“The experience of watching films in cinema is irreplaceable”
Industry Report: Documentary
Anda Ionescu • Producer, Tangaj Production
The Romanian producer talks about taking everything step by step, while looking forward to a bright future in the documentary industry
Now selected for the 2021 Emerging Producers, Romanian producer Anda Ionescu, of Tangaj Production, talks about taking everything step by step, while looking forward to a bright future in the documentary industry.
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Anda Ionescu: For me, cinema is a way of discovering perspectives and better understanding the world around us, and I believe that film as a medium has the power to reach many people and, thus, open important discussions in our society. I don't look differently at documentary and fiction, at least not more than in the sense of two distinct ways of working with film. I also find it a bit too radical to say that they can be instrumental to a change as such; they can rather influence our perspectives and contribute to our evolution.
The previous two documentaries I produced are both very intimate, personal stories. I think that all films have a social and political function and this has nothing to do with their subject – even a personal story or universe can reveal something important about a bigger, social aspect. Personal is also political, it's just a different way of revealing the mechanisms or realities that we interact with or that affect us. I also produce documentaries because I enjoy the process. I like this constant discovery, the spontaneity. You don't know everything from the beginning and you are rewriting the story; you only know that you want to look at something in more depth or reveal some perspective.
How do you deal with the current pandemic situation as a producer? What are your main concerns (or opportunities)?
I’m taking everything step by step, as things have become more unpredictable. In terms of projects, when 2020 started, I had four features and two shorts produced and ready to be released in festivals, so there was a lot of uncertainty whether this would happen; fortunately it did, even though mostly online. There still is a degree of uncertainty as to how the cinema release will look like in 2021. Fortunately, I had no productions planned (and thus postponed) in 2020, but for the ones in 2021, costs have increased without any possibility to extra-finance COVID-19-related costs. Also, Romania’s state financing was at a halt throughout the whole year, making it difficult to advance with new projects; and I still find it difficult to look with optimism at the near future in our local industry and in our country. But I feel I was lucky not to be so harshly affected in terms of the existing projects. Shifting the perspective to some of the opportunities in the industry, I think professionals have become more sympathetic and coordinated in their efforts towards a common goal. It was also a good time to inspire structural changes and innovate the way we work and communicate. The online space has proven beneficial in many ways, from attending markets and industry events with greater flexibility and lower costs to stimulating new content and formats.
What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
I think documentary film has strengthened its position and increased its visibility and reach. Documentaries that are highly relevant, urgent and strongly cinematic become more accessible on streaming platforms and online, and this broadens their audience too. Streamers are gaining momentum and this also prioritises new formats, for instance docuseries. I'm also looking forward to a more integrated approach to how to make online distribution a two-way street that takes more into account the filmmakers' and producers' needs, as well as how to distribute films branching out from the traditional circuit. Changes were already underway, and I think 2020 accelerated them even more. At the same time, I hope that online distribution will not evolve to the detriment of the theatrical one. The experience of watching films in cinema is irreplaceable and for me, cinema will always be made for the big screen, as a form of art. I hope cinemas will reopen soon and overcome this crisis, and I think it's great that people are looking forward to going to cinema again and appreciate it perhaps even more than before.
What projects do you have underway (including in the area of fiction film and other projects)?
Last year caught me with a full slate of projects in the final stages of production and release. I also started shifting my attention more towards the company and analysing how we are equipped to be sustainable as a business and develop within the context. I am currently reviewing new projects and slowly moving into development again. One of the films I am producing is (fantasy/dance/drama) short film Fisherman's Daughter to be directed by Simona Deaconescu. Another one is debut feature documentary, minority co-production, Electing Miss Santa directed by Raisa Răzmeriță. In 2021, I am also executive producing Tom Wilson's debut fiction feature, the slow-burn thriller Quixote's Last Film produced by 42 km film. Before the pandemic kicked off, we received MEDIA Slate Funding for some of our projects, so this year we are going into production with Men of Deeds, Paul Negoescu's fourth feature (about a village policeman whose passivity during a series of violent events turns him into an accomplice to murder) and Ilinca Călugăreanu's feature documentary Dead Man Walking (the story of a man who returns to Romania and discovers that he has been declared dead, thus navigating through a Kafkaesque legal system which absurdly refuses to reinstate his living status).
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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