Interview with Barbara Dukas on the Pitching Lab, the Drama Film Festival’s educational program
Director and educator Barbara Dukas, the founder and head of the Drama Film Festival’s educational program, explains everything we need to know about the Pitching Lab, which will be conducted online for the first time this year. The experienced creator and Artistic Director of the Municipal Theater of Corfu, has been the heart and soul of the popular Pitching for the past six years, and is very proud of the 21 films completed, having started out as ambitious projects at the Drama Film Festival.
Why should a film creator take part in the Drama Film Festival Pitching workshop? What are the benefits and what are the chances of actually managing to film the movie?
The Pitching workshop is truly the most ‘international’ of the festival’s International section. It requires the presence of the creators throughout, and a personal presentation of the project at the Forum. Sharing one’s ideas with colleagues who are usually within the same age group and from all over the world, means sharing each individual methodology developed through the person’s national history, their surroundings and heritage, and their personal identity, which makes it an extraordinary experience. It offers the joy of exchanging and sharing common concerns and experiences, as well as surprising twists on things you may have taken for granted. Thus, you enrich your thinking, expand your subject matter, and realize that you are not alone, a sole entity with an idea, but rather a part of a complex international ‘village’. You learn to strive for your idea through watching others struggle in the same way, possibly under even harder circumstances than your own, and simultaneously feel out the big picture by experiencing sort of a crash test on whether your project has a place in the international market, how unique it is, and where it needs to be reinforced. Numerous plans went on to other international pitchings, or progressed to script development with the experts they met through this process, and managed to generate films that did well in the international market.
Other than proper script development and successful presentation of a project to potential sponsors, is there a prize?
There are monetary awards given by FINOS FILM, financial support by the Greek Film Center, an award of post production services by AUTHORWAVE, and starting this year we will have individual resources awards, meaning script development and doctoring by our experts, as well as other means of valuable support in the development of the plans.
This year the Pitching Lab is conducted online for the first time. What are the advantages of this?
We want to ensure that all interested parties are afforded the chance to participate regardless of location, and to safeguard the internationally diverse nature of the Pitching Lab, which has accepted projects and assisted in the making of films from Haiti to Singapore, and from Canada to China. This way we secure those who are unable to travel, be it domestically or internationally, accommodate people whose other responsibilities might coincide with our dates, and replace physical presence with a virtual presence! In addition, it allows our lecturers and guest teachers from abroad to widen their engagement, advise the participants on the projects themselves, and give guidance as to their distribution once they’ve been turned into a film (new digital platforms, online festivals etc). We’d like to turn this year’s disadvantage of travel restrictions into an advantage of an enriched program, a robust team of lecturers, and the capacity to join the forum from anywhere in the world.
Pitching workshops are usually aimed at local filmmakers. Contrarily, the Drama Film Festival is open to professionals from all over the world. Why is that?
In international festivals, pitching workshops are also international, and there are well-known international workshops regardless of festivals. What I think is needed as a supportive link to local cinema, is an intermediate workshop during the year, independent of the festival, which will promote pitching as an idea, convey the skills that are necessary for short film creators to hold their own in a forum, and at the same time help participants refine their plans. Yannis Sakaridis, the new Artistic Director, is very open to efforts like this, and in general to any educational activity that may boost Greek film makers’ productions and help short films find their voice. This will engage the Festival’s Talent Lab in other fields, as it did in 2009 when it was first launched and it covered other areas like Actor Management, Editing etc.
You’ve been the heart and soul of the Drama Talent Lab (Pitching Lab, Pitching Forum) from day one. You’ve handled dozens of projects in their early stages. Are there any discernible trends or weaknesses in short film makers? Do Greeks stand out in any way?
The most common weakness that my co-workers and I have spotted is the very limited subject matter, either revolving around a central current issue, like the crisis, immigration, abuse, or thematically copying the filmmakers’ favorite movie genres, especially sci-fi and mystery. I would conclude that what’s missing is originality of ideas, and so we struggle to find the bedrock of a good pitch, which is nothing other than what is my motivation, what drives me to make this film, why does it speak to me, how is it relevant to me, where am I in the plot? At the end of the day, why do I want to make this film? There used to be another weakness: Resistance to change. I mean, doing multiple re-writes during the workshop, working on the presentation, going so far as to change the subject itself or the title, or even the focal point of the whole plot. But things have progressed nowadays, mainly because Greek filmmakers stand on equal ground as their peers within an international community that travels a lot, exchanges ideas at international events, and works in a culturally diverse environment, often with foreign collaborators. We like to believe that throughout these 6 years, Drama’s Pitching Lab has contributed significantly to this mission. At this point I’d like to acknowledge and thank all our loyal collaborators in this endeavor: Stathis Paraskevopoulos, with whom I’ve worked on the creation of the Educational Program of the Drama Film Festival since 2009, Georgina Kakoudaki who has been a stable pillar of the Pitching Lab, John Stephens, our valuable associate of three years, who’s guided our participants in understanding the importance of structure in a quality project, certain guests like Agathi Darlasi and Alexandra Boussiou, as well as our associates from abroad who all added their personal touch and helped find a place for the plans in the international sphere. Leon Herbert, Andrew Horton, Tony Watts, and, of course, our beloved Bobby Roth, whose workshops in both Drama and Athens uncovered for us all the secrets of the filmmaking process from A to Z.
How do you feel watching a project you’ve worked on in the Pitching Lab finally become a film? Is the end result very different than what you had in mind when labouring over it? How close is the final product to the original intentions on paper?
It’s vital that films get produced, and the Pitching Lab has been active for six years, has got 21 films under its belt and is preparing 3 more. Some remained as we conceived them from start to finish, others changed quite a bit in the process, either because the casting or the budget made it necessary, or because changes in the script lead them down a different path. Wrapping up a short film might seem easier that a feature film, but anyone who’s attempted it knows that’s not the case. For us it’s a celebration every time one of our “Labies” announces that they’re starting filming, because we’ve created a tight-knit, strong community of people who took part in the past 6 years, and the mutual support is astounding.
June 21, 2020