The Polish Film Institute, a key component of the successful film funding system established in 2005 via a tax on cinema tickets and TV revenues, is at the heart of non-commercial project development. Its new director, Radoslaw Smigulski, former director of Syrena Films, says the organization’s approval process needs streamlining, a stronger commitment to new directors and more diverse input on evaluating film pitches.
What is your main vision for the PFI going forward and what changes can we expect?
I want to make the PFI a fully professional institution, one that is user-friendly and open to filmmakers from Poland and Europe.
I don’t want to use the term “changes.” Instead, I would prefer to call them “revisions,” though they will be of fundamental importance. First of all, I want to streamline the evaluation process of projects related to non-substantive matters. The excessive number of attachments and certificates necessary for the application process is a burden both for the professionals and for the institute itself.
How do you plan to make PFI more open to new voices?
We need to ensure better opportunities for first-time directors and facilitate their entry into professional life. I want to enable around 10 first-time directors, especially film-school graduates, to make their debuts within a micro-budget scheme. We plan to launch this program in cooperation with broadcasters in order to secure the other half of the budget.
Without a doubt, the animation industry needs a whole new incentives setup in order to be competitive in the market and to continue to develop. We also need new operational programs for documentary films in order to remain innovative. We hope that the expected introduction of production incentives in Poland will provide a significant push for the whole industry, which will not only boost feature film investment but also profit the entire sector. Polish cinema is already closely connected to the European film industry and we will certainly continue to strengthen those ties.
What is the current budget and will it change?
The financing system of the PFI remains the same. Our budget is based on the levy placed upon commercial entities within the industry, and this year it will be bigger compared to previous years at approximately €34 million ($37 million). On top of that, we plan to cooperate closely with other public funds, which can provide support for the industry, not only in financing particular projects but also in improving the infrastructure. The introduction of the cash rebate this year will boost production with an additional €25 million ($30 million), which will have a significant impact on the whole industry.
Many new experts have been appointed to review filmmakers’ applications for support. What new types of professionals are now becoming involved, producers, for example?
Until now, the commissions have been always led by a film director. My goal is to broaden the diversity of the experts assessing these projects, in terms of profession, age and gender as well as their professed values.
Some have also noted that fewer women experts will now be evaluating the projects.
I am fully aware of the importance of women in Polish cinema, especially in recent years. I am also aware of the impact of women’s actions in the film industry as a whole today. I had this in mind when selecting the experts. The representation of women among these experts is currently around 30%, but I wish to stress that this percentage will be higher in the coming years.
The removal of the previous director of the PFI was quite upsetting to many in the film community who worry that the organization may now become politicized by the ruling Law and Justice party in Poland. Can you address the issue of independence in film support?
I am not, I never have been and I never will be a politician. The same cannot be said of either of my predecessors, who were both politicians in the strictest sense: Agnieszka Odorowicz was deputy minister of culture and Magdalena Sroka was vice president of Krakow. Those positions have a strictly political character. Also, unlike my predecessors, I have experience in the cinema industry. After being appointed as director of the Polish Film Institute, I didn’t have any kind of political pressure concerning my new responsibilities. The minister of culture [Piotr Glinski], who is overseeing my duties, had one expectation only: “Quality, openness, transparency.”
How important are international co-productions, and what is the PFI doing to work with them on more ambitious projects?
International co-productions are essential and natural, especially in Europe. They allow for bigger budgets of Polish films and they strengthen European cultural diversity. We hope that the introduction of the cash rebate system will not only increase the number of produced films and international co-productions but that it will also constitute a major step forward for the sector in becoming one of the best performing and most competitive industries in Europe.
What is the current status of film incentives and will the PFI be involved in helping them to work better?
I expect the cash rebate system to be introduced in the first half of the year. The minister of culture is determined to make this happen as soon as possible.
Polish Films in the Berlin Festival Selection
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World sales: Memento Films Intl.
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World sales: Alpha Violet
When the Trees Fall
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World sales: Latido Films
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Whatever Happens Next
Perspektive Deutsches Kino
Director: Julian Porksen
With: Sebastian Rudolph, Eike Weinreich, Monika Lennartz, Andrzej Mastalerz, Mariusz Jakus, Piotr Zurawski
Producers: Stefan Gieren, Agnieszka Dziedzic