SOFA – School of Film Agents is a one-of-a-kind workshop inititative foryoung film cultural managers and mediators from Central and Eastern Europethe Baltic StatesCentral AsiaGreece and Germany with the central goal of supporting the realization of innovative cinema projects. Conceived of as a „Pan-European Think Tank“ dedicated to the future of cinema, SOFA offers and encourages the interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange of knowlegdge in a face-to-face workshop environment. The second edition took place from August 15th – 24th in Wrocław, Polen. 

After eight days of intensive development and the fine-tuning of concepts and budgets, on August 23, 2014, the participants of the second edition of SOFA – School of Film Agents were ready to pitch their film cultural projects to a supportive group of film industry professionals located in Poland’s largest arthouse cinema, Kino Nowe Horyzonty in Wroclaw. With these final presentations the unique workshop initiative for dedicated film mediators from Central and Eastern Europe, Greece and Germany ended on a celebratory high note. Experts and participants alike expressed great satisfaction with this year’s group dynamics and the exceptional level of innovative project ideas: „SOFA is a place for people who have the courage to develop radical ideas that can change something in the world“, proclaimed SOFA participant, Anna Bielak. 

Dániel Deák, the founder of Daazo

Lectures and expert feedback from top industry professionals such as Roberto Olla (Eurimages, Strasbourg), Fatima Djoumer (Europa Cinemas, Paris), Peter Rommel (Rommel Film, Berlin), Dragoslav Zachariev (EuroVoD, Paris), Roman Gutek (Gutek Film, Warsaw), Miroslav Mogorović (Art & Popcorn, Belgrade) and Gudrun Sommer (doxs! documentary films for children and young adults, Duisburg) were part of the SOFA 2014 line-up as well as individual and group sessions with tutors Oliver Baumgarten, (Filmplus, Cologne) Sibylle Kurz (Pitching Expert, Frankfurt), Ewa Puszczynska (Opus Film, Łódź), Radosław Drabik (Kinomedia, Gigant Films) and Renaud Redien-Collot (Novancia Business School, Paris). An internationally-studded network panel dealing with the current situation of European cinema also took place. Here, the European training and support programmes EURIMAGESMEDIA and EAVE as well as Goethe-Institut were offered a platform to introduce their important work. 

 

The professional and intercultural exchange of experiences, both with the lecturers and amongst participants themselves, is already bearing fruit: while all of the project concepts were able to gain more clarity and structure, some have been able to use the opportunities provided by SOFAto make significant progress in the realization of their goals. The first stepping stones towards concrete partnerships have been laid. For example, Fatima Djoumer from Europa Cinemas will travel to Lithuania this October for closer consideration of financing options for the SOFA project  „FRONT – Film Republic of Networked Theaters“ by participant, Kestutis Drazdauskas. Expert Roberto Olla (Eurimages) expressed great interest in the Serbian film educational project „What I See“ presented by Marija Stojanovic and has strongly encouraged her to apply. Recently, Eurimages financially backed the development of last year’s SOFA project „FBO – Festival Box Office“. This project is slated to be presented at the Berlinale in February 2015 along with the „Cluj Film Fund“ initiated by Cristian Hordila, who was further able to develop his project this year atSOFA. A notable focus at this year’s workshop:  alternative possibilities of obtaining new public sectors via digital channels of distribution for cinemas nationwide. 

 

„We are very pleased that the projects were able to be concretely and constructively developed during this edition of SOFA. All participants were able to gain new perspectives that will effectively contribute to the realization of their important film cultural undertakings“, stated SOFA-Founder, Nikolaj Nikitin.

During the lively discussions about the specific cultural situations effecting cinema industries in the respective participant countries, it became clear that an underdeveloped theatrical market together with the lack of professionalisation present the greatest challenges. Admittedly, numerous arthouse films from Central and Eastern Europe do, and have done well at large international film festivals. Yet, at home, these films often have a hard time making it into their own theaters. On the one hand, this problem can be attributed to the lack of supportive structures necessary to nurture a sustainable perception of film as a viable art form and socio-culturally relevant medium. On the other hand, film cultural managers, film festival producers, distributors and cinema operators experience little support for their work.  Aware of these hurdles, SOFA participants positioned their projects with the intent to develop, push forward and find solutions for these pressing issues. A central objective emerged from many of the ideas exchanged at SOFA, namely, to establish an alternative form of distribution for European arthouse films and the necessary audience development measures for these films, taking into particular consideration younger viewers as a target group: the audience of tomorrow. 

SOFA will take place again next year in the Lower Silesian capital city during Breslau’s (Wrocław) festivities surrounding the European Cultural Capital 2016.  A call for projects for the third edition of SOFA is immediately in effect. Projects may be submitted online here: nikolaj@joinsofa.org  

For more information, visit: www.joinsofa.org

Taken from the press release of the 2nd edition of SOFA