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Crossborder Projects Spring from Sofa

Participants work together to develop film biz in Eastern Europe

GDYNIA, Poland — The first edition of the School of Film Agents, which seeks to develop ideas for strengthening the film biz in Eastern Europe, has spawned at least two crossborder projects, according to Nikolaj Nikitin, the training program’s founder and director.

Speaking to Variety, Nikitin said that the participants benefited from each other’s experience, as well as that of the industry mentors.

“There was a lot of fruitful interaction going on between the participants on different levels — ending up in planned co-operation and co-development of at least two projects crossing borders. For the final project presentation many of them were sitting together for hours, helping each other to shape their projects in the best possible way,” he said.

Due to the countries’ common heritage as former Soviet Bloc states, their industries had much in common.

“Many of the projects had similar challenges. They showed us that in many Eastern European countries the problems concerning cinema culture are quite similar,” he said. “Through bringing together dedicated ‘film agents’ from different countries, who are indeed facing similar infrastructural difficulties (like the ‘death’ of cinema after the collapse of communism), the common discussion proved to be very useful to find possible solutions.”

“Therefore Sofa is not only a training program for young film mediators, but also a think-tank for possibilities to solve audience development and cinema distribution issues in Europe.”

Nikitin said that it was always Sofa’s objective to have a demonstrable impact on the film industries in the region.

“Our main goal was to develop the selected projects in terms of concept and budget to an extent where the participants can put them into practice in a fast and efficient way after their return,” he said.

“Experience shows us that no matter how good a project idea is, the financing structure needs to work long-term. After the first edition we really have the feeling, that besides sharing with them the knowledge how to do it, we motivated everybody to show that it is indeed possible to make your dream come true — with a little help from my friends.”

Mentors included Thorsten Ritter, exec VP of Germany’s Beta Cinema; Karel Och, creative director of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival; Marion Doring, director of the European Film Academy and producer of the European Film Awards; Ewa Puszczynska, project manager at production company Opus Film; and Roman Gutek, who established the Warsaw Film Festival in 1985, the New Horizons fest in 2001 and distrib Gutek Film.

Sofa ran Aug. 19-30 in Wroclaw, Poland.

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