Winterthur. Or as they call it sometimes: “Winti”. A relatively small town of 100,000 people, 20 minutes from Zürich, is apparently the 6th biggest town in Switzerland. Every November, now for the 17th time, the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur is held in this clean, well organized (maybe even too well) city. This short film festival is one of the most prestigious and well-organized (just like the city itself) event in the industry. A fantastic program from shorts all around the world are screened at cozy and also very modern venues.
This year, for the first time, we had the chance to visit the festival due to a collaboration between Daazo.com/World of Shorts magazine and our good friends at the festival, Remo Longhi and John Canciani. Both of them are directors of the festival, Remo is the administrative and John is Head of Programme.
We decided to dump the cliché airports and flights and take a road trip from Budapest to Winterthur. It was also more convenient because we had the chance to take lots of World of Shorts magazines with us to give a copy to the guests. After 10 hours and a 1,000 kilometers later (and a coffee stop every two hours), a grumpy and strict border control guy at the Swiss-German border and finally a massive traffic jam just outside of Winterthur also decided that we are now fit to get to the heart of the festival. We’ve arrived, the volunteers and workers of the festival greeted us very warmly, so all our tiredness from driving have instantly vanished and we were ready to head up to the lounge for some drinks.
The market meetings next morning were a blast. You could imagine that as the proud representatives of Daazo, we’d been at some by now, but this one was surely one of the best. John Canciani referred to the one-on-one meetings as a speed-dating session, and indeed it was. Each filmmaker/producer had five minutes to sit down with a representative of a festival or a distribution company. This included our good friend Kirsten Ruber from GoShort Film Festival in Nijmegen, who we had a great time with and discussed some serious collaborations for the future. Look out for us at the industry talks in the beginning of April, just to say the least. Alejandra from IndieLisboa, the sophisticated gentleman Mick Hannigan from IndieCork and Penelope Bartlett from the Chicago Film Festival and Allesandro were all very eager to discuss future collaborations with Daazo.com and we very much look forward to them, so we can share it with you as soon as possible. And these names are just some of our new friends. It was great to see some of our old friends from Encounters in Bristol, the Berlinale or the fancy little festival Off-Courts in Trouville. Kurzfilmtage Winterthur sure has a lot of energy, fine food and delicious drinks to ease-up the atmosphere for the warriors of short film.
Later on at Producers’ Day Wendy Bernfeld from Rights Stuff, held a presentation about recent market changes and new possibilities in digital distribution. She’s an excellent speaker and has been in the distribution business for a very long time, so it was interesting to hear her thoughts and we were delighted to find out that she likes what Daazo.com does very much. But who doesn’t?
“The Value of a Short Film” symposium also included a panel called TV, WEB and Shorts with participants like Sydney Neter from SND films in the Netherlands, Sven Walti from SRG SSR and our own managing director Daniel Deak from Daazo. The panel discussed how short films could be promoted and distributed online in. All the panelists were eager to share their experiences about how things worked in the past and what the future might hold for short films. Will it be an industry that could generate relatively high revenues? Will short films be consumed by a wide audience as for TV’s or feature films or will it just be for a niche audience? All the panelists had some ideas for the future, but the consensus was that short films have to be introduced to a wide range of people around the world, mostly through what we all consume: television. Daniel from Daazo also pointed out that communities and groups focusing on particular interests in the short film industry will have to be well organized and up-to-date to keep the machine running. The audience of the panel, consisting mostly of young filmmakers were very active, bombing the speakers with all kinds of questions.
The whole Producers’ Day was a very great idea which was perfectly executed. It had the right people, the most relevant participants from all around the world and the industry. These kinds of events are the ones that fuel the energy and inspires the hard work we do in the world of short films and we are truly thankful for Kurzfilmtage Winterthur for providing a platform for us all.( There were quite a few panels and industry events besides which we mentioned, because we couldn’t get to them all. Visit and like the festival’s Facebook page to get the latest about when the recordings of the talks will become available.)
The next day there was a panel on entry fees and submissions. Representatives of festivals like Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, Encounters Bristol, IndieCork, Locarno Film Festival and Kurzfilmtage Winterthur itself were discussing their own policy about charging entry fees and why or why not they’re needed. The “pro-entry fee” idea is that the fees will be distributed back to the filmmakers, either in cash prizes or festival travel expenses or accommodation. This brought up the problem of the thousands of filmmakers who pay the entry fee, but don’t get into the festival in the end. The “anti-entry free” view says that some very good films might not get submitted because the director doesn’t have the financial means of doing so and rather submits to festivals that are free.
But the overall problem seems to be the number of entries. Each festival, especially the big ones like Oberhausen or Locarno, get more than 5,000 submissions a year and it is starting to become physically impossible to handle this number of shorts. Every representative at the panel said that they were searching for ways to cut down submissions, so they can focus on films that are relevant and suited for that particular festival. Still no answer for now, as entry fees are not causing submissions to lower.
When you’re attending industry meetings and having discussions all day with representatives from all over the world, it’s hard to catch screenings. We couldn’t resist to hop in though to an Adam Yauch (late member of the Beastie Boys) tribute short film block, a part of the festival’s fantastic Independent Cinema USA program. It was off the charts, a perfect start for an all night long party.
Later on there were receptions every night with fine wines, great atmosphere and of course a cozy community. The parties at the lounge bar were always packed with the more drunk dancing, the less drunk having chats with people they just met. And this is why this festival did a great job. It combined industry events that were relevant and very high-profile in the industrial sense of the word with a fantastic community and excellent organizing that led to the festival being strong both industrially and socially. A classic combo.
The winners were announced at the closing ceremony, you can read about them on our blog. Then we were on our way back to our beautiful hometown, Budapest. We came away with tons of inspiration and a feeling that what we do is really worth doing, all kinds of ideas regarding collaborations with festivals and filmmakers in the near future and of course, a massive hangover. And this is mostly how you should feel after attending a festival so good as Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur. Oh, and we’ll be back all right!