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Locarno Match Me!: Independent Producers Think International Is The Way Forward

Twenty-four producers from nine countries meet at Locarno's Match-Me! networking platform

LOCARNO, Switzerland – Thanks to partnerships with Cinema do Brasil, Polish Film Institute, Swiss Films, Estonian Film Institute, Israel Film Fund, Istituto Luce Cinecittà – Filmitalia, Latvian Film Centre, Lithuanian Film Centre and the Mexican Film Institute (Imcine), three upcoming producers from each of these institutions’ countries have met at Locarno Festival’s Match-Me! A platform during the Locarno Pro days, the representatives introduce their companies’ profile and projects to potential co-producers, funds or sales companies through a tailor-made matchmaking program.

These twenty-four producers come from different backgrounds, are based in countries of all sizes and varying maturity of film sectors. What might they have in common beyond a passion for storytelling? Do they face similar challenges? Have their young companies evolved in a similar way?

In asking them and checking the lineups and flagship projects they’re bringing to this year’s 4th edition of Match-Me!, the answer to these questions is a strong yes.

The primary consensus among them is internationalization. Going beyond their own borders is the way to survive, but also preserve local values. Other key common trends: Slate diversification and a consciousness of  new opportunities in VOD.

INTERNATIONAL

Opportunities for international co-productions are rising. From Poland, Ewa Szwarc at Kosmos Production explains that the Polish Film Institute has shown a larger interest in financing international films. “Poland is opening up to other countries more and more with each year and greater possibilities for the distribution of Polish cinema  are [being] created,” she says, announcing: “We are also expecting a bill to be approved that will offer significant tax reductions for foreign or co-production shoots, expanding this market all the more.”

The size of some countries is also encouraging this trend, especially in a language-fragmented country such as Switzerland. “The Swiss market has always been a tough nut to crack […] Finding a solid international co-production partner is absolutely essential if we want our films to gain some sort of exposure outside of Switzerland,” says Flavia Zanon at Close Up Films.

Small countries share this need in a crucial way: “Currently, we make use of government grants in Latvia and are beginning to boost co-production relations abroad on all projects where we see a potential for a larger, international audience,” says Matīss Kaža at Deep Sea Studios.

CREDIT: Deep Sea Studios

Yoav Roeh at Israel’s Gum Films agrees: “Our domestic market has always been somewhat shaky and hard to rely on, and we haven’t seen much improvement in that sense. That has pushed us to find creative financing solutions, domestic and worldwide. Being part of a smaller industry, we must always strive to find the right fit between story and budget.”

Glocal is in the spirit of the trend, even for bigger territories. “Interesting collaborations have opened up for both content and for cultural exchange between different countries. I love universal stories, but also expressing traditional local connotations,” says Cinzia Bomoli at Italy’s Amarcord Film.

Laura Andina at Italy’s Fairplay agrees: “I encourage people to take their stories from a local and domestic dimension to a horizon as wide as possible.”

An awareness of belonging to bigger regional structures with a common cultural basis is getting stronger in Europe, Latin America.

Marta Gmosińska at Poland’s Lava Films thinks that “the international co-productions we have made reflect the diversity of European artistic voices and potentials, as well as hallmark common values we represent as a European community.”

And from Latvia, Kristele Pudane at Tritone Studio states: “We want our films to be seen in cinemas across Europe, so we try to capture the ‘zeitgeist,’ to look into current topics, so that our films appeal to as many people as possible.”

Karolina Galuba, at Poland’s Furia Film, focuses mainly on international co-productions: “They not only create a larger audience but also contribute to the creative side of filmmaking.”

Coproduction is part of the growing complexity of film financing. In Poland, regional funds are playing an increasingly important role, she says. Their readiness to finance arthouse productions as a complement to national funding is a good starting point to look for additional financing, such as funds from international co-producers, Eurimages and Media,” Gmosińska says.

In Latin America, links between countries in the region are becoming tighter. “We are looking more and more to other Latin American countries to complete financing. We have really good funds and incentives in Mexico, but we strongly believe in creating a synergy between other close countries, with similar cultures, to make our films grow both in creative and financial terms,” says Andrea Toca, at Mexico’s Un Beso Cine.

Eva Ruiz de Chávez, at México Panamericana Pictures, observes that the interest for Hispanic content has grown exponentially, especially due to the fact that Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the world. She underlines the need for providing quality content for that population in today´s economy. “Finding new ways to approach this world population can be as important as what is happening with the Chinese film industry. I see that there’s interest in the projects we are developing due to their international nature that goes beyond being Hispanic,” she concludes.

DIVERSIFYING LINE-UP

In short, going international is a must for young independent production outfits in order to achieve industry sustainability. Another related goal is slate diversification.

Most independent companies started out with shorts, docs and arthouse products. However, many  have opened up to new perspectives without betraying their founding principles. “As budgets and available resources have increased, our current and upcoming slate includes a balance between arthouse experimentation, documentary and fiction films for large audiences,” says Kaža.

That’s the case too for Firma Films, an Israeli company that, after allying with Norma Productions in the arthouse arena, is now developing feature films and TV series, and is also working on a new online platform, explains Tammy Cohen.

Ieva Biliūnaitė, from Lithuania’s In Script, states that the core vision of the company hasn’t changed, but “we concentrate now on a slate of projects” and distributing their own content in Lithuania.

Olivier Zobrist at Switzerland’s Lang Films explains that they have incorporated into their previous fiction feature-based catalogue other formats such as documentary and animated shorts. Zobrist adds that the “Swiss partners/funding agencies have basically remained the same” during the last 10 years, so they diversify and make more co-productions.

Evelin Penttilä at Estonia’s Stellar Film feels especially proud to have made “very different films –from audience-oriented local comedies to auteur-driven international co-productions. It has been an interesting learning curve which I hope will continue in the future.”

Deborah Osborn at Brazil’s bigBonsai explains that the company’s financing strategies “have evolved according to the changes of the local scene. We have taken every opportunity available and also worked in the diversification of our business plans.” bigBonsai is currently launching two documentary TV series; “My Life Is Circus” for HBO Latin America, and “Forever Words.” They’re also producing a feature and are developing and raising funds for six fiction feature films. They are recently signed an international co-production agreement with Chile, for Francisca Silva’s debut “Another Lake”.

There are samples of outfits whose diversity is assured from their cooperative creative system. It’s the case with Brazil’s Ausgang, with Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro, Emiliano Cunha and Pedro Guindani, as founders and directors.  Another example is Switzerland’s 8horses “focused on creating a new Swiss cinema d’auteur,” says Tolga Dilsiz.

NEW PLATFORMS

New digital distribution models are, preferentially, in the radar of young independent producers.

Jean Denise at Italy’s b24 Films frames a big picture: “With the dynamism from VOD distributors in the European market and pressure on theatrical distribution for European products, project financing for these products may tend to become more akin to a TV production system with one main commissioning editor,” adding that, “in terms of storytelling […] the structure of film narration has to meet the challenge.” And  –bringing back Europe’s idea and linking it to new distribution channels– he ends: “the challenge is to develop products aimed at the European market as a whole.”

Oren Rogovin at Israel’s Rogovin brothers underlines: “The massive online content players are game changers. There’s a common goal to co-produce (original content) or sell them the final product. In Israel nowadays most productions companies (partnered with local broadcasters) aim to create a single pilot/bible and approach international collaborations.”

Carlos Sosa at Mexico’s Viento del Norte is also aware 0f VOD’s importance as well: “All the changes I have seen during the last six years have to do with the presence of VOD. Now, for good or for bad, this is probably the most important window to recoup the investment, talking about the kind of films we produce.”

And from Switzerland, Zobrist agrees: “The most important changes in recent years are certainly the emergence of streaming services such as Netflix and others, the struggle of arthouse cinema and the rise of the series.” The producer envisages further changes to come, having a logic impact on the companies: “it is important to be flexible and forward-looking without losing sight of the main focus: to produce films/formats that want to touch. Because that hasn’t changed. It needs a good story.”

In short, producers from eight distant countries share the same passion and similar language. And they seem to agree in pointing out three pivotal and current aspects that are shaping the industry –co-production, catalogue diversification and game-changing digital..

In a increasingly convoluted world, however small, we can detect some interesting similarities. Out of companies’ flagship projects (listed below), it’s remarkable the amount of features that are focused on teenage issues (nine) and those turning on women’s emancipation and transgender matters (five), approached from diverse approaches. It moves us to think that more than a few partnerships will be ignited at Locarno’s Match-Me!

LOCARNO MATCH-ME! 2018 COMPANIES

(company, producer attending Locarno and a flagship title from its current production slate)

BRAZIL

Ausgang (Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro, “Lane 4”)

A 12-year-old swimmer spends most of her time training and trying to succeed in the one activity she truly loves. Priscila becomes her opponent, in sport and in life.

CREDIT: Tuane Eggers

bigBonsai (Deborah Osborn, “The Book of Delights”)

An erotic drama based on the same-titled book written by celebrated Brazilian author Clarice Lispector. Co-production with Argentina’s Rizoma Films.

Tardo Filmes (Ticiana Lima, “The Future Belongs to God”)

Prolific Guto Parente builds a 2025 dystopian universe where conservative political forces have taken control of Brazil and impose strict moral rules, persecuting minorities.

ESTONIA

Alasti Kino (Kristjan Pütsep, “Rain”)

The older brother of Ats, a 11-year-old kid raised in a small seaside town, returns to the family home, where he will clash with their authoritarian father.

Stellar Film (Evelin Penttilä, “The Sleeping Beast”)

10-year-old Kristjan confronts his friends to save a man who has fallen into a steep pit.

 ISRAEL

Firma Films, (Tammy Cohen, “Floods”)

A 16-year-old kid escapes to the desert from a crazy world that he cannot accept.

Gum Films (Yoav Roeh, “The Delegation”)

A road trip drama about Israeli teenagers going on a school tour to concentration camps and memorials around Poland.

Rogovin Brothers (Oren Rogovin, “Ducks, Urban Legend”)

Six characters crisscross through three different stories about people growing on the “wrong side of the tracks.”

ITALY

Amarcord Film (Cinzia Bomoli, “My Mad Madonna”)

A Sicily trip reveals to Kim and Carmen that the past will make them the women they have always wanted to be. A co-production thriller between Italy, Canada and Switzerland.

CREDIT: Amarcord Film

b24 Films (Jean Denis Le Dinahet, “Tigris”)

Nothing will stop Karen, on a troubled journey in her quest to find her son and bring him back home. Written by Edoardo De Angelis.

Fairplay (Laura Andina, “The Fifth Face”)

Historical thriller based on the same-titled novel by Fabrizio Guarducci. After 590 years, the mysterious death of Renaissance founder Masaccio is finally unveiled.

LATVIA

Tritone Studio (Kristele Pudane, “Troubled Minds”)

Latvia, Norway and Poland ally on this story about two brothers who finally decide to “do something significant” with their lives. In the journey they will have to leave precious possessions behind –sanity and freedom.

Deep Sea Studios (Matīss Kaža, “Where the Road Leads”)

On her arranged wedding, aristocratic orphan Eva and peasant Mikus become unlikely allies after witnessing a murder. An Eastern European reworking of classic U.S. westerns.

LITHUANIA

Artbox (Medeina Birgilaite, “The Castle”)

Monika dreams of becoming a famous musician: The concert at the Castle seems a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But someone is going to try to stop her – her mother.

iN SCRiPT (“Funny and Sad Life of George,” Leva Biliūnaitė)

Tragicomedy about young Lithuanian MA student Julia who goes to New York to study under the mentorship of Jonathan, an expert in the Fluxus artistic movement.

MEXICO

Panamericana Pictures (Eva Ruiz de Chávez, “Ellas”)

A documentary about women of different generations and environments talking about themselves, unveiling the secrets their bodies keep.

Un Beso Cine (Andrea Toca, “The Motorcycle Boys”)

Juliana and Lauti, two teenagers in love living in a police-besieged Argentinian neighborhood, have to deal with an unexpected pregnancy.

Viento del Norte Cine (Carlos Sosa, “Adam’s Apple”)

50-year-old Laura has an encounter with an old friend in New York. She dives into her own memories in México 25 years before, when she was still called Víctor.

POLAND

Furia Film (Karolina Galuba, “Tony Halik: Born for Adventure”)

A documentary about Evita Perón’s private pilot Tony Halik, an explorer, NBC reporter and the first foreign journalist to interview Fidel Castro.

Kosmos Production (Ewa Szwarc, “In Between”)

An intimate story about dreams, love, hate and death through the strong friendship of two young men and a painful love-triangle. In co-production with Germany.

Lava Films (Marta Gmosińska, “Wet Monday”)

During Easter celebrations, an introverted teenage girl struggles to forget her dark secret and save her sister from her afflictions. A fantasy horror film.

SWITZERLAND

8horses (Tolga Dilsiz, “The Jungle”)

Set in the Nicaraguan jungle, a family-drama about a woman’s emancipation from her old father and his obsessive and authoritarian world view. Matthias Huser set to direct.

Close Up Films (Flavia Zanon, “Thunder”)

On the border of a small village in the Swiss countryside, four teenagers explore love and violence in the summer of 1900.

Lang Film (Olivier Zobrist, “L’amour du monde”)

A poetic drama of a young woman, a 7-year-old girl and a fisherman meeting on Lake Geneva’s shores. Together they reconcile themselves with the world through imagination.

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