Transilvania Film Fest Revamps Industry Program to Promote New Talent

When Dumitrana Lupu took charge of the Transilvania Film Festival’s industrial program earlier this year, she was charged with a dual mission of continuing to discover and nurturing emerging talent from the host country and ensuring that the Romanian festival remains a key gathering place for filmmakers from across the globe Southeastern Europe and the surrounding region.

To that end, she and the organizing team have overhauled some of TIFF’s industry sections while ensuring that long-running programs provide continuity for a festival that runs its 21st edition from June 17th to 26th.

With a focus on the Black Sea region and its neighboring countries, the Transilvania Pitch Stop has grown into one of the leading co-production and co-financing platforms for the region’s filmmakers. Films that the TPS has supported since its inception in 2014 include Greek Christos Nikou’s Apples, which opened the Venice Film Festival’s Horizons sidebar; “The Man Who Surprised Everyone,” a Horizons award winner by Alexey Chupov of Russia; and “La Civil” by Teodora Ana Mihai, which won the Un Certain Regard sidebar award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The selection includes 10 films from first and second directors looking for European partners. Lupu admits that this year’s project call wasn’t easy: Eligible countries include Ukraine – Maksym Nakonechnyi, a 2019 entrant, also bowed in the Un Certain Regard section this year with his debut Butterfly Vision (pictured). in Cannes as neighboring countries devastated by the ongoing war. Lupu and the Transilvania organization team had no idea what to expect.

Nonetheless, a large number of entries, including several from Ukraine, proved that filmmakers from the region remain determined to tell their stories. Projects to be presented in Cluj include “Sasha-Oleksanda” by Ukrainian director Andrii Ivaniuk, whose debut feature film “Eastman” premiered at the 2019 Odesa International Film Festival. Festival organizers have been busy overcoming the logistical hurdles to get Ivaniuk and producer Volodymyr Filippov from Kyiv to Transylvania.

This year’s selection heralds a generation of emerging filmmakers looking for a voice in a world of growing uncertainty. “People really write about their personal experiences,” says Lupu. Still others use genre conventions to tell ambitious stories. Five of the projects receive bespoke script advice from veteran script editor and film consultant Christian Routh, while all filmmaking teams receive coaching from consultant and producer Agathe Berman prior to their pitch in front of industry guests.

A notable change in Transilvania this year is the expansion of the Drama Room, a sidebar and industry space dedicated to high-end TV series. Last year, the festival launched a pilot edition in collaboration with Midpoint Institute, a Prague-based training and networking platform supporting writers, directors and producers from Central and Eastern Europe. The three-day event brought industry experts from across the region to Cluj for a series of workshops and masterclasses on screenplay production.

For the second edition, the organizing team wanted to develop programming tailored to the needs of the country’s burgeoning television industry. “Romanian filmmakers… don’t know how to develop drama series for the international market,” admits Lupu. To that end, this year’s Drama Room will be presented in partnership with Netflix, which will send Creative Talent Director Christopher Mack and Director of Local Language Originals for Central and Eastern Europe and Russia Anna Nagler for behind-closed-door mentoring sessions with the Netflix teams behind five selected projects.

Another notable change in this year’s industry section is the Talent Lab, which launched a decade ago as a program for aspiring film school students and recent graduates. In recent years it has developed into a workshop for cinema operators and cinema managers, organized in partnership with Europa Cinemas.

This initiative has been renamed Innovation Days Lab this year, while the Transilvania Talent Lab returns to its roots, with 12 filmmakers under the age of 35 from Romania and neighboring Moldova taking part in a five-day series of lectures and masterclasses at the Transylvania Festival.

Lupu describes the initiative as a “career kickstarter” for aspiring filmmakers. The next step, says TIFF founder Tudor Giurgiu, is to raise funds for a special, bespoke, year-round mentoring program that will support 3-4 aspiring directors. This goal reflects a concerted effort by the festival management to capitalize on a growing wave of emerging Romanian filmmakers.

“Every year new talent comes onto the international stage,” says Giurgui, citing directors such as Alina Grigore, who won the top prize in San Sebastian last year with “Blue Moon,” and Alexandru Belc, whose “Metronome” won the best director award in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar this year. “We really want to prepare these young people and give them a chance for international engagement.”

Other industry highlights at this year’s Transilvania Film Festival include First Films First, a Goethe-Institut-supported training program that helps young filmmakers from Southeast Europe develop their first feature-length films, and the First Cut Lab, which offers individual advice on three selected feature films from Romania or Moldova in the editing phase. Transilvania Film Fest Revamps Industry Program to Promote New Talent

Charles Jones

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