Eastern Promises, the popular industry strand of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, has spent the last two years relegated to an online only event due to Covid-19, but the upcoming seventh edition of the event is now gearing up for what it hopes to be a vintage year as it returns in a physical capacity on Sunday, June 3.
The three-day event, which looks to promote regional and international filmmakers with distributors, sales agents, producers and festival programmers, will unveil 35 selected film projects – all at various stages — through its Works in Progress, Works in Development – Feature Launch, First Cut+ Works in Progress and Odesa International Film Festival Works in Progress presentations. The most promising projects will receive awards totalling up to €125,000 ($151,850).
“The most important thing right now is that we’re back in a physical and on-site situation,” says head of film industry office Hugo Rosák. “We tried the online edition in the previous events and now we’re just looking forward to coming back to the physical pitching event.”
This year, its First Cut+ program, which was launched in 2020 to boost the marketability of feature films that participated in its First Cut Lab, is now branching out to include projects beyond Central and Eastern Europe, which had typically been its remit in the past. Much like its new Proxima Competition strand, which is opening up to include stories from beyond the region, First Cut+ this year will feature projects from Canada, Brazil as well as a UK-US-India co production dubbed Goldfish.
“We’re testing it,” Rosák says. “I still want to keep our industry section in some way specialized because we still want to be relevant and have an expertise in something. A lot of these projects from Central Eastern Europe often have a much harder path to be fully produced in the end, especially from the eastern European countries so we see this as still a mission for us on the industry side but we are experimenting as well by including projects from a wider geographical pool. I’m excited and curious to see how this will play out.”
Elsewhere, the festival is launching its KVIFF Talents, its talent development program which will run all year round. The aim is to support emerging filmmakers from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and provide them with “an alternative way to produce.”
“In the Czech film space, we are experiencing this kind of situation where a lot of the filmmakers are just waiting to get their first feature film produced once they received funding from the state fund but state funding doesn’t support necessarily daring projects or low budget projects,” he says. “They are very careful in how they distribute tax payer’s money of course and I think we will even see less money distributed in the upcoming years. This is our way of searching for creativity and addressing it. We want to give an opportunity to create something with a low budget [within €200,000].”
Rosák adds that the aim is to pair the selected projects and talent with mentors and collaborators “in a customized way.”
That way, he says, “they will have a better chance in finding private equity money down the road and a better chance of finding funding through the state because they will have already gone through this kind of development workshop.”
KVIFF Talents is divided into two sections, held in parallel: the “Creative Pool” focuses on ideas for audiovisual works of any format or genre ranging from short film to web series to podcast while “Feature Pool” will support live action films that have the potential to be made quickly.
Additionally, located in the new KVIFF.TV Park space, the festival will launch its Film Distribution Innovation Hub, a public showcase that will include different innovative digital tools put together by various tech company representatives to provide inside into alternative methods for distributing work.
As previously announced, Ukraine’s Odesa Film Festival, is set to hold its own Works In Progress section within the industry strand. Led and programmed completely by the Odesa Film Festival staff, Karlovy Vary is offering a space for this festival to screenings of works in progress. The Odesa Film Festival is set to take place from July 23-30 and its festival director Anna Machukh has indicated that the format of the festival – whether it runs online or in-person – will depend on the situation in Ukraine at the time.
“This is something that we hope is going to be useful for our Ukrainian friends because, in a sense, it will help these films to not get stuck in the pipeline and hopefully get a chance to get finished,” says Rosák. “A lot of funding in Ukraine has, of course, gone into the war and not into films. So, we hope that we can at least showcase the work that is out there.”
Rosák says that this initiative felt like a “more meaningful way” to support Ukraine as opposed to showing a retrospective of Ukrainian films.”
He adds, “We really want to help these producers to still be able to showcase what they have. For us, it’s a continuation of two years of uncertainty because, we’ve just had the pandemic and now it feels also that there are so many uncertainties surrounding the war. We need to help our Ukrainian friends in any way we can.”
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