Having just finished with the Berlinale, the Talent Campus project manager Christine Trostrum and I were surprised to see each other on this side of the world! But here we were sitting next to each other at the Talent Campus in Guadalajara.
In collaboration with the Berlinale Talent Campus of the International Film Festival of Berlin and the Goethe-Institut Mexico, FICG is currently presenting the fourth edition of Talent Campus Guadalajara (TCG.04), from 1 to 5 March 2012. The fourth edition of STC focuses on promoting the quest for a true narrative of the emerging American filmmakers. This year’s motto: Emerging Narratives: Facing the reality . This theme is guiding the campus activities.
For 27 years FICG (Festival de Cine de Guadalajara) has sought to build a solid film industry in Mexico and Ibero America. For this purpose, the Festival created a section to serve as platform for learning and enhancing young filmmakers’ abilities regarding different aspects of audiovisual creation. The Education section strives to promote and provoke the development of young filmmakers by bringing future talents the experience and knowledge of international film experts. Dialogue, teaching, collaboration and the sharing of concepts, ideas and methods contribute to the professional instruction of future audiovisual creators.
I went to a panel that my friend Christine Davila (Associate Programmer for Sundance, former mentor at The Literacy Project and all around film festival activist) was participating in called Stories on Everyone’s Lips: Dialogue about distribution and the new ways to take advantage of social networks and new technologies in order to distribute films. Along with Christine Davila on the panel were Cynthia Kane of ITVS which is a part of Public Broadcasting System providing funding for 10 international documentaries a year out of around 500 submissions. She stressed that Latin American submissions were low and they were seeking more submissions. They fund up to $100,000 a film as a co-producer (the money is not a grant), assist in finding the best international documentary broadcasters, digital platforms and community outreach. Also on the panel were Leonardo Zimbrón, an independent producer from Mexico who has also worked with major studios and as a result has some experience of how Mexican films travel abroad, Patrice Vivancos from MEDIA in Brussel and Frances-Anne Solomon from Caribbean Tales in Toronto and Barbados. The moderator was Claas Danielsen the Artistic Director of DOK Leipzig, Europe’s oldest documentary film festival.
Panels are delicate events which need to offer realism but not the sort of realism that so often warns young filmmakers “Don’t go here, it’s not possible, etc.” The social networking aspect, as always, creates the most dynamic discussions because the fact is, very few know its actual monetary results and everyone has a hope and an opinion. This panel skirted the dangerous area of discouragement when the dialogue between the panelists and the audience began. The big question, as always, was how to make money through new digital media. There was too little talk about the crowd sourcing methods now in vogue and too little knowledge from the participants to give accurate accounts of films that did make money on the internet such as Margin Call which grossed $4 million at the box office and another $4 million on digital platforms. And the contrast between U.S. and Mexico with their New World optimism and Europe with its Old World stance was marked by the 4 to 1 participation, the 1 being European Patrice Vivancos from MEDIA who repeatedly referred to his age as a factor in his own negative reaction to new media platforms.
One of the most interesting topics was brought up by Frances-Anne Solomon when she told of iTunes searching the Caribbean for films so it could make a brand similar to the very one she is building of Caribbean Tales, voices from the diaspora and from the islands themselves. They pulled the typical major co-option option on her. I often write of the indie successes being co-opted by majors. iTunes warned her that they were bigger than she was, so she should give up hope. However, when they go to the Caribbean (and other places I’m sure) looking for films, they do not have the ability to make a film stand out by creating brands that fit below their iTune moniker. Nor do they take on individual films. Rather, they advise the filmmakers to go to aggregators such as Cinetic, New Video, Imagination or The Film Collaborative. No Caribbean brand exists with these aggregators and yet Frances-Anne was unkindly told she was too small to become an iTunes aggregator. Those are fighting words, especially since she and her company’s films serve a much larger and more diverse audience than individual consumers who may or may not be searching for Caribbean culture. Caribbean Voices creates larger educational projects for schools, universities, libraries and community groups. iTunes is even eyeing the educational world. Caribbean Tales serves as an object lesson for what is happening today in the new media world for new voices which have been so separated from the possibility of being heard until this digital era.
How are the Davids of the world (the 99%) going to bring the 1% Goliaths to account for their well-being?