2010 | Berlinale Talents

The Goal is Good Film

The Berlinale Talent Campus enters its eighth year. A record 4,773 applications from 145 countries underscore the event’s universally recognized relevance as a competence centre, guidepost and network for up-and-coming filmmakers. Programme manager Matthijs Wouter Knol and project manager Christine Tröstrum discuss the 2010 edition of the immensely successful project.

Berlinale Talent Campus 2009, HAU 1

HAU 1 auditorium at the Berlinale Talent Campus 2009

This year’s theme “Cinema Needs Talent: Looking for the Right People” hints at the search for artistically productive, fruitful collaborators and, at first glance, doesn’t seem to be anything new for the Talent Campus.

MWK: Yes, one could in fact say that it belongs to the founding ideas of the Campus. But it’s not as if we simply said this year, “Oh, now we’re going to make it really easy for ourselves…” The theme’s focus lies rather in specific concentration on the many-faceted motivations behind the decisions made during a film production about who one works with and not. Every director or producer arrives at a point during a film project when he or she is faced with the question of with whom he or she would like to or should work in a certain field – and by no means does that have to be at the beginning of the production process. For example, in a project where everything went wonderfully in terms of the script development, financing and shooting – the decision of who edits the film or who does the sound, raises entirely new questions. Should you pay heed to references or to human chemistry? Sometimes the most seemingly random decisions are those that bring a project forward artistically. There are so many different ways such cooperations can take place. This year’s theme is actually organically connected to the entire process of filmmaking.

Berlinale Talent Campus 2009

Snapshot of the Campus 2009

What you describe is, on a professional level, dependent on the skills that a certain person brings with them, or the way they work, also aesthetically speaking. When I read your press release on the Campus theme it seemed to me that many of the terms used pointed towards harmonious collaboration. And so the question arose whether great things can also grow out of difficult, stressful working situations, for example, if one looks back at the cooperation between this year’s International Jury President Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski…

MWK: I don’t believe collaboration has to be harmonious. It’s more about the cross-fertilization of ideas, which can occur in many different ways. Of course, sometimes a real confrontation is necessary. There are plenty of other examples apart from Herzog and Kinski. But these two especially attained such inspiration through their “mutual opposition”, the result was optimal for both sides and, finally, for the film too. In view of the many possible paths, I would say that rather than harmony, the goal of a successful collaboration is the best possible film.

The full title of this year’s Campus is “Cinema Needs Talent – Looking for the Right People”. Who, in your eyes, are the right people and what distinguishes talent?

MWK: For me, talent doesn’t just mean possessing a skill, but also actually being able to use it, so that the best result comes out of a cooperation. I would say that’s the more exact meaning of the concept of talent for the Campus.

CT: In English you have the word “ability” for which there is no appropriate German translation. On the one hand it implies skills and capabilities which you have learned and, on the other hand, your talent. Together, both ideas form an excellent starting point for the successful realization of a project. You’ll never be able to discover someone who is highly talented, but who is incapable of realizing his or her projects.

If you look at the nearly 5,000 applications for this year’s Berlinale Talent Campus, two groups of applicants emerge: on the one hand, there are a lot of people with very linear CVs, who work on one project after another and sometimes already have several successful short films under their belt. On the other hand, we have applicants who are already in their late 30s with extraordinary disruptions in their biographies. We see it as our job to discover and foster these talents and to give them a second or third chance.

Berlinale Talent Campus 2009

Hands on the Camera

Straight lines and bumpy paths

MWK: You can best judge whether someone has talent based on his or her previous work. Therefore we invite – contrary to the widely held notion that the Campus is aimed only at “beginners” – many filmmakers who already bring a lot of experience with them. We hope for these participants – just as we do for all the talents – that they achieve the jump to the next level, a higher standard for their film work.

Is there a reason you chose this theme now? Does cinema need talent more urgently than before?

MWK: We chose the theme, because for us, on the 60th anniversary of the festival, it’s a special wish to make clear that cinema will always need talents and a festival will always need the next generation. It’s not so much about whether someone is a beginner or a well-established filmmaker who submits his films to the Competition, because even then he needs talent, in order to make a good film. In this respect the theme shouldn’t be understood as a statement that cinema needs talents “especially today”.

CT: Nonetheless, we of course live in a time in which we require a high degree of talents and visions, which will make cinema and its specific qualities viable for the future. One of the topics in the 60th anniversary year of the Berlin International Film Festival is the discussion on the meaning of cinema in public space and about the cinema of the future. Therefore we have initiated many events at the Campus that will confront questions on future aesthetics, cross-media projects, mobile content, 3D and 180° projections as well as the production of internet formats. At the same time we firmly believe that film will need a public place, in which common reception and social exchange is possible, and that this place cannot be at home in front of a lonely screen. Even if such tendencies can be observed, a refreshing number of imaginative, energetic young people are creating alternative spaces in order to meet, watch and discuss moving images and other art forms together. It lies close to our hearts to foster such developments. And regardless of what the festival looks like in 10, 15 or 20 years and whether or not we’ll just present cross-media projects by then and whether classic 35mm film disappears at some point: we’re convinced that people will always want to and should meet physically in order to exchange ideas instead of just growing lonely in a purely virtual space. Now, as before, we see the central aim of our project is to show cinema films to a lively, discussion-hungry audience.

Berlinale Talent Campus 2009

Dine & Shine Talent Dinner 2009

During the Campus do you deliberately bring people together who you think should definitely get to know one another, because they could fit together on different levels? Or does that just occur in an “uncontrolled” way during the many networking and get-to-know events you organize?

MWK: We certainly bring people deliberately together. For example, we organize the so-called Sessions, which are planned in advance. Here, the individual talents can get to know one another. If we just left it to chance, far less positive and promising encounters and contacts would take place. Ideally, the Campus is a mixture of both, of targeted interaction, but also of unforced meetings.

Targeted interactions, unforced meetings

CT: For the planned small-scale gatherings, we have for example introduced the ideas of “counsellors”. These are established producers or filmmakers with a special focus on a certain region or a certain field such as visual arts. We connect the talents who are especially interested and engaged in this field within small groups with the “counsellors” to promote in-depth exchange and sometimes take excursions to Forum Expanded or the European Film Market together.

Of course planned connections go beyond participants’ own creative and working fields. For example, we will present interesting software solutions for international co-productions developed by the film school in Babelsberg to participating producers. Beyond that, talents must write as part of their applications detailed “motivation letters”, in which we are able to get an idea of their special interests in advance. Based on this information, we try to make the best use of the possibilities available for the 350 talents.

As best as you can judge, how were previous experiences when it came to establishing short, medium and long-term working relationships.

MWK: Every year, 25-30 films in which Campus alumni – sometimes just one, sometimes two or three - participated are submitted to the Berlinale. Many of the submissions began in Berlin, meaning the people met one another here at the Campus or at the festival. Often the partners get together later via our website community. A good example of this are the “Berlin Today Award” films, which are produced during the Campus with support from the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and are then premiered here. These productions often look for and find actors, cutters, film composers and so on through our community. The Campus network is actively used to find the perfect team member. And that’s exactly the way it is supposed to be.

CT: For many films, we act as a kind of midwife. We select certain projects and present them to mentors. The filmmakers receive professional feedback on their projects and we support them after the Campus in issues such as content development, financing or searching for additional partners. A considerable number of projects that were presented in the Doc&Script Station and at the Talent Project Market are now finished, such as One Man Village by Simon El-Habre from Lebanon (Doc Station 2006). The film ran in the Forum of the Berlinale 2009 and in April 2009 it won the prize for the Best Feature-length Documentary in the “International Competition” section at the HOT DOCS Canadian International Film Festival in Toronto.

Berlinale Talent Campus 2009, HAU 2

Workshop at the 2009 Campus

The very popular Hands-On programme is receiving a further boost this year.

MWK: In addition to the six existing formats, this year there will be, for the first time, a Hands-On programme specially aimed towards actors. Actors have of course taken part in the Campus before and have been involved by supporting various Hands-On programmes, such as the Script Station. This year, though, there’s a programme tailor-made for them, in which previous events on topics such as casting or “How to Read a Script” will be included. Beyond that we will for the first time have workshops about the special cooperation between directors and actors, as well as the specific challenges of acting in front of the camera. These workshops are naturally not only intended for actors but also to an equal degree directors, cinematographers and scriptwriters, who are directly involved in these processes.

The Campus isn’t just established in Berlin, but has become a popular export in the form of its international editions, the Campus Abroad initiatives. Will you bring this engagement to additional countries?

CT: We regularly receive a number of enquiries from festivals worldwide who would like to organize a Campus Abroad in cooperation with us. Unfortunately we have now reached the limits of our capacity for further cooperation and we don’t believe there is much more potential for more Campuses at the moment. Right now we are working on organizing a cooperation in Asia following the Campus in India two years ago. This will only take shape in 2011. As always, our commitment to South and Central America, Africa and Eastern Europe lies close to our hearts.

'Wagah' Berlin Today Award 2009

Supriyo Sen with the Berlin Today Award

The “Berlin Today Award” – a success story

Does the fact that the “Berlin Today Award” winner 2009 Wagah won the German Short Film Award for the best documentary after receiving numerous other awards such as the Grand Prize in Bilbao have a special significance for you?

CT: That’s really a wonderful success story. The director Supriyo Sen is now working on a further project with the production company Detailfilm, which also received a Medienboard subsidy. It couldn’t be any better.

MWK: That’s simply an extraordinary example of how much attention the “Berlin Today Award” project gets and what level can be reached. And it also shows that these films are convincing and can win awards beyond the regional context, and that they can be recognized and valued around the world. We believe that the extreme rise in the number of applicants over the past few years is largely due to the success of the “Berlin Today Award” films. And the success of Wagah, in particular, is great publicity for the Campus and the entire Berlinale.