Four festival directors from Transilvania, IndieLisboa, Thessaloniki and New Horizons came together for the latest edition of ScreenDaily Talks - held in partnership this time with Transilvania IFF (TIFF) – to discuss how their festivals contribute to boosting their respective local (and regional) film industries and forging those all-important connections with the wider international film community. 

Watch the session above.

“TIFF started as a strictly audience festival when it was launched in 2002,” recalled TIFF artistic director Mihai Chirilov. “That was our main priority because we needed to bring the audience back [to the cinema].” 

A formalised industry strand was introduced in 2014 with the Transilvania Pitch Stop (TPS) which was designed to support co-productions with neighbouring countries within the region.

“More and more titles started as projects in Cluj and then ended up at festivals where they were awarded prizes,” Chirilov said. “Last night, for example, we had the national premiere here of the Romanian film The Father Who Moves Mountains by Daniel Sandu, which was the winner of the first TPS pitch edition in 2014.

“Like other regional festivals, we have our closed screenings of brand new local films at work-in-progress stage to be presented to sales agents and festival programmers and have introduced several new initiatives this year to provide fresh impulses to recognise the emerging importance of TV drama for producers.”

Thus, TIFF has launched the Drama Room workshop to focus on the developing and producing high-end series and the Full Moon script contest for genre films and TV series.

In addition, TIFF has become the latest festival to host the First Cut Lab programme to offer expert advice to three Romanian projects currently in the rough- cut stage.

While TIFF’s co-production platform selects projects from afar as Turkey, Georgia and Russia in addition to local ones from Romanian and Moldova, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival’s net is cast even wider, covering the Balkan region as well as the Eastern Mediterranean from Libya to Lebanon and not forgetting the domestic Greek film scene.

Elise Jalladeau, the festival’s general director, explained that the festival “has to find a balance between being global and focussing on this region”.

A new initiative launched last year was the ‘Meet The Neighbours’ international competition for first and second features from the extended “neighbourhood” as defined by the southern bank of the Danube and the southern shores of the Adriatic and the Black Sea, reaching the estuary of the Nile.

Films selected included Bucharest Seen From Above, Oasis, Malmkrog, and The Death of Cinema and My Father Too..

On the industry side, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival introduced a new programme in 2019 called Meet The Future to showcase promising new feature directors working in Greece.

The initiative was also presented at Thessaloniki’s documentary festival at the end of June/beginning of July this year when the spotlight was then cast outside of Greece on up-and-coming Serbian documentary directors.

Jallideau added: “During the pandemic we curated a programme of short films by Greek as well as international directors on YouTube to give a window onto their work, and we increased the screening fees to support the industry and the producers.”

Similar to the industry strands of other regional film festivals, Thessaloniki has also has an educational component for young professionals from the region - whether it is working with the Locarno Industry Academy International to support budding sales agents, distributors and new media professionals, or with Europa Cinemas for regional exhibitors.

“We try to be as global and comprehensive as possible - from writing to marketing and exhibition,” Jallideau said.

Meanwhile, Carlos Ramos, co-director of the IndieLisboa International Film Festival (21 August - 6 September), explained how the documentary festival programme is complemented by the three-day event of the Lisbon Screenings of Portuguese production which are aimed at international festival programmers, sales agents and distributors showing features and shorts which yet have a premiere or a work in progress, and organising discussions and meetings with the directors.

Another complementary tool of the industry programme to support the local industry is the Portuguese Film Fund dedicated to postproduction support.

National films or co-productions, shorts or features can be submitted to the fund which provides financial support for the sound postproduction or the creation of original music.

The jury decision on the selected projects is then announced during the festival.

Local cinema is also championed by Poland’s New Horizons International Film Festival which will kick off this year in Wroclaw at the slightly later date of August 12.

The centrepiece of New Horizons’ showcase of Polish cinema is the Polish Days - now in its 10th year and being held in a hybrid format from August 15-18.

“This year we will be presenting over 20 new Polish projects at different stages of development, pitching as a project, work in progress or as a completed film,” said festival and artistic director Marcin Pieńkowski. “It’s a place to network, a place to connect Polish producers, institutions, directors, filmmakers and talents with international professionals,”

Polish Days usually has 180 guests, including 100 from abroad, but the scheduling of Locarno, Sarajevo and Karlovy Vary all in August this year means some Wroclaw “regulars” will not be able to make the trip in person this year to Poland. Those who can’t make will be able to participate online as part of the hybrid solution which festivals have had to adopt due to the pandemic.

A further component of New Horizons’ industry programme is its New Horizons Studio+ training programme. Targeted at producers and directors developing their first or second feature, the initiative gives the participants insights into pitching strategies and the promotion of their projects.

The workshops and lectures are not restricted only to Polish projects as participants are selected from other European countries thanks to partnerships with such institutions as the Romanian Institute of Culture, Catalan Films and EAVE.

This year’s line-up of eight director-producer duets includes four projects from Poland and four from Austria, Romania, Ukraine and Spain.