The Berlinale Talent Campus and the importance of supporting short film developments. An interview with Matthijs Wouter Knol.

Looking through the impressive timeline of the Berlinale Talent Campus, it’s inspiring to see how this platform is capable of renewing almost year by year, how elegantly it is fine tuning its approach to its original mission: connecting and discovering a new generation of filmmakers. In 2013, a new initiative, the Short Film Station has been introduced (as a kind of successor of the Berlin Today Award) and it has around 15 training projects going on simultaneously (e.g. the Documentary Station and Sound Studio etc.).

While we are amazed by its dynamic change and its exclusive focus on shorts, Matthijs Wouter Knol, the programme manager of the Talent Campus is talking about it in a modest way: “Many people who attend the Talent Campus have made short films, are working on, or keep making short films. They want to form collaborations, they want to try out things, or they might want to train their storytelling skills. For the Talent Campus, short film is essential. I personally don’t see short films as the first step of filmmaking which at some point is abandoned because all everyone wants to make is a feature film. The skill of making good short films is something that needs attention and needs support as well.” – says Matthijs. And indeed, during the six days of the Talent Campus, 10 selected participants will have the chance to develop their scripts, participate in networking events and get the most out of the Campus.

“The Berlin Today Award was a form of how we did this support, apart from the panels and discussions. We had this idea at the beginning, because the Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg wanted to support short film projects with funding. The reason of change is not that we felt it wasn’t working anymore, but we felt that the Talent Campus had developed a bit in the past ten years. Now it’s more like a platform connecting filmmakers and giving them input, so after the Campus they can continue to work with the people they met in Berlin and also use the connections we gave them. We realised a year ago that giving a budget is something we don’t want to do anymore specifically, but rather connect the filmmakers with funders, co-producers, short film initiatives, platforms like Daazo, to let them know how they can show their films or present themselves at festivals like Clermont-Ferrand. So, basically, we offer them everything that people working in the short film industry might need.” The 10 projects selected by a prestigious jury represent filmmakers from different parts of the world and have the qualities of a possible Golden Bear winner.

However, Matthijs gives us a realistic picture about their role in development. “We, of course, stay in touch with filmmakers, and if they need any support or, let’s say, they ask to be introduced to a producer, we are ready to help. And if a film is in production, most of the filmmakers inform us about that, and if the film is ready and submitted to the Berlinale, of course we know about it. If we treat them differently? Yes and no. We encourage filmmakers to apply to the Berlinale, but the selection is based on quality. We live in a world of grown-ups. We are not here to create a safety net around filmmakers, we can’t promise that your film will be selected. But we are aware of these films and keep track of them, but it’s totally Maike Mia Höhne’s (curator of Berlinale Shorts) decision if any of them gets selected. In general, all the Talents are potential Golden Bear winners.”

He might be right, there’s no doubt about the fact that the Talent Campus does a lot to discover new talents. This year they have received a fantastic 4,400 applications and the international campuses are more and more popular in their own regions (Tokyo just got its second run). With this year’s topic Some Like It Hot – Filmmakers as Entertainers, Talent Campus participants are encouraged to take part in vivid discussions with an open-minded attitude during the lectures. The chance is given – everything else is up to them.

text: Zoltán Áprily

infographics: Cristina Grosan