Paola Gazzani Marinelli

Source: GIFF/ Kenza Wadimoff

Paola Gazzani Marinelli

The biggest-ever Geneva Digital Market (GDM) is taking place this week, bringing together groundbreaking creators and technology with traditional filmmakers looking to keep up with the latest innovations in the field. 

The 10th edition of the industry platform of Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF) is running November 7-11 as an hybrid event for the second year in a row – reflecting the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic – with an emphasis on virtual, augmented and extended reality (XR) storytelling.

“The big difference this year is that we have a more balanced, geographic representation from all across Europe and beyond,” says Paola Gazzani Marinelli, who has been head of digital and professional programs since GDM’s birth in 2014. “Last year, it was still a ‘Covid, not Covid’ time and I am looking forward to people coming in person to see our studio, to see people on site and in person. We have a lots of people coming from Finland, Denmark and Norway this year.”

As one of the first film festivals to spotlight immersive filmmaking, GDM gathers the industry together to mull the latest trends in this field and provide a platform for new and upcoming titles from Europe, Asia and North America.

Leading creatives in the field will be in town including Taiwan director Jimmy Cheng, Brazil artist, creator, developer, director and writer Lucas Rizzotto, Iranian XR creator Arash Akbari and Michaela Ternasky-Holland, head of XR at renowned US company Games for Change.

One of GDM’s signature events is the XR Coproduction Session of 15 European projects in development or pre-production seeking co-production partners. “We have projects from Italy, projects from Portugal, projects from Lithuania among others and I’m pretty happy about that,” Marinelli says. 

Titles include Kvöldvaka, from Danish-American creator Dane Christensen. A Denmark- Iceland-Hungary co-production, the development project is billed as a playful mobile AR documentary inspired by Icelandic folklore.

Another pitch is Mylings, a VR experience based on Scandinavian folk beliefs conceived to warn women from having children out of wedlock. Swedish director, producer and writer Uta Arning is developing the Sweden-Germany production set during the early 19th century about the daughter of a teenage mother who turns into a “myling” creature after being abandoned in the woods.

Portugal-Brazil co-production Queer Utopia, being developed by Brazilian director Lui Avallos, details the story of a 70-year-old queer man who tries to revisit intimate and contradictory memories from his past to remind himself of feelings of danger, pleasure and shame.

And Lithuania creator Tomas Tamosaitis is showcasing Eyes Of Shame, a French, Slovenian, Lithuanian project about a troubled fourteen year old teenage girl.

“We are now in a period where artists really have the knowledge and a certain maturity working within this medium,” notes GDM’s Marinelli. “The projects in the development stage chosen to participate are already good.”

The Swiss Interactive Sessions, showcasing 10 local digital productions to international programmers and curators, will run alongside the XR Coproduction Session.

Where VR meets film 

“Filmmakers need to know more about how to create VR works. They need to be more open to dialogue with people from the games developer side, people from the 3D unit developers, from others,” suggests Marinelli. “International filmmakers need to know that to create a VR work, it’s not only the filmmaker, it’s a very big team behind each work.”

GDM is hosting several talks and panel discussions across the five days. ‘VP Toolkit for film professionals’, is produced by GDM content consultant and Cannes NEXT and Marche du Film and Accelerate head Sten-Kristian Saluveer. Panelists include award-winning Norwegian film director and cinematographer Jannicke Mikkelsen whose specialises in fringe-technology and next-gen movie production. Mikkelsen’s work spans virtual production, remote production, virtual cinematography, live-stream, 3D stereography, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), Brain-Computer Interface (BCI). Her immersive and recent credits include virtual cinematographer on augenschein Production’s space thriller Stowaway starring Anna Kendrick.

She will be joined by Patrick Morris, director and co-founder of Paris and Barcelona-based Appia Agency, an LED screen shoot specialist and the virtual production manager of more than 40 shoots, Nordisk Film Shortcut VFX veteran Martin Madsen from Denmark, whose credits include Only God Forgives, and the UK’s Louisa Bremner, a consulting virtual production supervisor at the Lux Machina outfit. Bremner’s credits include films and TV projects such as House of the Dragon, Matrix 4 and Death On The Nile.

Further talks will mull crypto currencies and public-private financing models, the “gameification” of cinema and how to shoot a movie in the metaverse - while examining what the metaverse actually  is. 

The experts taking part include Helsinki-based Laura Olin, COO of leading virtual European studio ZOAN and founder of Baptiste Planche, head of fiction at Swiss broadcaster SRF, and Finland’s Mikko Kodisoja, founder and CEO of virtual production company Fireframe Studios. 

A keynote from BetaSeries CEO Remi Tereszkiewicz will examine how TV shows are used by SVOD and AVOD players to attract, retain and monetise their audiences.

In addition, the GDM’s Digital Night will bring together more than 400 XR creators together in reality while the Foundation for Digital Creation will present the first results of a study on Swiss digital creation and set out its plans for the future on the same day.

The Geneva International Film Festival runs until November 13.