There Are No Rules Anymore

Tara Judah of the 2014 Talent Press attended a Meet the Expert session with Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen and Beadie Finzi at Berlinale Talents.

Beadie Finzi and Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen

The well-known stereotype of struggling filmmakers bemoaning the death of the industry could be about to change. Beadie Finzi, one of four directors from BRITDOC, talked excitedly about what an era without rules might mean, encouraging filmmakers to be original.

Documentary filmmakers from all over the world listened intently as she and Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen, Head of Industry Office at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), answered a range of questions that covered everything from development funding to landing the right sales agent after completion.

First there is “the credit card period”. Unless you are fortunate enough to hail from a country with a plentiful national film fund, getting your project off the ground will often involve personal debt. But even this has its silver lining: “There's no funders anymore controlling what we do and how we do it”, Finzi says. In an era where partial crowd-funding and self-starter campaigns has become the norm, filmmakers are experiencing greater creative control.

Getting the film from development to completion, however, is another story. At this stage of the game it's important for filmmakers to cut together an impressive show reel or trailer. There's no point in submitting your work if you can't demonstrate visual talent and good storytelling. Other than that, you're free to do whatever you want, because, according to Finzi, “there are no rules anymore”.

Nieuwenhuyzen emphasised that it's important to show in your submission that you've already worked hard and that the footage you have will match your final vision. Written proposals and visual material must be congruent.

Both speakers were keen to emphasise that there are no hard and fast rules to follow: individual projects have individual needs. So, is getting your film into a prestigious festival still important in the digital age? Given that a lot of festivals won't accept a film if it's already premiered elsewhere, exercising good judgement here is vital. The greatest challenge, it seems, is making the right decision. In a competitive global market, reputation is important, but it won't always lead to a paying job.