FNE at Jihlava IDFF Emerging Producers 2013: Marina Gumzi

    Marina Gumzi Marina Gumzi

    FNE interviews Slovenian documentary producer Marina Gumzi, selected to participate in the 2013 Emerging Producers workshop at the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival.

    1. What are your hopes and expectations from Emerging Producers?

    EP seems to offer a great chance to meet fellow producers, learn what they are working on and did in the past, and get to know how they feel about their working situations and environments, but also to simply chat about films in general. These people will contribute to how European film environment will look like in the near future and it is a privilege to be part of it. I hope I will come across some common interests and new inspirations, from “emerging producers” as well as from other festival guests, in films, discussions and the atmosphere. If the occasion arises, it will be interesting to discuss concrete projects in development, to receive and to give feedback and to confront perspectives. In this situation, finding new working partners and colleagues isn’t at all impossible.

    2. What are YOU bringing to Emerging Producers?

    Curiosity. Open eyes and big ears. Perhaps inspiration, a new perspective on someone’s project, an idea which that person will be able to make something of. Apart from this, I will be taking part in the programme as a representative of my country. It is my responsibility to offer fellow producers insight into our film environment, to reveal its potential and so to open it for new connections. All in all, I hope to establish professional links that will contribute to the quality of my future work. Vice versa, I will “offer” myself as a new contact for new colleagues, which they will be able to turn to and use. The opportunity to build a new generation producers network is precious.

    3. What is the position of documentary film in your country?

    After it has been sleeping its somewhat lazy sleep for nearly two decades, Slovenian film as a whole seems to be currently in a process of waking up. An increased interest to work internationally, the gradual re-regulation of the national film policy and the advance of a new, ambitious generation of filmmakers are altering trends and the atmosphere. Yet the somewhat unhappy inertia of the last twenty years left a mark on how to make films, and why to make them. Being used to receiving relatively easy and nonrefundable means to make films and not being challenged to expose them internationally, Slovenian production was for a while not fully engaged with the actual life of films after they were made. This eventually shaped films, too, depriving them of sharpness and ambition. Putting aside few exceptions, documentary films became during this time a kind of “fast consumable goods” in the realm of national television. Such low-key production dynamic generated a domination by the reportage style of documentary filmmaking which largely defined themes as well as esthetics.

    On the other hand, Slovenia is a small and delicate environment. The Slovenian market will never be financially sustainable for films above a budget of 1m EUR and will always need coproduction investments to increase its sustainability. Documentary production has a better prospect in this sense, as the production needs are lower.

    In any case, Slovenian film, both fiction and documentary, needs a new buzz and I feel this is a good time for it. Bit-by-bit several elements are building a stronger industry: the Slovenian Film Center is finally led by a film practitioner who knows well the needs and faults of the system; the general interest in film is rising; and new working teams and new professional initiatives are being established. Among the new initiatives is an important platform for documentary films, “Days of Slovenian Documentary Film” which was set up last year as part of the Maribor 2012 - European Capital of Culture project which will, we hope, eventually grow into a national festival. The first two editions have shown that there is at least the quantity which needs to be paid attention to, and from it, if handled with devotion and persistency, creative confidence could gradually be built as well. Exposing the documentary format as autonomous, making a proper space for national production to be seen and discussed, continuous promotion and the engagement of various segments of the audience will eventually also push filmmakers to work more creatively and more in line with the world outside Slovenia. In the meanwhile, it is our responsibility to show more attention to those outstanding achievements that are already available, to talk about them and to be proud of them. For example, alongside some strong fiction films by the debuting directors, a very interesting documentary was made this year, by the young filmmaker Matjaž Ivanišin, Karpopotnik, a peculiar and illuminating film which could be a good starting point for opening up of the field for more original documentary formats. It is immensely important to protect such films and to try to get them beyond the borders of the country.

    To conclude; despite the general depression, the economic crisis which has been cutting support for culture to the level of insanity, as well as the frightening measures of the brain drain (or perhaps because of all this), Slovenian film in general seems to be on a good road by moving one step further. This movement could, as a whole, also be interesting for international audiences.

    4. What are the coproduction possibilities for documentary producers in your country?

    In theory, international coproductions of both documentary and fiction projects have the same access to Slovenian public support which is centralized in the Slovenian Film Centre. In practice, coproductions are more common among fiction projects, although some recent examples proved that very interesting work can be done in documentary coproduction as well. However, due to the general situation in the country the means for international coproductions are limited, which should not be the reason for not trying. On the contrary, Slovenia needs international partners, it needs their interest and protection; international coproductions are in fact the most realistic solution for Slovenian film to survive in a long run.

    5. What are your thoughts on the system of funding of documentary films today?

    Putting aside the classic public funds financing stories, it is interesting to observe the parallel evolutions of the financing models for documentaries and of the social and media revolution. Financing documentary production today offers a variety of opportunities, especially with regards to online sales opportunities and video on demand and is less stiff than for the fiction film, which is still all about the struggle of fitting its excess production into limited theatrical slots. Being lighter and in sense more content focused, documentary films have separated themselves from the dominance of a big screen experience and its exploitation has become more diverse. Documentary films have made good use of the newly offered possibilities of the digital revolution, which has in turn opened up new distribution channels and challenged its financing logic. Many European television channels, such as ARTE, TV5Monde, 3sat, Channel 4 and BBC offer on-line content though VOD, out of which more than half is documentary production. Specialized on-demand streaming media platforms offer profitable online distribution too. Even the free online distribution on YouTube can be profitable thought generated advertising revenues.

    On the other hand, crowd funding seems to have interesting potential for documentary production financing as well. In today’s global world of information overload it is easier to attract attention and so to raise funding for environmental, sociological, political, etc., issues, than for fiction story. The audience can relate to the idea for a documentary based of its own experiences, interests or concerns. The affiliation of the audience can exist without any mediators directly turned into a fund. These possibilities can in some cases balance the power of commissions and juries, which still direct fiction production. Within all this the position of creative, high artistic value boutique documentary production is questionable. In some way, such documentaries are in the same pot with the fiction production, which is struggling on its own.

    6. Which producer is your inspiration and ideal?

    I am somewhat cautious about having any kind of ideals. People are complex and so are producers. Although it exists in industry, each film is a prototype, meaning that in different cases, different characters and different ways of doing production are needed. So it would not be true to me to name someone to whose line-up I maybe feel the closest. I, however, admire all those producers who are devoted to the medium of film, to the collaborative action through which it is made, to the cinema and to the common experience it offers, to the sentiments and thoughts that it brings about, and those who try their best to turn their devotion into what is best for film. It might sound silly, but this at the end isn’t as obvious as it might seem at first. There are so many other things about this position which attract people: having power over other people and processes, a sense of control, and the whole social dimension of it, dinners and meetings and festival parties and all the little buzz. There is something fashionable about being a film producer nowadays, but that part leaves me entirely indifferent. I admire those producers who like film sincerely and passionately.


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