“Documentaries have never been as accessible, diverse and watched as today”
Industry Report: Documentary
Racha Helen Larsen • Producer, Yellow Log
The Norwegian producer, selected for the 2021 Emerging Producers programme, discussed documentary production in the current situation
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Racha Helen Larsen: One of the main reasons I fell in love with the documentary is its ability to take us closer to people and cultures from all around the globe.
In that sense, it is kind of a privilege for me to work as a producer and help filmmakers create and tell stories about the hardship, the beauty and wonders in our surroundings.
Documentary films could be an instrument of social and political change but it would be unfair to limit it to only that. A documentary film is so much more. I believe in the poetry of cinema and the strength of documentary film to convey the beauty of everyday life. Its "art of the real". Documentaries can be universal and existential stories that give inspiration, amazement or work as a mirror of our selves or our society.
How do you deal with the current pandemic situation as a producer? What are your main concerns (or opportunities)?
We had to postpone some of our production plans for almost one year because of the pandemic, which is not easy. But on a positive note, I had the opportunity to slow down and reflect on our work as a company, create future plans and develop new projects.
What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
I'm not sure if I can predict the future of distribution of documentary films, but one thing is for sure, the distribution landscape is changing. The good news is that documentaries have never been as accessible, diverse and more watched than today. VOD services, and the choice that exists, have opened up new lines of distribution and viability, allowing new filmmakers and different voices.
I am also wishing that cinemas would change course in the wake of the pandemic, allowing films to be released in the cinema, and then move it to the virtual screen (PVOD) within the same release window. This might open up to screening more independent films and documentaries as cinemas can capitalize on the PVOD income.
What projects do you have underway (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
The projects that I am currently focusing on is Egil Håskjold Larsen’s Daniels Inferno and Patrik Stefström’s Borders.
Daniels Inferno is about a society and a climate in change. We are at the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard, and through our main character Daniell (54) we get introduced to a place and environment that are changing at a fast pace. The ice is melting, polar bears seem to be starving, while the tiny mining community has been replaced by trendy bars and restaurants, giant parabolic structures, Jacuzzis and fancy hotels. Cruise-ships and chartered airplanes with American and Chinese tourists are searching for the northern lights, scientists drilling the ice for answers to global warming, and trendy neon-colored explorers are now the local reality. The coal is now just for the local powerplant keeping the city of Longyearbyen warm and fed with cappuccinos and beers. The contrasts are at the surface in this Arctic microcosm. Still it's hard to determine if the coal, mass-tourism or any human activity at all actually belongs here, in a place where obviously the only true locals are the animals.
Borders is a story about a place of beginnings and endings, of similarities and differences. The series takes us to some of the world's most exotic and polarized borders. Violence, poverty, disease and climate challenges are normal here – but behind the facade we find ordinary people, with everyday problems and challenges, joy and hope.
Another project, Matfat, by both Egil Håskjold Larsen and Patrik Stefström, is in development. With these documentary series, we are taken on a culinary journey through Scandinavian food traditions, old and new. We get to experience a colourful gallery of people who passionately value their local ingredients and through cultivation, harvesting, hunting, fishing, conservation of food, they help to safeguard and shape the future of the food culture.
EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2022 edition is 31 March 2021.
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