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Berlinale Talent Campus 2011:
The political mainly takes place in private

Under the title “Framespotting – Filmmakers Positioning Themselves”, the ninth Berlinale Talent Campus opens its doors to 350 of the most gifted up-and-coming professionals in the international world of film. Programme manager Matthijs Wouter Knol and project manager Christine Tröstrum explain in an interview what is meant by aided discovery of one’s position, how the Campus and its guest experts can contribute to the process and why choosing a direction isn’t necessarily restricting oneself.

The poster motif of the 2011 Campus edition: "Framespotting: Filmmakers positioning themsel

For the upcoming edition of the Campus you position the Talents amidst the backdrop of “global challenges” from the very start. Is the responsibility you’re calling for to be understood as socio-political in nature? Such as the theme of the Berlin Today Award 2012, “Every Step You Take.” Doesn’t that have to do with the inescapability of global interconnectedness?

MWK: Of course we try to link the theme of the Berlin Today Award with the main theme of the Berlinale Talent Campus. And we understand this year’s motto in a socio-political sense. The theme in 2011 grew out of the Campuses of previous years, and addresses political engagement, but primarily the identification of one’s own position: where do I find myself currently? What path lies behind me and how does it continue? This is the personal level, but the topic includes a wide range of associations. Apart from decisions about the direction one’s own life is taking, for us it’s just as important to look at the content and values that you stand for as a filmmaker. We want to motivate young directors to clearly formulate their positions – on the political, social and personal levels, in order to be able to better shape the focus of their careers in the coming years.

Clear decisions on the direction of the individual creative process

While trying to determine the positions of the young filmmakers, is it also about career choices – such as whether one should concentrate on scriptwriting or directing – or is it about taking certain artistic paths, which one finds and follows intensely?

MWK: Most of our participants have already found their personal field of work as a director, scriptwriter, etc. It’s more about shaping concrete individual goals from various possibilities and motives, whether it’s about establishing a specific style or developing a clear picture of one’s own approaches.

CT: Fundamentally, we want to encourage reflection on one’s own positions, or as someone once said: “get out of your own soup pot” once in a while. That means bundling energies and focusing on your aims. One of the main points of the 2011 Campus is creating a sense of liberation through focus. Filmmakers are always encouraged to take everything in their own hands, from the initial idea to the artistic realisation to the distribution and rights management. This totally overwhelms them. We would like to show ways of better dealing with such situations and relieving some of that pressure.

Matthijs Wouter Knol@Berlinale Talent Campus Taking Off
Programme Manager Matthijs Wouter Knol welcoming participants to the 2010 Campus edition in HAU

MWK: There is a further point: today the huge number of online communities demands the continuous connectedness of individuals and this isn’t always advantageous. The flood of information, the permanent comparison with others and their activities can quickly become overwhelming. Against this backdrop, it’s one of our major concerns that our participants learn how to focus on their own rhythm and on their own projects. That’s not always such an easy task in day-to-day life …

CT: Communication in many online communities is limited to the mundane, resulting in the disappearance of the political and the fact that it is more and more difficult for people to form passionate positions.

Here you mean the global developments of social communities rather than the Campus Network, right?

CT: Yes, I mean the global networks, which say a lot about social tendencies through the behaviour of their users. The “ego” is often in the foreground in online communication, rather than consideration of social issues.

MWK: This disappearing reflection on social processes has also become visible over the past 30 years when it comes to the political formation of personalities. You see this in many films that have been selected for the upcoming Berlinale: that the political mainly takes place in private. If one compares projects from South America, South Africa or Southeast Asia to those from Europe, it’s clearly noticeable that the focus is on other issues. We hope these regional differences will spark fruitful discussion.

Worldwide connectedness as curse and blessing

While we’re talking about global connectedness: are international ties increasingly necessary for a successful film production?

CT: Of course, that's what the Campus stands for. But we don’t want to encourage the expectation that every Campus participant has to co-produce or has to cooperate with three or four other countries.

MWK: Many of our guest experts will relate from experience how they managed to tell local, regional or typically national stories so successfully that they worked worldwide. And we want to throw out the basic question of how one can concentrate on this and how one can write a good story with such universal appeal.

On the one hand you say that the Talents are encouraged to take risks and forge new paths, but on the other hand it sounds as if it was primarily about finding and occupying a position within existing structures. How can the creation of one’s own working conditions or following unconventional routes be part of finding your position? Your purpose surely isn’t to suppress artistic creativity for the sake of strategic conformity to categories.

MWK: No, by no means. Through determination of one’s position, creativity can be directed towards the most promising personal path. Part of this process at the Campus is through asking concrete questions about the use of certain structures, forms and processes. The Talents should follow developments in the industry, yet they are allowed to come to the conclusion that they might not need it for their own film, i.e. that they want to give a different path a try. At the end of the day, it’s about one’s position. Where do things stand today and how should it continue?

Berlinale Talent Campus: Brussels in Berlin
Active involvement at the 2010 Berlinale Talent Campus

CT: It’s also about questioning existing structures, so as to not restrict creativity. An example of this is pitching, which plays an especially important role in Western countries, but which is totally atypical in Asian countries. Here we want to create a certain sense of relief, as we demonstrate that it’s not about the fulfilment of existing conventions, but about the personal idea of a project, which becomes evermore convincing if one allows one’s own enthusiasm to flow into it. The director or the producer shouldn’t have to fit a certain pattern of presentation that kills him out of fright days before the pitch because he’s standing on the stage alone for the first time. Ideally, it’s about creating situations that are comfortable for the presenter and the audience in order to be able to devote oneself entirely to the project.

Two years ago you introduced the idea of “counsellors”: established filmmakers meet with small selected groups to take a look at a region or a special field of expertise and to facilitate productive exchange. Has this type of meeting proven itself to be a groundbreaking concept and will it be continued?

MWK: We’ve since changed the concept somewhat. The focus doesn’t just lie in certain regions or fields of work, but basically covers entire areas of the Campus. At “Meet the Expert”, as the format is now called, international industry experts meet with 10-15 Talents in 45 minute sessions and present their work, but also address the Talents’ specific professional questions. Last year this worked very well.

Sharpened visions

Are there any major changes or new themes in the hands-on programmes?

MWK: There won’t be any totally new hands-on programmes in 2011, because all main disciplines are covered by now, but we have different highlights every year of course. In 2011 there is a focus on production design and cinematography. This doesn’t just include the camera positions or the use of specific techniques, but the whole very complex decision-making process that finally results in the visualization of a story.

In future we will place a special attention on the increased sustainability of the participating projects. We want to show how – also throughout the rest of the year – they develop further and that the Campus is not just a six-day offline project that takes place once a year.

CT: In this respect we are planning a film series of around 20 completed films (features, documentaries and shorts) from the hands-on programmes that will be shown in the cinema Arsenal April 1-7, 2011.

Berlinale Talent Campus
Shooting on location during the Campus 2010

To what degree do you take inspiration from the outside when planning the Berlinale Talent Campus – perhaps from the Campus International projects, from former participants or other representatives of the industry?

CT: That happens continually. Especially while travelling to the other Campuses we pay close attention and consider what we can use or make work for our own Campus.

MWK: At the Campuses International most events are organised very similarly to those in Berlin, but often take place at a more manageable scale. Alone the observation of what effect the size of an event can have on the dynamic of a Campus is already very inspiring for us.

Another, very concrete example for outside inspiration is the integration of the coordinator of the Talent Campus Guadalajara, Ana de la Rosa Zamboni, into our Talent selection team, which is an enriching exchange for both sides. And naturally in our applications from the Talents and through feedback after the Campus, we regularly receive suggestions, tips or wishes that play an important role in our planning.

The last Campus was largely about an open-minded, curious exploration of the future of media products. Is this theme again present in the upcoming edition, as an essential component of your fundamental concept?

CT: One of the main tasks of the Talent Campus is to track future trends. Last year, for example, we offered a 3D event which dealt with the production conditions, the challenges, opportunities but also the difficulties beyond the major productions. This topic will be addressed once again in 2011 in a Case Study.

Cross Media developments

MWK: Exactly the same applies for the field of cross media. In this area – also with regards to content – one can observe some promising developments. While entertainment stood in the foreground for a long time with regards to these projects, there has since been an opening up in terms of themes and forms. Cross media projects have become presentable and have increasingly drawn interest from broadcasters and financiers. Against this background, we would like to present the Talents with the opportunities and approaches available to them in this field, or ways for them to include cross media in their projects from the very beginning.

CT: Still, our main interest is the big screen. Therefore we also address the question of whether and how cross media projects can make it into the cinema or whether such formats will remain trapped in formats that are distributed via other channels.

Berlinale Talent Campus Dine & Shine
Berlinale Talent Campus Dine & Shine 2010

Is there anything special you would like to say about the Talent network (‘Community’) on your website, or is that simply a continuing success story?

CT: Basically the idea of community is very close to our hearts. For three years Talents have been able to upload their projects onto the site to be able to present them after the Campus, which has proven to be an absolute success. This year we updated the whole look and feel of our website, primarily to improve the visibility of the projects and the Talents themselves.

MWK: The new website is intended to communicate even more directly, everything that happens at the Campus and the time that follows. For example we highlight events that took place at the Campus, and focus more on the Talents themselves. Right on the home page, one gets an impression of the participants and the special Campus atmosphere. Apart from that we also present projects on the website that we believe are well enough advanced to be of interest to financing partners or distributors.

CT: In the early summer, in talks with international distributors, we could point directly to the film projects of former participants that can be found on the website. Many colleagues in the industry are thankful, in a time of ever-increasing complexity, to discover projects that have already gone through a process of selection and development or that have been evaluated by a jury and thereby received a kind of seal of quality. In the framework of our community one can quickly locate such works, a model which surely has a lot of potential for development!