With IDFA Project Space up and running, one thing is clear: This is just the beginning. The program has big plans for supporting filmmakers year-round, whether through creative development, professional consultancies, film financing, or other kinds of tailor-made support. But as evidenced by Meike Statema, IDFA’s Head of Talent Development, this idea isn’t altogether new. In many ways, the Project Space unifies and expands on the support structures already offered through the IDFA Bertha Fund, IDFAcademy, and other activities embedded in the IDFA institute. Still, she says, there’s a good amount of learning by doing. You need to be ready for all kinds of different needs and challenges. Kicking off the program during a pandemic, in that sense, isn't necessarily a bad place to start.
First we need to go one step further back. In the spring, we were planning IDFAcademy Summer School, and we had to think about adapting something we were used to doing in a physical way in Amsterdam. We immediately thought, instead of just transferring our plans online, let’s create something bigger for filmmakers throughout the year. That’s how IDFA Project Space was born.
So far, the core part of the program has been helping the filmmakers and their projects get one or two steps further into their development. Meeting their tutors one-on-one, discussing the progress of the projects and the obstacles they’re facing, and some group meetings and inspirational masterclasses.
The session with Karim Aïnouz was really inspiring as an extra element. He wasn’t able to tutor a project, but he was willing to share his expertise and his work, so we had a film screening and then a talk with Orwa [Nyrabia]. Normally it would be too much hassle to fly him over to Amsterdam only for one session, but now we were able to do it.
Definitely. Normally, with programs like the Summer School, we match each tutor with two projects. Now, we had freedom to think which tutor would fit a project best. Can this person have two projects and in, the second week, a third one for a second opinion?
As an example, we had a filmmaker from Beirut who’s doing an archival music documentary, and who felt a strong connection to Alan Berliner’s work. Doing an online program meant that we could invite Alan only for this one project. Normally, he would take on another project, do a masterclass, and so on, but now we had the freedom to make the program tailor-made in a real sense.
Overall I’m really excited about the fact that we could combine different kinds of elements that in the end had the same purpose: helping out the filmmakers, giving them the feeling that they belong to a special group, celebrating the love of filmmaking, and at the same time really helping them out further without being stressed about the fact that it's online.
Besides discovering new talents, having familiar faces is of course something you always wish for as well. For example, seven out of ten are IDFA Bertha Fund-supported filmmakers, so Isabel [Arrate Fernandez] already knows them. And now with the Filmmaker Support Department, it adds up: They’re already on our radar because of the Fund, and with the training program you really give them an in-depth experience. It’s such a logical thing to follow up with them in many ways, not just as program alumni or Fund grantees. It feels more sustainable as a longer-term relationship with the team, and with IDFA as well.
I think we invested even more into getting to know them in advance because we knew the first Project Space sessions were going to be online. As part of the selection process, we did interviews with 25 applicants, and then we did follow-up online meetings with selected participants. That meant we got to know the teams so much more before we even started, and that's really something that I would always keep for next time.
The participants are already in a further stage, so by mid-September we’ll organize a plenary session on international co-production and one about distribution and festival strategy. We’re also still looking into another session about keeping your story your own, even when all the industry influences come along. So it won’t only be about the business aspects.
There might also be a project who needs another look at their rough cut, for which we can easily arrange a second one-on-one consultation. Maybe one of the projects doesn’t need anything for this moment—but that doesn’t mean they’re off the list; they might need something else in the future.
Monitoring and following up is one of the supportive aspects of the Project Space, in addition to sessions and consultations. “Support” means getting funding from the IDFA Bertha Fund too, but also advice on festival strategies once the film is finished, and access to our network.
It’s a work in progress. Now of course we’re heading towards the festival, so besides the IDFAcademy program going online, we will continue with IDFA Project Space. They could be emerging producers in Amsterdam working on a project, for example, so we might design a tailor-made program for them in the city. At the same time, we’re already looking into the 2021 program. It’s such a fluid process. Whether an IDFA Project Space participant is a First Appearance filmmaker, an IBF-supported filmmaker, or an IDFAcademy alumnus—if they need help at some point with a project, we’ll be there.