23 July 2015
New Horizons Studio: Where the filmmaker meets the industry

The skill set of a filmmaker is no longer limited to the movie set. Nowadays, the director needs to be with his project every step of the way, including pitching sessions, promotion, co-operation with sales agents and distributors. Thanks to the New Horizons Studio they can get professional training and enter the international film industry with the necessary know-how and confidence.

How not to get lost in the market

The New Horizons Studio workshop invites 25-30 young European filmmakers to visit Wrocław and improve their understanding of the contemporary film market. It was created by Joanna Łapińska, Artistic Director of the T-Mobile New Horizons International Film Festival, almost six years ago with a simple goal: to fill a very clear need . "Polish cinema and Polish filmmakers were always present at our festival due to the Polish Film Competition and it was natural that we started a dialogue with them. It quickly turned out that several of them were feeling lost in the quickly developing film market and didn't know much about the mechanisms of international promotion. I thought that a workshop, where they could improve their skills of pitching, presentation, learn how to find co-producers and work with sales agents and distributors would be highly beneficial for our industry. I've presented my idea to Joanna Wendorff-Østergaard, who was the head of MEDIA Desk Poland at the time, and with their help and support we managed to launch our program". Łapińska said.

During the last five years, New Horizons Studio produced over a 100 of both Polish and international graduates. While the workshop is constantly evolving, there some structure key points to the training, that help both directors and producers to navigate the film market so they can not only create films, but also reach their targeted audience.

Who is invited?

New Horizons Studio is designed to equip young European directors, with the knowledge necessary for them not only to understand the workings of modern film industry but to become an integral part of it. While the rules festival promotion or distribution quotas maybe clear form PR specialists and sales agents, the filmmaker can often be confused by them. One might ask: why a director or producer should be concerned with the process happening after he finishes his project? "From the very beginning of New Horizons Studio we are trying to show our participants how important it is to have a strategy for you project in the phase of development and consider issues connected with future sales or advertising of their film very early on."-advises Joanna Łapińska. The New Horizons Studio training program is open to filmmakers and producers who have a project in development or a strong, original idea that they want to discuss. The first two years of the workshop were open to Polish participants only, but it quickly became clear that the interest in these type of skills surpasses the local market. "While we are still focused on inviting Polish filmmakers, 1/3rd of the group is comprised out of people coming to us from all over Europe. It is very important for the participants to talk about their ideas and projects with their peers, especially in the international environment. It helps them make their films more universal and tailored for audiences from different countries." she adds.

Pitch, develop, produce

With a number of international funds, broadcasters and private producers constantly seeking out new projects, a pitching session became an integral part of the industry. With that comes the need for a filmmaker and producer to present their idea in a way that will interest potential co-producers and investors. Over the years, New Horizons Studio invited several experts in production and development to teach the participants not only how to present themselves but also let them know what a producer or broadcaster is looking for while listening to a pitch. The list of tutors included such house-hold names as Sandy Lieberson, Ri Chakraborty, David Pope, Alex Boden and Gavin Humphries. "The art of pitching is important not only when a filmmakers is looking for funds. Working on a pitch also helps them to get a clear idea what type of film they would like to make. It teaches them not to neglect the development stage of their film, because they need to plan ahead. After the workshop, several of our participants told me that only after they prepared this presentation for an international forum they were able to push their project forward. We get a lot of feedback ensuring us that this is the right direction to take"- says Joanna Łapińska. New Horizons Studio also includes a special seminar with a renowned producer and in the past the participants had a chance to meet Julie Baines, Ivana MacKinnon , Amra Bakšić Čamo and Emre Yeksan. The importance of streamlining production with promotion and marketing of the film is always one of the key issues discussed during the workshop.

Think internationally

The New Horizons Studio workshop always holds a seminar that will allow the participants to get a full grasp on the workings of film promotion and marketing. This knowledge is necessary for directors and producers alike, who probably will be expected to take part in the process. "Long gone are the days when a filmmaker was this closed-off creator, who made a film and gave it to the world"- points out Joanna Łapińska. An crucial point of discussion during each edition of the Studio is the importance of international film festivals and the knowledge of how to market your film during these events. Where to premiere your film? What is the importance of a festival market? Which festival selection manager should you approach? These are the basic issues discussed over the years with Studio experts such as Hayet Benkara, Juliette Jansen, Anaïs Clanet, Jakub Duszyński, Matthieu Darras , Raymond Phathanavirangoon and James Mullighan. "The rules of admission, screening, international premieres etc. are something that all filmmakers should have at least a basic understanding off. It will help them not only promote the film but also understand the process of finding a sales agent and a distributor. Most filmmakers are surprised to find out that this is actually aver close-knitted world, where the electioneers all know each other and talk to one another. That is why each year we invite representatives of these big festivals and give our participants a chance to form personal relationships with them. " comments Joanna Łapińska.

The soft skill of networking

While the workings and regulations of film festivals are important, New Horizons Studio also point the attention of its participants that the so called "soft skills" that include efficient networking as well as seeking our alternative methods of distribution. With a long list of international tutors and participants coming from all over the world, the Studio workshop is a virtual hub for meeting and forming important contacts. "We know that several of our participants stay in touch and go into production together, often years after our sessions" says Łapińska. It's worth pointing put that everyone who takes part in the training can contact the tutors and speakers to further consult them on their project when the workshop is done. "This creates a network of filmmakers and film professionals who are all open to each other's ideas and we can observe how this results in new projects or even distribution and sales" she adds. "Our participants come from different countries and it is always interesting that a lot of them come to us thinking that their market is very demanding and the funding is hard to get. Once they exchange experiences with one another it turns out that similar problems exists almost everywhere, of course on different levels. " New Horizons Studio also encourages the filmmakers to think outside of the paths of traditional distribution and explore new options. In a world of day-and-date premiere, the growing VOD market and the popularization of film crowdfunding there is a lot of room for creativity.

Know your audience

The number of film productions made worldwide is constantly increasing. It is important for a director and producer to find out what viewers and potential broadcaster could be interested in their film. They also need to be familiarized with the rules of co-operation with a sales agent that chooses to represent their film. While artistic integrity is key, it is very helpful for a filmmaker to explore how the market works and what do the distributors and broadcasters expect. Over the years, the New Horizons Studio speakers such as Agathe Valentin (Head of Sales w Films du Losange), Mathilde Henro (Festivalscope), Beata Mońka (Canal+) and Iza Łopuch (HBO) gave the participants a chance to understand what exactly are they looking for and what is the best approach to get someone invested in your project. "The idea to invite the people who will ultimately look for these type of projects was natural to us. Their feedback to our participant's is one of the most valuable things that our workshop can offer." Says Łapińska.

A tip from the master

While the New Horizons Studio is focused mainly on training the filmmakers in industry areas that they are less familiar with, one of the most important parts of the workshop is the masterclass led each year by an acknowledged, experienced filmmakers such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Bela Tarr, Urszula Anotniak, Małgorzata and Wojciech Staroń. The class is designed to connect starting filmmakers with those who experienced the whole journey they are about to embark on. They can share their experiences as a filmmaker, with a special focus on issues addressed during the whole workshop. Each masterclass was also a great case study on how a filmmaker can stay true to his artistic vision and achieve success within the frames of commercial or arthouse film market.

The 6th session of New Horizons Studio will take place on 26-29 July 2015. The program is co-organized by Creative Europe Desk Polska and the London Film Academy.

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