“Linking the North” is the industry event of the Oldenburg International Film Festival. Its coproduction market between Norway and Northern Germany enjoyed
a very successful first edition at last year’s festival. Sydneysbuzz has had the opportunity to sit down with Torsten Neumann, the director of the
Oldenburg International Film Festival, and talk about this new industry initiative within the international film festival circuit.
How and why have you come to create “Linking the North”?
The story is actually quite nice because for us as a festival it’s always good to find certain things for more industry attention. We work for films and we
try to help films that need industry attention. The fact is that Jonathan Learn who lives in Norway came to visit the festival on another occasion along
with the head of the Norwegian Film Fund [Film3]. They were impressed and liked the festival so much and thought of creating a coproduction market with
Germany. Their first idea was to contact me and say “Can we do it in Oldenburg and can we get some attention there?” And then, I got in touch with
Nordmedia that found it interesting and wanted to talk further about it. Later on, I met with the heads of the two fundings – the head of the funding of
Film3 and Jochen Coldewey, the head of funding of Nordmedia – in Cannes and discussed the idea and we decided we could actually do it. We, therefore, set
it up for the first time and it turned out to be a success.
This is the 2nd edition of “Linking the North”. Can you comment on its evolution, give your impressions and tell us whether it has fulfilled your
expectations so far?
Yes! The reason why we are doing it the second time is clearly because the participants were quite happy with the results: they had good meetings and were
connected with interesting people here. And then, obviously, this feedback also went to the funding. They actually approached us saying we should consider
going on with it. It is clearly wonderful if we establish something that turns out to be successful. And, the evolution is also that we, of course, hope to
make it a little bigger, step by step, and get more interesting people together – producers, filmmakers, projects – involved.
It is clear that these things have to grow. We still have to see how the second edition will go. But, so far, we have very good feedback from producers who
are actually coming to this event without a project which is clearly one goal that we have achieve as a festival as well – bring more of these producers.
How has the festival existed so long without an industry event? How do you think it benefits (or will benefit) the Oldenburg International Film
Of course, we know Oldenburg is not a city that has its own film industry. So, we’ve been trying this quite a bit and at some point we thought that it
wouldn’t work in a place like Oldenburg. There was this filmmaker friend of mine who once said to me “
I actually think the secret of the quality of the festival is the absence of industry. It’s such a pure filmmakers and film lovers event and there’s no
competition between them. It’s like meeting and exchanging. It’s like industry, obviously, but in a different capacity. It’s all about bringing
creative people together and no competition, no fighting for money or anything, no stress but just everything for the love of art we are all sharing.
” And, there is some deep truth there because it has grown into a widely respected festival. But, that doesn’t mean that there’s no way to attach something
like this to it. We talked after this again to see if we might bring a different note to a coproduction market. It is probably something we will do in the
next few years if everything goes well. We have to think about how it remains true to our profile. But, of course, it survived without it and got a certain
reputation. Actually, the festival without industry made Inge Tenvik and Jonathan Learn who visited us think ” Ah! If we do something, we would like to do it there!” For some beautiful reason, they thought it’s a great place for it and I am glad that it
actually worked out quite well.
What can “Linking the North” offer the global film industry? How does it fit in it? How is it different from the other industry events at other film
I imagine the global film industry like every big city or metropolis that has its collection of little villages put together. So, we have to do something
even if it’s in the small range of two countries, two areas. But, it can always, it should always have a wider scope and be interesting for the global
industry because there are no borders. Film overcomes borders. That’s why I’ve always tried to encourage the fundings to spread the word and awareness way
beyond this region. I’ve been talking to filmmakers like this Norwegian producer and I said “
Even if you do a film, a small project that is a Norwegian film project, and if you find one German coproducer, there is no reason why you should not
be interested in making it bigger by being noticed.” We try to put it into the media, bring producers to this coproduction market that are not only German or Norwegian.
Do you think that coproductions are the only solution to make a film today? Or the most obvious/easiest? How do you think it will evolve?
No! I think it’s still a challenge to do this but we have to encourage filmmakers to do it and to think like this. And, that is very interesting! The head
of the Norwegian Film Funding is our partner here; he’s a very smart and cool guy and he says that they don’t have enough money to fund big films so he’s
trying to teach and encourage people in his country to go somewhere else and get the money. So, it is a challenge and I am sure it will be much easier to
do it in one’s small way and surrounding of partners (be it funding or coproducers). But, it is important to encourage this.
As a producer – but also as a festival director – how important and beneficial do you think they are?
Everything that film is made of is first and foremost networking and meeting people. That is why this industry is also probably the only industry that
functions by merging private life with business life so much like nothing else. If you work in the bank you go home and have other friends. But in film,
there are always these events that try to connect people that want to work with each other but also somehow like each other and get along. Networking is
the main thing that keeps filmmaking alive so I think these events are the most important things to do. I also think that nobody can come up and say “Hey! We have enough of these coproduction markets. That’s it! We don’t need more!” There can’t be enough! It’s the same when people say ” We have enough film festivals!” There are so many films that don’t have a platform… I don’t believe in this. I think that variety is important
and that it needs more opportunities. Otherwise the mainstream industry wins and defines what is made in the world today and we don’t want that. We have to
stand up against it! We have to fight!
How do you see the short and long-term future of “Linking the North”? What are your plans for it? Where do you see it going? Will it expand to other
It is something that has to blossom by itself. I’ve been talking to my partners who are in this case Nordmedia, the German funding, and Film3, the
Norwegian funding, and the last time we met was actually in Cannes when we set this up, and we already said then and there that there might be a good
chance to widen the countries in the third edition. But, we still have to see how this second edition goes. For now, for instance, we also have a project
from the UK, which is also interesting and adds another dimension to the event in the sense that it brings it closer to this expanding idea we have for its
short term future.