With a dizzying number of film fests operating throughout the year and more launching all the time, navigating the optimal path to success abroad is a greater challenge than ever, as the Polish Film Institute’s Izabela Kiszka-Hoflik knows well.
Charged with the org’s substantial foreign fest support role, she oversees the investment of some $2.8 million annually to support the promotion of Polish films internationally, sending local pics and filmmakers around the world.
Kiszka-Hoflik also coordinates campaigns for the major worldwide awards, including top international festivals, and in the races for the Oscars, the European Film Awards and the U.K.’s Bafta.
Help for fund-challenged Polish producers, who are often short-handed or short of experience with international marketing campaigns, covers everything from travel expenses, translation and creating film prints and DCPs, to posters, Web design and appointing press agents.
The process proved its merits during the 2014 Oscar campaign for Pawel Pawlikowski’s critically acclaimed arthouse hit “Ida” (pictured). That film, which won the foreign-language Academy Award, began its run at the Telluride fest in 2013.
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As Kiszka-Hoflik says of the publicity push, “It’s very important as it gives visibility and also a constant presence in the market.” That’s a factor particularly crucial for Polish films breaking into the U.S. territory, she points out.
“I truly believe that ‘Ida’s’ success is also due to the previous Oscar campaigns we led,” she says. Those included a strong presence for Polish films with the highest chance of crossover success in Hollywood, including Oscar noms for “Katyn,” Andrzej Wajda’s drama, and the Agnieszka Holland’s “In Darkness.”
Warsaw-based producer Joanna Solecka of the Wajda School says PFI help is “crucial” and can cover 90% of the costs of pushing a film through the A-category fests. “For many films, especially debuts or coming from emerging producers, this is really important help,” she says.
The costs of such campaigns “double the production costs” of smaller, but promising films, Solecka points out. “Without PFI, the professional Oscar campaigns would not be possible,” she says.
PFI does important matchmaking on the international level, not only at big film festivals and markets, but also investing in events and inviting film professionals to Poland, such as the Polish Days at Wroclaw’s New Horizons fest.
Other Polish fests have also embraced events from their counterparts abroad to help local producers and helmers connect and extend their reach.
The Torino Film Lab’s third edition at the Gdynia fest this year is a case in point, says Kiszka-Hoflik, as is the growing influence of the Wroclaw-based School of Film Agents, now in its third year of seeking out and mentoring up-and-coming film professionals in Eastern and Central Europe.
Young Polish producers have also turned a corner, she adds, with many from the busiest productions shingles, such as Otter Films, Alter Ego Pictures and Koi Studio, having been trained abroad and advanced through proven European training programs such as European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs.