Source: Courtesy of Transilvania International Film Festival

Dumitrana Lupu

“Organising this year’s edition of RO Days presented several unique challenges,” says Dumitrana Lupu, now in her third year as head of industry at the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF), overseeing the RO Days Industry Events platform.

“One significant challenge was the integration into the platform of our newest programme, the Full Moon Creative Lab, which specialises in genre TV series such as thriller, horror, and fantasy because, until now, Drama Room was the only series programme we had focusing on [TV] drama,” Lupu explains.

“Another challenge came with the expectations made of us as we celebrated a decade of Transilvania Pitch Stop (TPS) last year. That brought heightened interest in the quality of the event and thus more responsibility for us to pay special attention to every detail.” 

TPS is presenting 10 feature film projects in development from the region to potential co-production partners and financiers at a public pitching session on June 20, followed by one-to-one meetings .

“The selected projects, drawn from around 40 submissions, exhibit a wide range of genres, themes, including dystopian, adventure, drama, coming-of-age, and historical narratives,” Lupu notes.

“There is a strong focus on relationships and personal struggles, exploration on different social issues and historical contexts,” she says. “For example, [Cristian Pascariu’s] A Flower Is Not a Flower and [Mihai Dragolea’s] Grained delve into Romania’s past, while [the two Turkish films] My Happy Family and Dancing Angels address contemporary social issues of family dynamics and personal identity.”

Lupu points out the 2024 TPS line-up features “coming-of-age projects with a focus on young protagonists and female-driven stories to highlight diversity and women’s voices in cinema”.

Projects pitched at TPS that have gone into production and subsequently began international festival careers have included Romanian filmmaker Mihai Mincan’s To The North, Ion Bors’ Moldovan comedy Carbon, and Ukrainian director Maksym Nakonechnyi’s debut feature Butterfly Vision, which premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2022. 

Lupu and her team monitor the progress of projects recently pitched at TPS and report The Talentless by the Serbian filmmaker Radivoje Bukvić, which won the main prize at the pitch platform in 2021 is now in pre-production while one of the Romanian projects from 2022, Where Elephants Go, premiered as part of the Smart7 travelling competition in Vilnius this March. It is now competing in the Romanian Days feature film competition and TIFF’s main competition.

And there is also good news about two projects from the 2023 edition: Tedi Mirea’s dark comedy F.E.Z.Z. is now in post-production and the main prizewinner, Cosmin Nicolae’s war veteran drama Pyrrhic, won one of the Midpoint Consulting Awards at the Connecting Cottbus East-West Co-Production Market in November 2023.

Meanwhile, the industry platform will again be hosting such initiatives as the Drama Room and the Transilvania Talent Lab as well as the final residency of the inaugural Full Moon Creative Lab which is designed for European scriptwriters specialising in genre TV series. 

“This year, the period for submissions to Drama Room was shortened and the number of projects that applied was a bit over 20, a smaller number than in previous years,” Lupu says. Five projects were selected and will be competing for the Drama Room best series project award which offers a development agreement with PRO TV.

“Drama Room is a programme operating at very early stages of the projects,” Lupu explains. “Sometimes, the participants realise during the process it is better to turn their series into a feature. This happened with the project Die, Please by Ioana Mischie last year, which is now in the TPS line-up this year.”

Meanwhile, the three screenwriters participating in the first edition of Full Moon Creative Lab will be at the festival for their third and final residency which will include a pitching session in front of an audience of influential industry professionals. They are Romania’s Adina Istrate with the thriller Aurora, Italy’s Giulio Rizzo with the horror-fantasy project ICU - Immortal Care Unit and Slovenia’s Barbara Skubic with the thriller Negative Split.

During this last residency the participants will continue working on their delivery materials in writers’ rooms guided by their three facilitators, producer Eilon Ratzkovski, scriptwriter and director Geo Doba, screenwriter/producer Arnaud Louvet, and attend masterclasses given by Gabriela Iacob, PRO TV’s head of scripted content development , and producer Jonathan Young whose credits include the TV series Wataha and Cobra .

The winner of the first Full Moon Creative Lab Award, which is co-funded by the European Union with a cash prize of €5,000, will be decided by a jury comprising Mirela Nastase, director, drama at ZDF Studios, Anna Fukuda, drama commissioning editor for Arte France, and veteran UK producer-director Simon Perry.

“We were excited to have received 35 applications for this year’s Transilvania Talent Lab [to be held in Cluj from June 17-22] which has gone back to its origins and has been open to directors, producers and screenwriters up to the age of 35,” Lupu says. “After careful consideration, we selected 12 participants for this year’s Lab. We had initially planned to choose 10 participants from Romania and Moldova, but the quality and potential of the submissions compelled us to expand our selection,”

Meanwhile, although there won’t be a First Cut Lab workshop in Cluj this year, TIFF’s industry platform will be hosting another two programmes - the Docu Rough Cut Boutique and the European Women’s Audiovisual Network (EWA) - giving their participants plenty of opportunities to get to know TIFF’s special family atmosphere and to make the most of the networking opportunities on offer during RO Days.