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[News File]

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The development of the documentary in Europe and the possibilities for international co-productions were the main subjects of the ERT (Public Television Channel) conference Documentary Production in Europe, which took place on Thursday, March 22 at the John Cassavetes theatre in the context of the 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Images of the 21st Century.

Dimitri Eipides, Artistic Director of the Festival opened the discussion, giving a review of the edition. “This year’s edition is one of the most successful and this is proven by audience attendance. We began in 1999 with 3,000 admissions and last year we reached 33,400. We wanted to prove that the documentary is a popular genre which interests the common viewer and not just a “special” audience, and slowly we succeeded”, stressed Mr. Eipides. He continued by declaring that digital technology has given a new impetus to the documentary and the alternative means of information that goes with it. He also noted the great importance of the Market, which operates in the context of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. “The Market section gives directors the opportunity to sell their documentaries to television channels and have some revenues so they can continue to make films. Last year 25% of the films in the Market catalogue were sold. Generally, festivals play a significant role in the promotion of films to the public. The directors take part in discussions, come in contact with the audience, “collect” reactions”, Mr. Eipides concluded.

Then Lynn Pollock, representative of EBU (European Broadcasting Union), took the floor. She presented the documentary selections that EBU is promoting, using the recent example of European Man, which was a project she was responsible for. “The selections are a series of documentaries which are made through the collaboration of various countries. The cost of the programme is low and it gives directors the opportunity and the tools to take part in a highly educational process,” stressed Lynn Pollock. Speaking about

European Man she explained that the idea came from a Scandinavian production, Nordic Man, which looked at the differences among Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish people. “European Man was made in the same spirit, with Greece, Poland, Denmark and Finland as participating countries. So we made four episodes about the men of these countries, focusing on four subjects: loneliness, the work environment, family and love. The different countries’ directors got together in Denmark and lived together for a few days, discussing the specific project and the ways it could be realized” Lynn Pollock explained.

The director Timon Tsakiris, who took part in the production on behalf of Greece and ERT, stressed that the experiences he got out of the particular programme were valuable. “No one was working for themselves, we all worked as a team. The crew was multiethnic, but we soon realized that we weren’t all that different. As a matter of fact, the foreigner could see things that a local couldn’t, and which would interest an international audience, which what the final result would be aimed at” the Greek director said. He added that these types of programmes are the future for small countries such as Greece, as they guarantee financing for the directors. The only drawback to the particular programme, Kimonas Tsakiris said, was the small amount of time, since the shooting days at their disposal were very few.

Irini Gavala, responsible for co-productions at ERT, stressed about European Man: “I didn’t know how a Greek country man would react to a Danish cameraman. In the end it worked out very well, as the common language of cinema prevailed”, and added that the existence of this common language of cinema offers the opportunity to directors to try new things.

Christina Panagopoulou, Director of Media Desk Hellas, spoke about the opportunities offered by the Media Desk with its measures for the strengthening of the audiovisual industry and consequently for the documentary. “A modern, bold kind of cinema”, as she characterized it. “Europe produces more films than America, but mainly consumes American productions. Admissions for national productions in European countries make up 8%-35% of total admissions, while the corresponding percentage of admissions in a European country for films from other European countries is only 1%-12%. So the competitiveness of European films must be strengthened, something that can be done through the financing procedures applied by Media Desk in four areas: production, distribution and promotion of films, and training for directors”, Ms Panagopoulou said.

Finally, Lina Passanen, director of the European Documentary Network (EDN), declared that in order to keep up a certain level of quality in documentaries, the interest of producers must turn to international co-productions. “But we must keep in mind the fact that there is an audience

with a different outlook in every country, so we must find common goals as to subject matter”, Lina Passanen stressed.