Realness, EAVE, IFFR, Sundance Launch African Producers Network

Christopher Vourlias

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DURBAN–Africa’s Realness Institute, EAVE, the Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam, and the Sundance Institute are joining forces to create the Creative Producers Indaba, a professional training program designed to support emerging African producers.

Inspired by initiatives such as the EAVE Producers Workshop and Sundance’s Creative Producing, the program will bring together 15 participants to develop the capacity of producers on the continent and create a pan-African network of producing talent with the ability to bring African projects to the international market.

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“We decided to launch Creative Producers Indaba to make sure we have more producers that understand the international financing game, international distribution, that can help…African projects to move closer from the page to the screen,” said Elias Ribeiro, of the Realness Institute, at the Durban FilmMart on Sunday.

The organizers will select five African producers with projects currently in development. They’ll be joined by five African participants drawn from government, institutions, sales companies, and other bodies “who understand the challenges of filmmakers working in the African context,” said Ribeiro. The remaining five participants will be film professionals from North America and Europe, allowing the producers to expand their network across the globe.

The first call for submissions is expected to be made in October, with an eye toward holding the first workshop in Kenya in September 2020. A second workshop will take place at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January 2021, while the third leg of the initiative will involve presenting the five selected projects within the framework of an African market that same year.

South African producer Bongiwe Selane stressed the importance of a program that will “begin fostering collaboration [and allow producers to] begin working together as Africans outside of the treaties and all these things that often take so long to materialize and formalize, but also restrict us from moving forward in what it is we love doing the most.”

The EAVE alum described the unique challenges faced by creative producers tasked with finding, developing, financing and producing projects, noting that “without working within a collaborative space…I don’t know how you’d do it.”

She continued: “I went in [to EAVE] with a project, but the most important thing that I took out of the whole experience was developing myself as a producer…and also forming a network and collaborations with producers from all over the world.”

Sundance programmer Heidi Zwicker said the institute is “always looking for projects from around the world that we can support and help get to the next level.”

She noted how the Creative Producers Indaba offers Sundance the opportunity to build on efforts in recent years to engage more with filmmakers from the global south, but to do it more effectively within the local context. “I’m really excited by the ideas I’m hearing [in Durban], but I’m not sure our traditional models of support have been the best way to help filmmakers here,” she said, “which is why we’re so excited to be part of this partnership.”

Marit van den Elshout, head of Rotterdam’s industry program IFFR Pro, said it was critical for African filmmakers and producers to find alternatives to traditional funding models.

“We’re in this structure of African projects always having to look for finance outside of their countries, and always looking toward Europe,” she said. “Financially, if you get into a co-production, there’s always going to be an imbalance in terms of the agency of the project, the power balance.” The aim of the Creative Producers Indaba is to “create partnerships amongst the African countries and keep agency of the stories that you’re developing.”

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