Kicking off ten days of exciting new features in April, CPH:PIX is the first new festival to come out of Copenhagen Film Festivals, since the partnership was established in fall 2008.
"It was important for me to step into an organisation that doesn't go for a 'corporate culture', but holds on to the culture it grew out of."
The other two festivals, BUSTER and CPH:DOX – running in September and November, respectively – were largely planned out before their inclusion under the new umbrella. One thing the three festival directors, Jacob Neiiendam, Tine Fischer and Füsun Eriksen, had agreed on all along was maintaining the festivals’ separate identities and clearly defined profiles.
GIVING NEW TALENTS A LEG UP
Focusing on children’s films and documentaries, respectively, BUSTER and CPH:DOX have already established their names internationally. The new festival, CPH:PIX, will have an equally distinct profile, centring on debut films from around the world, new talents, new forms of expression and new technology. The main competition, featuring a first prize of 50,000 euros, is for feature film debuts only.
“When we were defining our concept, we asked, ‘What relevance does a festival have in 2009? What should a festival do to make a difference?’” Neiiendam says. “Fairly quickly, we decided to centre our festival on first-time filmmakers, since one of the most satisfying things about running a festival is giving new talents a leg up. That way, our festival becomes relevant. And we’ll be relevant to the audience by presenting a selection of works that would not otherwise be in distribution.”
Even before its first festival, CPH:PIX has attracted international attention because of its debut film policy and substantial cash prize. The festival is hoping its other efforts, including a film and computer game theme, will attract attention as well. But otherwise, the festival is keeping its focus on providing good experiences for local audiences. CPH:PIX is conceived as an audience festival with a number of events capable of attracting international attention. For strategic reasons, the festival’s industry platform, Copenhagen Film Market, is scheduled for September, right after the BUSTER festival.
TEND THE ROOTS
BUSTER, too, is planning to take up the relationship between film and computer games at its next festival, considering how much time computer games take up in kids’ lives. Neiiendam and Eriksen do not consider it a problem that both festivals will be touching on the same theme, because their demographics are so different. But all three festival directors are intent on getting to know the other festivals so well that they can cooperate without intruding on each other’s niches.
“It was important for me to step into an organisation that doesn’t go for a ‘corporate identity’ and a ‘corporate culture’, but holds on to the culture it grew out of,” Fischer says. “We come out of a grassroots culture and have grown into a professional organisation. The documentary festival has grown up with a lot of authenticity, and it’s essential for DOX not to lose that.”
FILMS WITH A FOCUS
For BUSTER, a major challenge is to persuade kids, and not least their parents and teachers who take them to the cinema, that movies are worth spending their limited time on, considering all the other enticing options out there.
“With that in mind, BUSTER’s concept is to use the medium of cinema to introduce kids to new things,” Eriksen says. “Teach them about different art forms, dance and music, literature and world history – things that also come in useful in the classroom.
“In our cross-media project, which we hope to find funding for in 2009, there will be workshops where the kids can try their talent on filmmaking, animation, computer games, films for mobile phones, or even write a film review. The idea is to show them how to use the film media on many different platforms, and at the same time how to maintain a critical distance.”
BUSTER has also attracted a lot of attention with another new effort, OREGON, a film competition inviting kids from all over the country to submit their own films.
“Our audience is used to experiences beyond the ordinary, so we have to create interest by doing different kinds of activities that aren’t film screenings hundred percent, but have something else added,” Eriksen says.
“Still, we should be careful not just to do more and more events,” Fischer warns. “What is important is organising events that take the idea of cinema even further. Since documentaries reflect and deal with reality, at DOX we have chosen to locate a lot of events out there, in the real world – in the world of real politics. Over the last years, we have also had a very successful partnership going on with the visual art and music scenes, because we strongly believe in the artistic potential in the crossover between film, art and music. But we shouldn’t turn into an event culture. The events should tie into the general theme of our programme.”
In fact, CPH:DOX has been hugely successful mixing film and focused events. 33,093 tickets were sold to DOX 08. Nonetheless, creative thinking is still essential, as documentaries struggle to find distribution through the traditional channels of cinemas and television.
A focal point for CPH:DOX is creating new distribution partnerships to bring more quality films to audiences. At the last festival in November, this was manifested in a partnership with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR, while the Berlin Film Festival will see the launch of a new international VOD (video-on-demand) platform created in partnership between five film festivals. This internet platform called DOCALLIANCEFILMS.COM is unique in the sense that it is a curated platform for downloading high-quality documentaries. The project is supported by MEDIA.
A FESTIVAL SHOULD BE AN OASIS
Reaching audiences may also turn out to be a challenge for CPH:PIX. Showcasing new, unknown films and filmmakers, the festival can’t boast the familiar, dependable drawing cards that get seats filled at commercially oriented festivals.
“It’s a challenge,” Neiiendam concedes. “But, while our competition slate is dedicated to firsttime filmmakers, other parts of the line-up will be more mainstream-friendly. Still, the whole idea of a feature film festival is that it should be an oasis, an alternative to the commercial distribution. We shouldn’t just be a preview festival. That’s not interesting for us, when there are so many other good films out there that never get a chance to be distributed. This is what we need to focus on.
“There’s a whole new generation now that grew up without any real exposure to anything but the mainstream on TV and other platforms. And that’s our main challenge: screening a quality selection of all the features that are coming out of the woodwork around the world. We should be an oasis for an audience looking for quality, for the offbeat and different – even if it’s just an action film that doesn’t star Steven Seagal.
“If you really want attention, you should insist on doing things differently, in your own way. Hopefully, these three festivals will know how to do that. No doubt, festivals are the alternative distribution. There simply aren’t any other ways to put these films out there. They keep showing the same things on TV, the theatrical distribution window is narrowing, and we need festivals like never before,” Neiiendam says.