“Expelling the festivals would cause the death of independent cinema”
As editor of the Internet magazine ‘Films & Festivals’ Rose Chamberlain knows about festivals. But what does she think about the recently discovered circuit of children’s film festivals? “They raise tomorrows’ festival audiences. I find them so very inspiring.”
In 2001 Rose Chamberlain flew from Brazil to London with a dream in her pocket: finishing her education as a documentary film maker and start working for the BBC. “Soon I drew two conclusions: I wasn’t a good director and the competition in London was huge.” With the recent renaissance of the film industry in her homeland in the back of her head, she created a new job for herself: in 2004 she organised the first edition of the Brazilian Film Festival in London. What about the production of children’s films in Brazil?
Chamberlain: “Brazilian cinema boomed in the nineties thanks to CITY OF GOD. Until then 3 or 4 Brazilian films were produced yearly; nowadays that number raised up to 70 à 80. Amongst them are few children’s films, however films about children, made for a grown up audience, are rather popular: THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION, CENTRAL DO BRASIL, VERONICA”
Do these films find their way on the international market?
Chamberlain: “Brazilian filmmakers tell stories about their own situation; you almost need a ‘Brazilian code’ to understand them. My advice is: Go international!’ because export is an urgent necessity for Brazilian cinema.”
How important can the role of festivals be in promoting them?
Chamberlain: “Very important! A festival gives access and makes cinema more democratic. Ask the audience why they’re coming to a festival and they’ll tell you: to see films that otherwise we would never see. Festivals have launched the careers of many directors. I heard Jason Reitman (THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, JUNO) making the statement in an award speech: ‘I dedicate my career to film festivals.’
Expelling the festivals would cause the death of independent cinema. Moreover festivals are a part of the film economy. With 33 million visitors the 4.000 festivals worldwide are substantially contributing to the box office. For those reasons I started research on the economical impact of festivals (with the support of the London International Documentary Festival), I lobby for more respect for festivals and I incite festival organisers to be more business-orientated.”
With the support of Film London (offering free training for people in the festival industry) Rose Chamberlain studied the festival world and found out that festivals and upcoming filmmakers didn’t have a platform to promote themselves. That’s why she started ‘Film & Festivals’, a magazine dedicated to film festivals. Nowadays there is a new issue available on the Internet every 5 weeks (download at www.filmandfestivals.com).
What makes children’s film festivals different from ‘regular’ festivals?
Chamberlain: “The programming has to be done by a grown up with the sensitivity of a child. He must be aware of what kids are attracted to in movies and add a certain quality standard to that: pleasing the audience while aiming for a higher goal. Educating without patronizing is a challenge. Moreover a youth film festival can create a festive atmosphere without faking the glamour of the red carpet.”
There must be differences on the budgetary level too.
Chamberlain: “Usually festivals, children’s film festivals too, rely on public funding. If at least 50 % of your budget is coming from the taxpayers, you must realize your festival has no future. In times of global crisis these are the first branches in which will be cut. A festival aiming to survive on a longer term has to think economics. You can’t limit a festival to a once-per-year event and then doze off again. You have to organize activities to stabilize your work throughout the whole year.”
What would be the first advice to a children’s film festival knocking your door for help in raising new funds?
Chamberlain: “I would advice them to do as I always do: look for contacts with other organisations. Ask yourself if it’s worth to start something new. Maybe a well organized event already exists in your country, with whom you can establish a good cooperation. I have a strong belief that cooperation makes us stronger, while fragmentation weakens us.”
No more nightmares
How can festivals learn from each other’s mistakes?
Chamberlain: “By exchanging information, for instance during the International Film Festival Summit (in London, Paris and in December in Las Vegas). People in every sector organize themselves in unions, do market research, improve their products… Why shouldn’t we do that? Culture business is business too.”
Is the age of digitalisation causing big changes for the festival world?
Chamberlain: “Hurrah for digital technology! It makes life easier and cheaper. No more nightmares about transporting film reels all over the world while customs charge you on import and export. And thanks to this technology more films are produced. That implicates more work for the programmers, but enlarges our choices too.”
How do you feel about screening fees?
Chamberlain: “I never paid them while I was directing the Brazilian Film Festival. But I think they should be negotiable. I can understand both sides. Without festivals filmmakers wouldn’t have a platform to screen their work. But filmmakers should be paid for the work they produce. Imagine you never get paid for the films you make, which are screened by others… I don’t know why but whoever produces culture always seems scared to talk about money. But it’s crucial for the film festival sector to change its perception and start to think more businesswise.”