Blogging from the Berlinale Talent Campus: Day two

Blogging from Berlin, Toronto-based director Jason Lapeyre's day two takeaway seems simple: Don't think.
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Jason Lapeyre is a Toronto-based director, blogging from the Berlinale Talent Campus during the Berlin International Film Festival.

Read about his first lesson from the six-day creative academy and networking platform here. The second lesson from the Talent Campus? Don’t think.

Day two came at us hard with a huge lineup of incredible master classes, starting off with African filmmaker Gaston Kaboré and Juliette Binoche answering questions about the Talent Campus’s theme this year, “Changing Perspectives.”  Kaboré told an anecdote towards the end of the hour that demonstrated perfectly how he’s attempted to change people’s perspectives on Africa throughout his whole career: he bought up all the leftover film stock from Out Of Africa’s shoot at half price and used it to shoot his second feature, Zan Boko (1988), about a small village disappearing under the expansion of a big city.  Talk about flipping the script.

The second big panel of the day was with documentary filmmakers Sophie Fiennes (Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow) and Victor Kossakovsky (Vivan Las Antipodas), mostly focusing on what drives them to make documentary and what their process is like.

Kossakovsky is a nut, and was jumping up out of his chair and walking around the stage while answering questions, but all the while dropping wisdom bombs like he was the Dumbledore of documentary filmmaking.  He told us that fiction filmmakers were better human beings than documentary filmmakers, because doc makers are always hoping to find a tragedy so they’ll have something to film.  His best piece of advice overall: while shooting, the worst possible thing you can do is think.  Just be there, and give yourself over to intuition.  Great advice.

I had to run from there over to my first “Meet The Expert” session, with distribution consultant and online international sales blogger Sydney Levine.  In 45 minutes of fluid, articulate description, Levine efficiently and meticulously broke down the entire system of market sales and mapped out the global distribution landscape for us.  It was incredible.

With handouts and diagrams, she dropped golden hint after golden hint: get your sales agent while your film is still at festivals, so you don’t miss out on the opportunities your festival buzz will generate; if you can, get a sales agent right from script stage to get their input in how best to target your festival strategy; get a lawyer before you speak to a sales agent to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of; here’s how Cinemart Rotterdam works; here are the distributors at EFM that look for social issues docs; here are the best days to go to the EFM as a first-timer looking to make connections; here’s what percentage of the distribution world is US vs. the rest of the world (30/70), so make sure not to discount the importance of international sales in your strategy, and on and on and on.  Pure gold from start to finish.

I stayed for every last word, so I was 15 minutes late for “Directing Scripts, Editing Stories” with screenwriter Yan Geling (Flowers of War), director Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum) and editor Molly Malene Stensgaard (Melancholia, along with most of Lars von Trier’s films).  I was anticipating this one, but it was a bit of a letdown – they couldn’t really seem to find the connections between the three practices in this format, and it sort of devolved into three separate Q&A sessions.  Still interesting, but perhaps not in the way they hoped.

It still wasn’t over.  From there, we were hustled onto a shuttle bus and taken to the stunning post-industrial brickwork building ewerk for Dine & Shine, a random shuffling of Talent Campus participants with experts and luminaries there for the main festival.  In between courses, everyone moves, so in the course of the night I spoke with the head of the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa, a senior programmer from the Rotterdam festival, and a distributor from India.  I thought I had done pretty well until one of the other participants told me she was seated next to some weird Russian filmmaker named Victor Kossakovsky.

It’s only day two and I’m almost overwhelmed with information and emotion.  I had to check my head two or three times throughout the day to make sure I appreciated what was happening.  I can already tell you before this is even halfway over that I’m going to come out on the other side of this with a vastly better understanding of the industry and a whole new confidence about almost every part of the process, from pitching all the way through to the market – I just have to remember not to think too much during the most important parts.