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EDN Member of the month - Ileana Stanculescu

10.09.2013

In this monthly interview series EDN focuses on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group.

Our EDN member of the month for September 2013 is Ileana Stanculescu, Producer, ART-DOC, Romania.

Before becoming a producer Ileana Stanculescu studied at the film academy Konrad Wolf in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany. Her first feature documentary The Bridge was co-financed by the Jan Vrijman Fund, won the First Appearance Award at IDFA in 2004 and the Main Award at the Cinefest in Hungary the year after.

Among Ileana’s later documentary productions are Akhmeteli 4 (by Artchil Khetagouri), Village of Socks (co-directed by Klaudia Begic), and Noosfera (co-directed by Artchil Khetagouri). Village of Socks was financed by the Promotional Prize for Joint Film Productions awarded by the Robert-Bosch-Stiftung (Filmförderpreis für Koproduktionen), was nominated for the VPRO Joris Ivens Award at IDFA, and it won the British Council Award for the Best Romanian Documentary at the Astra Film Fest.  Akhmeteli 4 was awarded at Visions du réel and at the Rhodes Int. filmfestival Ecofilms. Noosfera has among other festivals been screened at IDFA, Thessaloniki Documentary Festival and ZagrebDox and won 4 awards at international festivals.

Furthermore Ileana is initiator of the festival CinéDOC in Tbilisi, Georgia together with Artchil Khetagouri, and in 2012 she was also involved in the workshop DocStories Blacksea, organised in partnership with IDFA, and dedicated to filmmakers from the Black Sea region.

Ileana’s company ART-DOC was established in 2004 and is an independent production company, based in Bucharest, Romania. It specializes in the production of creative documentaries and in training documentary filmmakers.

EDN has among other things talked to Ileana about her current projects and the situation for filmmakers in her region.

EDN: Can you start by telling a bit more about your company ART-DOC and the types of projects you are involved in?

IS: ART-DOC is a Romanian production company focused on creative documentary, but also on training documentary filmmakers and organizing film festivals (“Cinemobile Caucasus”), film screenings, conferences and other events dedicated to documentary film in Romania and the Black Sea region.

EDN: Which projects are you involved in at the moment?

IS: At the moment we are involved in developing our concept for a next training round in the region. We discussed with partners in different countries around the Black Sea and we would like to implement a similar project to DocStories Black Sea (for more information visit www.docstories-blacksea.com), but with additional partner organizations from Ukraine, Turkey or Russia. DocStories Black Sea had the Noosfera Foundation (Georgia) and IDFA (IDFAcademy) as partners. It went very well, but we would like to focus more on the region and create a regional network of organizations that work in the creative documentary field.

The greater Black Sea region (Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Byelorussia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Armenia) represents an important and dynamic audiovisual market, with a total population of over 320.000.000 people.

There is a big potential for good, authentic stories in this region, but few professional training initiatives specialized on documentary film. The booming TV market is often dominated by talk-shows and entertaining programs of a poor quality and documentary filmmakers have to struggle alone, often isolated or under-funded. Additionally, they have little access to festivals presenting new, creative documentaries produced in the European Union or elsewhere.

Moreover, since the rise of numerous private TV channels in almost all countries of the region, there is a big confusion between documentary film (as a genre) and TV-reports. Finally, the greater Black Sea region doesn’t have a common documentary market. Local TV broadcasters seldom cooperate or invest in regional or international co-productions.

Therefore we would really like to unite forces with documentary organizations and try to create a regional network that promotes local productions, lobbys for pre-sales or co-productions with TV broadcasters from the region and presents films from the region to their audience.  

EDN: Are you currently producing any international co-productions?

IS: Currently I don’t produce any international co-productions, if I don’t consider the above mentioned training and documentary network project almost like a difficult, multi-layered and multi-partners international co-production.

EDN: How do you usually find projects and partners for co-productions?

IS: Until now I found partners through former colleagues from the film academy in Germany, (my previous production Village of Socks was a German-Romanian co-production), or by meeting other film professionals at festivals or other documentary events and then deciding to work together.

EDN: You are based in Romania, which is located at the intersection of Central and South-eastern Europe. What is the current situation for the documentary industry there and for upcoming documentary filmmakers based in this region?

IS: In Romania there are more and more talented filmmakers emerging, not only in fiction film, but also in documentary film. Unfortunately they are very seldom supported by the national broadcaster TVR. But many of them apply for funding to the Romanian film funds (CNC). And, there is also HBO Romania, a private broadcaster that invests in quality documentary films, producing or co-producing at least 4 documentaries each year. HBO Romania does not have formats, the films are in general one hour long and they can be broadcast further on HBO Central Europe or other channels belonging to the HBO network. Persons like Hanka Kastelicová, the Executive Producer of Documentaries for HBO Europe, really believes in quality documentaries and travels to most festivals or pitching forums in the region, meeting young filmmakers, discussing their projects and finally investing in their documentaries.

I think most filmmakers in Romania are also happy about a second initiative funded by the Open Society Foundation. The Open Society Foundation organizes every year a pitching forum for documentaries and funds two projects: one at the development stage and one at the production stage. The films are later broadcast on TVR, the Romanian national broadcaster.

The collaboration with the national broadcaster is difficult, but thanks to the Open Society Foundation there is a possibility to get your documentary broadcast on TVR. The situation is a bit better when it comes to HBO Romania, as this broadcaster really funds the entire production costs of a film or co-produces documentaries covering a big part of the production costs. Other broadcasters from the region do not pre-buy or buy as many documentaries as broadcasters from the Western part of Europe (like YLE, MDR, VPRO, ARTE, etc.) and if they buy or pre-buy docs, it’s for very low amounts.

EDN: From which sources can you obtain funding for documentaries?

IS: The main source of funding is the Romanian National Film Funds (CNC), but it is relatively difficult to obtain funding from them and there were often scandals related to corruption in the past. Other sources are HBO, TVR, the Open Society Foundation, and the MEDIA Programme of the European Union. Our previous documentaries have also been supported by international donors like the Jan Vrijman Fund, the Co-production Award of the Robert-Bosch-Stiftung, the PHARE Fund (pre-Media support) and by other Dutch or German foundations.

EDN: Besides DocStories Black Sea you have also been involved in the organisation of the CinéDOC festival in Georgia. What is the profile of this event?

IS: The first international documentary film festival in the Caucasus: CinéDOC Tbilisi was my and Artchil Khetagouri’s initiative. Artchil is a Georgian filmmaker who studied at the Dutch Film and Television Academy and decided to move back to Tbilisi after some years spent in Amsterdam. The festival is now organized by the “Noosfera Foundation” – and organization founded by Artchil Khetagouri and a previous partner implementing DocStories Black Sea – so it’s a completely Georgian project.

CinéDOC Tbilisi is dedicated to creative documentaries; it received funding from many different organizations from abroad and from Georgia: like the Movies that Matter Foundation, the IDFA Bertha Fund, the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, the Georgian National Film Centre, the Georgian Ministry of Culture, Tbilisi City Hall, the Goethe Institute Tbilisi, etc.

The festival has four sections: International Competition, Focus Caucasus (with films from the Caucasus region, including Russia and Turkey), CinéDOC Young (docs for a young audience) and a “Georgian Panorama” (best Georgian docs produced during the last 10 years). Apart from film screenings, discussions and debates, there will be also a session of “DocStories Georgia” and a pitching forum for Georgian filmmakers. The festival organizers, Artchil and his team, are very glad that the director of the EDN, Mr Paul Pauwels, will be a jury member at the festival and one of the main tutors at “DocStories Georgia”.

EDN: What was the motivation for initiating these events and what are their aims?

IS: Both DocStories Black Sea and CinéDOC Tbilisi aim at promoting creative documentary film in the region. For DocStories Black Sea we focused a lot on storytelling in documentary film: the first session in Tbilisi (Georgia) dealt with storytelling structures & the dramaturgy of non-fiction films; the second session in Sibiu (Romania) dealt with innovative documentary formats for TV, internet, web-TV, VOD, and the third session in Amsterdam (at IDFA) dealt with funding, co-production and distribution possibilities. The participants could thereby present their projects at the most important documentary event in Europe.

The festival CinéDOC Tbilisi aims at bringing very good documentary films to the Caucasus and create an audience for such productions. In Europe, the creative documentary is one of the most innovative film genres developing constantly new forms and experimenting with storytelling and structure. But in the Black Sea basin, documentary film remained mostly at the stadium of one-fold TV reports and the audience still does not know what is a real documentary.

EDN: What is the importance of having events like this in the region and what has been the outcome so far?

IS: Except for some travelling film festivals and small scale initiatives that have ceased to exist, there are currently no creative documentary film festivals in the Southern Caucasus.

But in this region, which is still affected by three frozen conflicts, there is a very big need for independent documentary productions. Almost nobody has the chance to watch creative documentaries, neither filmmakers nor the general audience. TV broadcasters are often controlled by governments and usually broadcast old-fashioned TV reportages. Additionally there are a lot of propagandistic or nationalistic TV productions, most of them in-house productions.

Therefore we consider that it is very important to have such a documentary film festival in the region, a festival that becomes a platform for documentaries professionals in the Southern Caucasus.

EDN: Will the events continue?

IS: We really hope so and we will do our best to continue them in the years to come.  

EDN: Last but not least – which projects and plans lie ahead for you in the near future?

IS: The biggest project is creating a regional documentary network in the Black Sea region, a network of festivals, production companies and other organizations that focus on exchange and cooperation. We hope to continue our training activities, as well as promoting creative documentaries and creating a larger audience for such films in the region.

 

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