School of Film Agents (SOFA) 2015 Takes Stock

School of Film Agents (SOFA) 2015 Takes Stock

School of Film Agents celebrated its third edition in Wroclaw, Poland, bringing together, once again, some of the best and most promising young players
active in the European film industry today. The unique, core philosophy behind SOFA is the initiative’s continuous commitment to strengthening the film
landscape of countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus States where unstable political and economical conditions result in an
underdeveloped film industry.

SOFA-Founder Nikolaj Nikitin: "Granted, many films from these countries are being successfully screened at the big film festivals. Nonetheless, they are
still lacking the necessary infrastructure and institutional support that not only acknowledges and strengthens the position of film as an art form and
relevant socio-cultural and economic factor, but also backs the much-needed film mediators managing these initiatives – such as film festival-makers,
distributors and cinema operators."

The Program

Ten intensive days of workshop participation were made available to the eight film agents and their top-class tutors, where, together, they were given the
opportunity to successfully develop and push their promising ideas forward towards realization. Strengths and weaknesses of the projects pitched were
openly and constructively discussed in close dialogue with some of the biggest names in the European film industry. Lectures and panel discussions dealing
with the central topics at hand were visited and numerous in-depth one-to-one meetings took place. In comparison to last year’s edition, this year, an
intensive exchange between mentors and participants was able to take place already in advance guaranteeing optimal preparation for the workshop activities

The film agents and their film projects

In its third year, SOFA was, once again, able to pave the way towards realization for eight particularly committed projects. The eight participants were
selected out of over one hundred applicants in total – the rising number of applications in 2015 is a clear confirmation of the growing popularity of SOFA.

The goal of strengthening the regional film culture and industries in their respective countries unified most of the participants’ projects in 2015.
Additionally the production and distribution of European co-productions within the international theatrical market also took center stage at this year’s
SOFA edition.

With her project Lviv Film Commission the Ukrainian participant Olha Reiter pursued the establishment of the first regional film commission in the Ukraine,
a project which already commenced with its important work in August earlier this year.

The Dushanbe Documentary Film Center from Sergey Chutkov serves as a place for film education in Tajikistan – a platform providing space, equipment and
seminars for the production of documentary films by young filmmakers. 

The project Criss-Cross Film Lab developed by the Serbian participant Milica Bozanic would also like to provide a space for workshops and networking. In
addition to bringing together young filmmakers with producers, business skills and marketing strategies will also be taught.

A mobile film educational project will be put into motion by the Polish participant Malgorzata Tusk. With her project Cinebus – Mobile Center of
Audiovisual Education she would like to bring the already well-established workshop initiative "Film Spring Open" (led by the world-renowned DOP Slawomir
Idziak) into light in Poland.

With his project Cuz We Are Talented, the Czech participant Michal Kracmer plans to steer the attention to young talents from countries in Central Europe
while promoting co-productions between these countries.

Conceptualized as a full-service agency, the project Kaleidoscope, developed by the Slovakian participant Katarina Tomkova, intends to offer consultation
and internationalization strategies from script to theatrical release.

The Romanian participant Dorina Oarga aims to digitize student films from the National University of Theatre and Film Archive and make them available
online with her project Cinepub 2nd Life – a pilot project with the intention of preserving the film heritage of Romania. 

Creating new visibility for ambitious children’s films is the goal of the möwe. derKinderFilmVerleih, conceptualized by the German SOFA-participant Hella

The Lecturers

Each of the eight participants had a tutor by his/her side offering project feedback from his/her own special and professional perspective. The following
mentors lent their expertise to SOFA this year: Claudia Dillmann (Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt), Maciej Jakubczyk (New Horizons Association, Wroclaw),
Matthijs Wouter Knol (European Film Market, Berlin), Roberto Olla (Eurimages, Strasbourg), Katriel Schory (Israel Film Fund, Tel Aviv), Riina Sildos
(Baltic Event, Tallinn), Tamara Tatishvili (Ablabudafilm, Tbilisi) und Kristina Trapp (EAVE, Luxemburg). An additional lecture dealing with the topic of
Marketing and Consumer Psychology was presented by Domenico la Porta (Cineuropa, Brussels).

Four further experts – each of whom have been an integral part of the SOFA-Team since the inception of the initiative – accompanied the participants from
the first day to the very last of the workshop. Participants were able to develop individually tailored marketing strategies for their projects with Renaud
Redien-Collot (Novancia Business School, Paris), while Pitching Expert Sibylle Kurz (Frankfurt am Main) ensured that projects are presented with a sense of
confidence and ease. Oliver Baumgarten (Programme Director, Max Ophüls Preis, Saarbrücken) und Oscar-Winner Ewa Puszczynska (Opus Film, Lodz) were also
present, offering individual feedback-meetings aimed at stylistically and conceptually enhancing the participants’ concept drafts as well as helping them
to work out appropriate budgeting and realistic timeline schemes for their projects.

The SOFA-participants and lecturers were invited to attend a Film-Preview of the Cannes-premiered Swedish-Polish co-production "The Here After" in
Wroclaw’s largest arthouse cinema. After the screening director Magnus von Horn and producer Mariusz Wlodarski spoke about opportunities within and the
challenges facing the European co-production scene.

Film culture for the future – success stories

A look back at the last two editions of SOFA proves that the pan-European Thinktank dedicated to the future of cinema is truly making waves with
sustainable signs of change and the first projects bearing fruit. Many of the projects from the last two years have been able to be successfully realized
or are close to realization and implementation.

The Eurimage-backed Serbian SOFA-project FBO – Festival Box Office by Sonja Topalovic was launched as a beta version in February at the Berlinale. A
presentation of the interactive online-database for film festivals followed in the Spring in Cannes. Meanwhile, FBO is closely cooperating with the Film
Center Serbia, officially evaluating for them the number of visitors and ticket sales of art house theaters participating at Serbian film festivals.
Moreover, negotiations are continuously taking place with numerous international film festivals, not only keeping the project’s network flow in full-swing,
but also helping to supplement their valuable database at the same time. As an innovative business tool, FBO has long-term, world-wide plans to evaluate
the success of art house films screened at festivals, thereby giving key players in the industry invaluable insight into understanding public taste.

Leana Jalukse’s project Doktok – a distribution initiative for Estonian documentary films was able to be realized with the help of SOFA. Leana was also
able to participate in a six-week German language course in Munich where she completed a creative internship with Beta Cinema. This combination of language
training with professional internship possibilities is the result of cooperation between SOFA and the Goethe-Institut Prague and will be continued in 2016.
Former SOFA-participants Anna Bielak (Poland) and Gábor Böszörményi (Hungary) have also been able to take part in a German language course whilst building
up their networks of German business contacts.

The Romanian SOFA-project Transilvania Film Fund by Cristian Hordila is close to being fully implemented and the Lithuanian SOFA-project FRONT – Film
Republic of Networked Theatres by Kestutis Drazdauskas is making headway with the digitalization of cultural centers in Lithuania. The first agreements
with local government administrative agencies have been reached and plans are being made to incorporate the private sector into the overall financing
scheme of the project. Kestutis is also working out further financial support with Fatima Djoumer (Europe Cinemas), who plans to visit with him in
Lithuania this Fall.

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