This year marks the first Gotham In Progress, a new industry initiative of New York and Paris-based Black Rabbit Films and New Horizons Association (which runs the New Horizons International Film Festival and the American Film Festival).
The initiative is a showcase for US indies that are in the final stages of production, presented to 30 European distributors, sales agents, producers and fest programmers. A jury will choose one winning project to recieve a $60,000 post-production package.
Screen previously reported on the 11 selected projects.
Gotham in Progress, which runs tomorrow through Saturday in Wroclaw in the scope of the American Film Festival (Nov 15-20), is supported by the City of Wroclaw, the Polish Film Institute, and sponsored by Screen International, XDC, Studio L’Equipe, Mact’Ari, Alvernia Studios and FestivalScope.
In advance of GiP, Screen did the following email interview with organisers Adeline Monzier, Urszula Sniegowska, Jan Naszewski & Jakub Duszynski, who responded to questions as a group.
Why did you think that the industry needed something like this event for American projects being presented in Poland?
In all European markets, American cinema certainly has a dominant position. But by American films, we usually mean studio-produced movies, blockbusters, big-budget films that give an entertaining but also a formulated vision of the United States. Outside this studio-driven system, many quality indie films are made in the United States by passionate filmmakers who believe that they have something different to show and say. But only few of these films find distribution abroad and the statistics show that less and less American indie films have been released in Europe over the last few years. Why is that? Most indie movies lack an international strategy and most European buyers simply are not aware of the existence of these movies because they don’t travel anymore to the big US festivals/events like Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, or Independent Film Week.
This is why we decided to launch a new programme in order to re-connect US indie filmmakers with European buyers. Gotham in Progress, co-organized by Black Rabbit Film and the New Horizons Association (the organiser of the American Film Festival), is indeed the first and only industry event solely devoted to US indies in Europe. This one-of-a-kind program aims at presenting US indie films in post-production to European buyers in order to foster the circulation and distribution of American indies in Europe.
What do you hope will come from the first Gotham In Progress, do you think it will be deals done or more networking and making introductions between producers?
We believe both. The problem today is that even US indie films selected in prestigious European festivals might be overlooked by European buyers. Our objective is to raise awareness of top US indie films before they hit the North American and European festival circuits, so that European buyers can follow their performances. We believe that we will have some deals between US filmmakers and European buyers in the months that follow the event, as a result of this industry gathering. But we also think that the networking part is of huge importance in order to create more bridges between US indie filmmakers and European buyers. Even if the buyers don’t acquire the presented films, they will at least be aware of the films and be able to follow the career of the filmmakers and maybe invest in a future film.
Do you think the indie world is similar in the US as it is in Poland?
Definitely not. The amount of quality films produced outside of the studio system in the US in much bigger than in Poland. Few independent filmmakers have emerged in Poland in recent years. The only exception would be Przemysław Wojcieszek, who started with very low-budget “off-cinema” productions and then went on to present two of his films at the Berlinale and winning the New Polish Films competition at the New Horizons IFF in 2010. Otherwise, there is a predominant feeling that a film needs amazing production value and must therefore cost several millions of zloty. This has probably something to do with the tradition of great cinematography cultivated by the Polish film schools. But this is changing and more people tend to take risks and produce personal films for little money, without compromising on the visual quality. One recent example of a low-budget hit was Marek Lechki’s Erratum (budget of around €250,000), which won Best Debut award in Gdynia and then was shown in Thessaloniki, Mar de Plata, etc. It also got cinema distribution in Poland. This has shown many filmmakers the way.
What do you think Polish and European filmmakers could learn from the US?
For US filmmakers, the production process is even longer and harder than in Europe. Unlike their European colleagues, American producers indeed get no public funding for their films. They have to invest their own money or to look for equity and other sources to finance their films. This explains why the production budgets of US indie films are so low compared to their European counterparts. But despite these very limited financial means, the quality is there: that’s something European filmmakers could learn from the US. A more flexible approach from post-production and equipment rental companies would be great so that the films could be made for less money in return for equity.
And vice versa, do you think the visiting Americans can learn anything from their European counterparts?
The European market and the American market are very different. In the US, indie filmmakers really rely on the North-American Festival premiere to launch the industry career of their films: a good festival screening can bring a good domestic distribution deal and lead to the acquisition of world rights by an American sales agent. In Europe, international sales agents work the other way round: they prefer to be involved before the international or European festival premiere in order to be able to promote and market the movie to potential buyers. This discrepancy leads to a certain misunderstanding between the two continents: when American filmmakers try to reach the European market, it’s often too late, i.e. their films are already considered as too “old” by European industry people. This is why American filmmakers should include European distribution perspectives earlier in the production process, if they ever want to reach the European market. And this is exactly the point of our program: present the best of US indie films to European buyers before they hit the festival circuit.
What are your hopes for Gotham In Progress in future years, do you want it to get bigger or to change in coming years?
This is the first edition, and we’re already very pleased to have such a great line-up with 11 feature films produced by emerging and established filmmakers with no previous exposure in the European market place.
The response of European buyers is also very promising - for this first time programme, about 25 top European sales agents, distributors and fest programmers have confirmed their presence: Wild Bunch (France), Le Pacte (France), Artificial Eye (UK), TrustNordisk (Denmark), HanWay (UK), Memento (France), The Works (UK), Level K (Denmark), Bankside (UK), Soda Pictures (UK), Pretty Pictures (France), Imagine (Belgium), Sophie Dulac (France), Gutek (Poland), East West (Austria), Wide (France), Urban (France), Reel Suspects (France), Artcam (Czech Rep), Cannes (Critic’s Week), Berlinale (Forum), Kaunas IFF.
Of course, we want the program to get bigger and become a key event for European buyers and US indie filmmakers. We are also thinking of adding new activities, like for instance a small coproduction forum to generate more co-productions between the US and Europe.
We strongly believe that Gotham in Progress will become THE destination for US indie filmmakers to connect with European industry and peers and will introduce new voices from America on the European film scene.