Berlin and Edinburgh execs laud festival growth but urge patience.

As Sarajevo gears up to host a string of cultural events in 2014 to commemorate the centennial of the First World War, a panel of film festival experts gathered to discuss how the Sarajevo Film Festival can boost its profile both locally and globally.

The panel comprised Thomas Hailer, programme manager, Berlin International Film Festival; Dave Moutrey, director and CEO, Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, Manchester; Ken Hay, CEO, Edinburgh Film Festival; and Sarajevo’s festival director Mirsad Purivatra.

In reference to Manchester’s 2002 hosting of the Commonwealth Games, Moutrey said: “Hosting a large event is a one off occasion, what is important is a pipeline of events to maintain attention [around the cultural agenda]. In 2007 Manchester invested in the Manchester International Festival, for example. It’s also of key importance to invest in infrastructure year-round.”

The audience heard the amount of money a number of festivals generate in comparison to the amount they receive from state institutions.

According to the panelists, the Berlin Film Festival generates €6 for each euro allocated by the state, Edinburgh £10 for every one and San Sebastian €17 for each euro it receives.

“Part of the problem here is that we start from a budget of practically zero every year and have to fight fight fight for money,” lamented Purivatra.

According to Purivatra, the percentage of the festival’s total budget coming from institutions declined year-on-year from 30% to below 25%.

“But we’re now thinking about what the next steps are and how to find growth,” he added. “We are looking for space, which is hard to find at the moment, for example. We’re also speaking to the British Ambassador about possibly reducing the taxes at the airport. The potential of this festival is enormous.”

Hay said that the key to momentum lies in remaining vigilant: “The key thing is not to be complacent. You need to keep moving forward and challenging yourself and your city and your country about who you are, what you are and how you’re doing it. Edinburgh has had highs and lows, including a dip a few years ago. But that turned out to be very useful. Sometimes the lows bring you back to focus on what is really important.”

However, Hailer echoed an optimistic sentiment expressed by all the panelists when he urged patience from Sarajevo festival organisers and the public. “Sarajevo has grown very quickly. It is a modern festival. It has all the tools a modern festival needs. It is very connected with its local audience and the needs of industry. It’s not necessary to grow and grow and grow. It’s also important to maintain and consolidate.”

“Growth is incremental. People need to take ownership of the cultural agenda themselves and so do institutions. There needs to be reciprocity,” summarised Moutrey.