For ten years DW Akademie has been inviting African, Asian and Latin American film festival managers to Berlin for a workshop that focuses on festival organization, financing and networking.
It's all familiar to Magdalene Reddy: the long ticket line-ups, the crowds of film fans, the advantages of accreditation - and the German winters. In 2011 she took part in DW Akademie's five-week "Film Festival and Event Management" workshop. Now she's back - this time as a trainer. "I learned a lot back then and I'm happy to share it with this new group," says Reddy. She works with the Durban Film Festival in South Africa and says that the Berlin workshop helped her and colleagues to improve ticketing and, having seen the Berlinale's European Film Market, to develop a get-together for people active in the film industry.
Ten years ago DW Akademie began inviting the heads, staff and program organizers from African, Asian and Latin American film festivals to Berlin. The concept behind it is that local film industries are not only essential in terms of social policy but can also become an important economic factor. And film festivals can play an important role in this. "Our workshops aim to help professionalize individual festivals. We look at organizational and planning aspects but another goal is to develop networks," says Pamela Schobess, DW Akademie project manager. It starts at the group level, she says, "and then expands exponentially during the Berlinale itself."
This is the first time that film festival managers from Laos and Bhutan are taking part. Siphai Thammarong and Tshering Dorji say this is the largest film festival they've attended so far. "Ours isn't as large as this," says Siphai Thammarong, manager of the Luangprbang film festival, "but I've already learned a lot about organizing and ticket sales."
Tshering Dorji from Bhutan says he's also getting new input. In Bhutan, he says, there's a shortage of everything. "While some here are complaining about financing and low-budgets, we're facing no budgets." Tshering Dorji heads his own theater group and works unpaid for two national Bhutanese film festivals. "I'm learning how to organize festivals more efficiently here and that's important," he says.
And that's the focus of the DW Akademie workshop: learning how to better organize various aspects of a film festival. "Although the participants come from different countries, they share the same problems," says Pamela Schobess. "Not having reliable financing and not having enough trained staff are their biggest challenges."
Festival for enthusiasts
Schobess is heading the workshop for the third time. "I'm amazed at the energy and passion the participants put into their festivals. Some of them have to overcome incredible bureaucratic hurdles," she says. "I'd understand it if some said they couldn't go on anymore, but it's rare that someone quits." They're fighting for their festivals, says Schobess, because they're convinced that important stories can be told this way, and how crucial this is for their countries. "Their enthusiasm is absolutely contagious," she says.
The 11 participants arrived three weeks ahead of the Berlinale. Training initially focused on analyzing and choosing films, event management, festival organization and sponsoring. When the festival itself got underway the workshop relocated from DW Akademie's seminar rooms to Potsdamer Platz - the heart of the Berlinale. This is where the participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Tunisia, Trinidad and Uganda meet with Berlinale staff and managers, and become part of festival life with all its receptions, tours and one-on-one talks.
The "shadowing" experience is especially intense. Each participant spends a day with a Berlinale staff member involved in the participant's own area of expertise. Mexican participant Carolina López Méndez, for example, will be joining Jolanda Darbyshire, head of the event management department, at the "Golden Bear" awards. "I didn't expect an opportunity like this," says Méndez who works in sponsoring and event coordination at the Guanajuato International Film Festival. Now, with her tight Berlinale schedule, she says she'll have to make a dash for the shops. "I only brought along thick winter boots," she points out, "but I don't think they're appropriate for the red carpet!"