EDN Member of the Month – Adam Papliński
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 May 2017 is Adam Papliński, founder and manager Pitch the Doc, Poland.
EDN has talked to Adam Papliński about his passion for documentaries and the Pitch the Doc platform.
Adam Papliński has been involved in various fields within the film industry for over 25 years. He has worked as assistant director, production manager and producer for feature films, TV spots and documentaries. From 2010-2015, in the framework of the Academy of Documentary Arts (ADA) he coordinated the international documentary training and pitching event in Poland – “Dragon Forum” – and was the head of educational projects undertaken by ADA in Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Currently he is involved in his own initiative "Pitch the Doc" - the online platform for promoting, marketing and pitching of documentary film projects.
Adam Papliński is a member of Polish Filmmakers Association, International Association “Future of Media” and European Documentary Network.
EDN: Can you start by telling a bit more about your background and your own road into filmmaking and producing?
AP: The story begins a long time ago, in the 80’s, when many Poles – in order to make their life better - decided to work abroad in the frame of so called “technical cooperation in developing countries”. This is how I found myself in Algeria where my mum was employed as a geologist by a local company. I spent almost 5 years there, I finished college and started to study geological sciences at the University of Algiers. In the mid 80’s I decided to continue my studies in Warsaw and as a young father, which I became soon after, I used to make money on French-Polish translating and interpreting.
And then once upon a time, the agency that I was working for, had assigned me the task to assist the negotiations leading to an important feature film production. I was excited by this new topic and did my best to get more involved in it. I have translated screenplays, and breakdowns, and as an absolute greenhorn I went for 3 months on a long, difficult shooting as 2nd AD / interpreter for director Robert Enrico. It was the renowned movie East Wind with Malcolm McDowell, where Polish Tatra Mountains pretended to be Lichtenstein Duchy in May 1945… I have to confess that then I fell in love in working on a film set…
EDN: Now the focus of your work is on documentaries. What laid the foundation for your passion for docs?
AP: My adventure with filmmaking started with feature films, but in the late 80’s and early 90’s there were few French-Polish productions in Poland and of course I wasn’t the only Polish-French-English speaking DA/interpreter on the market. Even, if I had a great pleasure and honour to work with Krzysztof Kieslowski in Three Colors. White, I still had to keep on earning money for my family, so I founded a translating agency. Running my own company made it impossible to participate in long shootings and I then had to switch to less time consuming jobs. During the next several years I worked occasionally as a freelancer for video clips, reportages and even for TV spots, but here I didn’t feel comfortable with the hyper-commercial approach to film art...
Then one day a proposition to become a 2nd production manager for a documentary came... And that was it! Small crews, relatively short shootings, great people to meet, creative and artistic approach - briefly speaking - I finally found my place on the film market.
Besides being a production manager I started to coordinate international documentary training and pitching programs and continued to do this until the end of 2015.
EDN: When was Pitch the Doc launched and what was the motivation behind launching the platform?
AP: The official launch of the platform in beta version was publicly announced during the 2017 Berlinale. The idea to launch such an internet service came to my mind 2-3 years earlier… I had received a phone call from a Russian filmmaker that we had selected to pitch a project at one of our events. He explained to me that right now he was on the Barents Sea shore shooting the film and, even though he was honoured by our decision, he could not afford to come. He had no money to pay for accommodation, he had no passport and so on… I found it a real pity that such a good project could not show up on the European market and that around the world there are probably a lot of other outstanding ideas and film projects struggling with similar problems. On the other hand I heard feedback from decision makers that the market lacks fresh new ideas.
The obvious place for matchmaking the projects and investors seemed to me to be online, but I was surprised when after several days of surfing I didn't find a site providing an effective solution.
EDN: What is the mission of the platform and which needs in the market does it want to fulfil?
AP: I think there is a need in the market to provide an easy to use, cost- and time effective tool to present documentary film projects in their full extent and make them available to decision makers from everywhere and at any time.
The decision makers and prospective investors can then evaluate projects, get acquainted with them, and, hopefully, contact their authors in order to start co-production talks.
No one can attend all the important events to pitch projects, or to dig for brilliant new stories. Pitch the Doc could be a good clue for this issue.
EDN: Which functionalities does the platform offer?
AP: The platform is a living structure. We constantly work on it, improving it, modifying according to the market suggestions and we will keep on doing this. Each month will bring something new on the platform.
As for now we offer the core features. Authors can easily prepare the professional project’s presentation – the on-site, context-helped form carries them step by step, providing places for any needed information or material. We have an own tool for online, life recording of an oral pitch to make the presentation more natural and in order to avoid staging it and uploading it.
As a result the authors get a complete production package, coherent with European pitching standards. Validated projects are visible to all registered decision makers, but hidden for other authors. Authors can look through the decision makers’ profiles and try to attract their attention using the ‘knock-knock’ function. They can also share projects individually with other authors. What is important is that projects can be modified anytime to keep them updated.
On the other hand decision makers can use a number of specific filters to find the most relevant projects - from production stage or shooting format to keywords or name of crew member. If they like a project they can contact the author directly, or mark it as followed so they can be notified about major changes, and monitor the project’s development. They can also recommend a project to other decision makers.
There are also detailed business profiles of users, internal communication and notification system, and the possibility to generate “Catalogue pages” as PDF in a predefined and nice looking format.
But, our minds are still full of new ideas for fine-tuning the platform, as well as of new features and services…
EDN: How do you launch a project on the platform? Is the content curated or can anyone pitch a project?
AP: To launch or “compose the project” – according to the term used on Pitch the Doc platform – the user has to be a verified author. Afterwards the person can then provide all information required by the system, including synopsis, director’s/producer’s note, production details, crew description, financial data, trailer, pictures, and record the oral pitch online. All these elements form the so-called “Pitching Package” that has to be submitted to validation. This validation is in fact the curation of the project. Our team checks the completeness, correctness and care of preparation, quality and credibility, and compliance with international pitching standards. Only projects that have successfully passed this curation/validation can be accessed by decision makers. If we find some omissions or lacks in the project we inform the author and we often give advices how to modify the project to make it even more sexy for the decision makers.
EDN: Do you include projects from all over the world and in all stages?
AP: Yes. Projects from all over the world and in all stages of production are warmly welcome. Under the condition that they are prepared in English and they comply with our standards!
EDN: We all know that decision makers can be very hard to get in touch with due to their busy schedules and the constant flow of proposals. How do you get them on the platform and how do you secure communication between the project owners and the decision makers?
AP: Yes. To get decision makers on the platform is crucial. Renowned decision makers will attract good projects and good projects will make decision makers more satisfied with using the platform. Pitch the Doc could be an answer to their constant lack of time and to the invasion of proposals that sometimes are simply not appropriate for their slots or interests. The platform as a repository of projects provides possibility of viewing only those that are really matching their specific needs, thanks to the detailed search criteria.
And it is important to emphasize that the use of Pitch the Doc won’t result in the risk of receiving additional dozens of e-mails a day. The initiative to establish contact is always in the hands of the decision makers. Once the message is sent it can be answered, but the only tool that an author can use as first to contact a decision maker is what we call “Knock-knock” and it is a standardized short message featuring just the name and project logline. In addition decision makers can decide what contact details he wants to hide or show in order to secure privacy.
EDN: Do you see the platform as a supplement to or a replacement for the traditional offline pitching forums? Do you collaborate with existing live pitching forums?
AP: Absolutely. We do not consider the platform as a replacement! We perfectly know the value of face-to-face meetings and direct relationships.
We hope the platform can fill the gap between “pitching” and “not pitching”. That it can make a project available to a wider group of prospective partners, can be great for accessing the market, for professionalization, for making a first contact. Such contact can motivate or stimulate an author: “ok, there is somebody already interested in my project – it is worth to go”. Pitch the Doc can reduce the distance between top decision makers and filmmakers from distant countries.
And moreover it provides an easy tool for the follow-up: we met at a pitching or coproduction market, but maybe it was too early to co-operate, maybe the circumstances were not favourable. Via Pitch the Doc it can be easy to monitor project development and contact at any time.
So I think Pitch the Doc has a great potential for cooperation with pitching forums, market events or training programmes. We have carried out presentations at Visions du Reel, DOKER in Moscow, we had our information booth at Thessaloniki and Berlinale and we will have a stand at Sunny Side of the Doc, and in Krakow. We are actually in talks with several European events, but obviously we have started with Polish initiatives like Krakow Film Foundation, Polish Film Promotion and Doc Lab Poland.
EDN: What lies next for you and Pitch the Doc?
AP: Well… that is a book-size topic... ;-)
A lot depends on the financial support we can receive. We have the Polish Film Institute and Creative Europe on board, we have great support from EDN, we have a fantastic team of film, IT, legal and PR advisors and experts, but the platform is far from being self-sufficient.
There is still a long way to go, but our main tasks for this year are: closing the beta phase of the platform, of course extending the group of users, building relationships with several documentary initiatives. And above all improving the platform and introducing several new features, like the "show case" for projects' representatives, "notice board" for decision makers looking for a specific proposal, automatization of changelog, customizable solutions for partners and others. Every meeting, every presentation gives us something to consider, some corrections, some new ideas.
For more information visit: www.pitchthedoc.com
For an overview of all previous EDN Members of the Month, please visit: