FNE at KVIFF 2019: Industry Debates International Opportunities for Czech Productions


    KARLOVY VARY: While filmmakers from across Central and Eastern Europe were pitching their documentary and feature film projects to a packed cinema of industry pros at the Karlovy Vary IFF's Industry Days programme on 1 and 2 July 2019, a smaller group of industry gathered to discuss what real options exist for Czech films on the international market.

    Films and TV production face different challenges, and to help them overcome the odds, the Czech industry conducted a study on selecting priority markets, based on both coproductions and international sales. Producer Vratislav Slajer, head of the Czech Audiovisual Producers Association (APA) told FNE that the top markets included Poland, Romania, the Baltic states, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and the USA.

    Slajer, whose own focus has turned toward more TV production after years of film production, said there is more space on the TV market for sales now. “TV is now the thing. It sells. It travels.” He added, “It’s audience-oriented; that’s one of the reasons it’s successful.” He gave public broadcaster Czech TV as an example. “Czech TV knows its audience and is trying to improve its quality.”

    English language production is a controversial issue. “A few years ago there was a big push to do English language productions. Now we think that was a mistake,” Slajer said. Simone Baumann, managing director of German Films, noted that the HBO production Chernobyl, which was filmed in Lithuania, was shot in English and has become one of the biggest successes in Russia. She suggested that if it had been shot in Russian, it would not have found the same success internationally. HBO’s European division still wants content in the national languages of its territories, but is looking for shows that can travel, either on their own or via remakes.

    As for breaking into the international market, Baumann declared, “There should be more initiative from filmmakers earlier in the process.” Her comment was picked up by festival consultant Ludmila Cvikova. “Now it’s sales agents who are reading scripts,” she said. “It used to be festival programmers.” CEE productions don’t typically build a marketing budget into their financial plan. International festival programmers who were in the audience said it would help them to raise the profile of films from the region if they had the funds to send their stars to foreign festivals. Slajer replied that the sales agent should help a film find its market. Smaller festivals with smaller business markets can help increase a film’s sales.