Noaz Deshe, German DoP Martin Farkas, Dutch producer Marleen Slot, Irish crossplatform creator Noel Qualter, Bosnian producer Adis Djapo,Bulgarian documentary director Jordan Todorov and Polish director Justyna Tafel.
Nipkow Programm fellows have racked up numerous festival invitations, awards and distinctions (including Oscar nominations) for the projects they had developed during their residency in Berlin.
This year’s Cannes Film Festival proved a highlight in the programme’s history with its own “Magnificent Seven” of former participants represented in the festival programme.
These included 2011 fellow Alice Rohrwacher, who received the International Competition’s Grand Prix for her debut The Wonders, while the Prix Un Certain Regard was presented to alumni Kornél Mundruczó and Viktoria Petranyi for their drama White God.
Thanassis Karathanos, a fellow in 1997, was represented in the International Competition with his production of Clouds of Sils Maria. And director Sergei Loznitsa presented his documentary Maidan as a special screening and was also invited along with fellow director Vladimir Perisic and producer Jovan Marjanovic for the omnibus project Bridges of Sarajevo.
This has been followed, among others, by Maria Drandaki’s production of A Blast in competition in Locarno in August and Marcell Gerö and Sára Lászlo’s documentary Cain’s Children screening at San Sebastian and Amsterdam’s IDFA.
Speaking to ScreenDaily at last week’s FilmFestival Cottbus where she was a member of the international jury, Georgia’s Nana Djordjadze said: “I am really in complete shock - this can’t be. It’s impossible for me to imagine that this programme might not exist anymore.
“I participated in the Nipkow Programm in its second year (1993) and it was the most important step for my career as a film-maker because it gave me the chance to meet people from all over Europe and from different parts of the film industry.”
During her Nipkow fellowship, Djordjadze worked on the screenplays of the feature projects A Chef In Love - later nominated for an Oscar - and 27 Missing Kisses and found German co-producers in Berlin.
Surprise and sadness
ScreenDaily obtained exclusive access to some of the letters sent to the MEDIA Training unit of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) and MEDIA unit head Sari Vartiainen by past and present Nipkow Programme fellows to express their surprise, shock and sadness at the funding decision.
UK writer-director Jason Barker, who was awarded a six-month fellowship in 2009 to develop a film project which later became commissioned by ZDF as Marx Reloaded and then broadcast by Arte in 2011, spoke of “a disastrous decision which will impact negatively on a large and important minority sector of the independent film industry in Europe”.
“Now is precisely the time for Europe’s public bodies to be supporting the creative industries against the small-minded austerity policies of national governments,¨ Barker wrote.
¨Filmmakers like myself are not only artists, we are taxpayers.“
Russian director Alexander Zeldovich (Moskva, Target) added: “In the current situation when the European film industry is encountering several economical, political and ideological challenges, it would be a shame to shut the Nipkow Programm down.”
Bulgarian producer Anna Stoeva, who had an internship for five months at Barry Films from in 2012/13, suggested that “it would be an incredible loss if one of Europe’s most useful and practical cultural training programmes were to vanish because [of] a lapse of judgement in one of the very first rounds of a new and refurbished Creative Europe that is supposed to lead the European media industries into the future.”
US-born director Nora Hoppe (The Crossing) described the programme as “an especially fertile seedbed of European cinema. Much has been harvested from it and much continues to be harvested. But new seeds to be planted here. We do not want to see Europe deprived of this garden and gradually become a wasteland.”
UK-based film-maker James Pout recalled in his letter to the EACEA that the time spent working on the first draft of his planned feature debut had been “an invaluable part of my career progression”.
Belgian writer-director Kevin Meul, one of the 2014’s selection, explained that Nipkow “offers diversity, creative and practical freedom that allow writers like myself to work in a peaceful environment. In fact, for the first time, it feels like I’m writing in a ‘normal’ situation, meaning I’m only supposed to think about my next work instead of being occupied with ‘survival’.“
Even after their fellowships were over, Nipkow’s participants have continued to benefit from the contacts gained from the (growing) network of fellow film-makers as well as from the programme’s industry experts.
Nipkow was often instrumental as a matchmaker in bringing fellows together with potential production partners, as was the case with Sergei Loznitsa and ma.ja.de’s Heino Deckert.
“Mentioning my Nipkow fellowship opened, opens and will open locked doors for me,“ said Bulgarian film-maker Nadia Koseva.
Israeli writer-director Ron Segal – who was a Nipkow Programme fellow in 2011 and worked on an adaptation of his novel Jeder tag wie heute as an animated feature - described the Nipkow Programm headquarters on Kurfürstendamm as his “cinematic home” in Berlin.
Bulgarian documentary film-maker Jordan Todorov, who has been developing a documentary portrait of the iconic Berlin photographer Will McBride during his stay in Berlin this year, summed the programme up and said: “The Nipkow fellowship is undoubtedly one of the best things that could happen to any young filmmaker.”
In a standard response to the letters of concern from Nipkow fellows, Soon-Mi Peten declared that the decision not to support the Nipkow Programm in this latest funding round “should in no way be considered as reflecting negatively on the value and importance of the Nipkow Programm.¨
¨The decisions are based on the quality of the proposals, as evaluated in accordance with the award criteria set out in the Guidelines and the relative position of each application in comparison to the other proposals submitted as part of the same call for proposals, as well as the budget available for Creative Europe MEDIA – Support to Training,“ she argued.
Former Nipkow Programm fellows and their film industry colleagues are now being invited to add their names to a petition asking the EACEA to reconsider its decision at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/petition-for-nipkow-programm.
Lost in translation
In a separate issue, new French MEP Marc Joulaud of the European People’s Party group has asked the European Commission whether it intends to publish Creative Europe’s guide on how to apply for a call for proposals in languages other than English.
For the eventuality that the Commission is not planning to translate the guide at least in the two other official EU languages (French and German), Joullard asked: “What steps is it [the Commission] planning to take to make the application procedure simpler and thus provide equal access to EU funding for organisations and civil society in non-English-speaking countries?¨
Creative Europe’s website is still only available in English, although a notice states: “Other language versions will be added shortly.”