My ‘Bosch Stiftung Film Prize Nominee Forum’ Experience

I just came back from Berlin where I attended a film forum organized by the Robert Bosch Foundation. Organized for nominated projects competing for their 2013 Arab-German co-production film grants. 

I first found out about the Bosch Foundation and their generous funding opportunities this past summer in Amman where I attended a short-film project market hosted by the Royal Film Commission of Jordan meant to help Arab writer/directors partner up with German producers. After some pitch training and meetings, I decided to join forces with an ambitious producer, Jessica Landt from Beleza Film, and apply to the co-production grant together with our short fiction project The Stork.

We were shortlisted and invited to the Nominee Forum with nine other teams, each working on either short fiction or documentary projects, also made up of Arab and German filmmakers. It was an intense few days of training rounded out with good food and conversations. I think we all left more prepared to officially pitch our projects in February to the jury during the 2013 Berlinale.

Since I found it so useful, I thought I’d summarize my highlights:

Pitch training with Cathy de Haan: I first met Cathy in the Amman project market, where she introduced us to the art of pitching, but here she had more time to expand on her advice. She reminded us of the essentials: to keep things clear, consistent and concise – reflected in everything from how we use our voices, our bodies and the design of our visual material. We’ve got to relax, to enjoy the process, because we’ll never have this opportunity again to speak to this particular audience about this specific film. We tend to get so wound up with our presentations and ourselves that we forget about our audience; who we’re actually pitching to and who has ultimate power. What do they know about the project already?, what do they want to hear and how/why will they be moved by your project? Even if they’re critical of the pitch in the end, we should be appreciative and answer their concerns seriously, as their questions and feedback is proof they actually took the time to hear our pitch.

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Berlinale Highlight #5 – ‘An Action Plan’

A small selection of this year’s Talent Campus panels is now up on their website. You can WATCH THEM HERE.

I need to move on so I’ve decided to conclude my ‘Highlights’ series with my own two-step Action Plan based on this short experience; something I can post up on my office wall.

The following is drawn from the spirit and wisdom I was exposed to while also processing some ideas I’ve had in my head for a while but failed to implement.

Enjoy:

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Berlinale Highlight #4 – ‘Crossmedia Storytelling’

WARNING – this is a fairly dense post –

But I think any storyteller out there, whether you’re a filmmaker or not, will benefit immensely by following some of the links and possibilities mentioned.

Enjoy:

During the Talent Campus there were three separate panels devoted to the topic of Crossmedia Storytelling. Personally, these sessions alone were reason enough to hop on a plane to Berlin for the Campus – hopefully you’ll see why.

Let’s first start with a description of each of the three events taken directly from the program:

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Berlinale Highlight #3 – Berlin, ‘City of Ghosts’

Unfortunately, we remember and understand a city through the prism of the small number of people we met and experiences we had while there. This is even more problematic when our visit is so short. Maybe that’s why we take so many pictures and buy trinkets for our shelves before we leave a new place – we’re aware of how little we experienced but nonetheless afraid of forgetting it.

Such was my situation while in Berlin during the Talent Campus. While I had grand plans of visiting all the landmarks and museums, the reality is that we had very little time with the panel sessions during the day and films in the evening. But with all the walking in between, I did get a chance to experience a little bit of Berlin’s urban space.

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Berlinale Highlight #2 – ‘Alexandre Desplat’

Towards the end of the Talent Campus we were fortunate enough to hear the world-renowned film composer Alexandre Desplat speak about his life and craft in an event called ‘Sublime Sounds, Haunting Scores’. Here’s a description taken from the program:

If you enquire after the rising stars in film composition on the Hollywood scene, you will inevitably encounter the name of Alexandre Desplat. With a well-grounded background in film composition, extensive experience and an evident personal style, this French composer, after having composed the music for over 50 European films, began his triumphant success around the world in 2003 with the wonderful neo-classical and haunting score of GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING and the Silver Bear-winning score for THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED(2005). With a gift for rich, cinematic melody, his varying and sensitive orchestral style, his ear for rhythmic precision and his keen sense for dramatic nuances has been enriching the world of film music across the globe. He has made award-winning scores for such films as THE PAINTED VEIL, THE QUEEN, BIRTH and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. Using excerpts of the diverse films he has worked on, this prolific composer will discuss the ways of introducing the mood of a film through the opening music, the timing of a score and heightening of suspense moments within a scene. He will elaborate on the music in historical films or those made on foreign ground, and his approach to composing a score at a time when scores are increasingly being written before the film is edited. He will also talk about his close collaboration with various film directors and the differences in the production of European and US American films.

You know when you meet someone who is not only passionate about what they do but is also able to articulate that passion and their craft to the point that you actually want to drop everything and pursue that career? Well that’s how I felt after this session.

As he talked about his work I was reminded of an interview I saw with Walter Murch who has a habit of using very visual and physical analogies to describe his craft as an editor.

I thought this was something unique to Murch but after listening to Alexandre I think the reason these practitioners are so good at what they do, besides talent and hard-work, is that for them the raw tools they work with, notes or images, are very physical objects that have weight and volume. They each have emotive qualities. For them they are multi-dimensional with personalities. I’m mean listen to cinematographers talk about ‘carving light’ or production designers describe how a color feels.

I’ll try to sum up what I took away from this session:

  • To use music expertly, one can’t simply lay a track over the sequence of images hoping the two will fit perfectly; that’s like assuming you can buy a suit off the rack and wear it straight away. There needs to be some ‘tailoring‘ that stiches the music to the images moment by moment.
  • The process of sewing music into a film is a way of reediting a film – because it has the potential to enhance or change the story/mood/theme.
  • He chooses to work with musicians that bring something of their unique personality and playing style into a project.
  • Each instrument in a piece and the energy/technique it is played with says something to the audience, at least subconsciously, so choose them wisely.
  • Silence is as important as sound.
  • Music is a way of agreeing or disagreeing with what’s happening on screen.

Berlinale Highlight #1 – ‘The Talents’

The first thing I’d like to highlight about my experience at this year’s Talent Campus was all the great fellow talents I met – I learned more from them than anyone else.

I got a chance to meet and network with filmmakers from all over the world. I was especially interested in the ones that were in a similar phase of their career as my own where they’ve worked on a couple of shorts and are trying to progress to feature-length work. It seemed that many of us face similar obstacles in our respective nations because of a lack of funding and opportunity. One possible solution is for us to collaborate across borders and pool our resources.

We traded advice about applying to various funds, films to watch, books to read, etc. I learned about countries I’ve never been to, like the Scandinavian & Icelandic nations and realized I need to travel more.

I’m inspired by several talents who seem to have figured out a balance between their day job, their passions, and giving back to their communities.

I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to collaborate in the future but regardless I’m indebted to them for their inspirational and wise words – thank you!