“At the end the viewer shall come to his own perspective”
Industry Report: Documentary
Jan Hubáček • Producer, GNOMON Production
The 2022 Emerging Producer from the Czech Republic discusses the pandemic-driven present and the challenge-ridden future of documentary film
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Jan Hubáček: We want to reflect the present world through film, since we believe visual storytelling is one of the strongest tools to influence people’s thinking. That also concerns the area of social and political change. However, one must keep in mind the thin line between utilization and misuse. We prefer to bring up topics which would otherwise stay in the shadows and out of the mainstream. Also, we give opportunity to local authors and minorities, and cover a wide range of topics – social, music, environmental, time-lapse or experimental. We believe that films can broaden horizons and support critical thinking. In the end, the viewer will come to his or her own perspective.
The pandemic had an impact on the entire sector. How did it influence your work as a producer? Have the projects that you work on changed?
As I believe the pandemic is hopefully almost over, looking back I dare to say that the impact on our already running projects was not that significant. Mostly we had to wait or postpone some of the filming. It was most noticeable while filming about touristification of Krakow since all of a sudden there were no tourists in the city. But they returned quickly in the summer of 2021, reinforced by a large number of domestic tourists also.
At the end the biggest impact, or outcome actually, was our project Kaznice LIVE, which we developed in reaction to the pandemic, trying to help the local live culture. In a former penitentiary we set up a small streaming studio, organized online events and crowdfunding campaigns, mostly for music bands and actors from closed theatres. By the end of 2021, we had streamed over 50 live events and supported hundreds of artists and freelancers.
What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
Rethinking the distribution of our films is a challenge we set for our company for this year. Obviously, we observe and follow the boom of VOD, while trying to fight Internet piracy. At the same time, “traditional” off-line screenings provide the biggest satisfaction to authors and possibly the biggest impact, complemented with QAs with directors or protagonists, site-specific events with added value to the visitors, etc. However, it seems that often we are just trying to convince the convinced this way. The producers and distributors of documentary films need to think how to approach and work with the audience. The competition is enormous, and we are not competing just with film, of course. We believe the distribution of documentary films will be more complex than ever, combining different means of delivery as well as promotion, trying to combine scalability and engagement.
What projects do you have underway?
For this year we are planning a distribution of two documentary films we have finished just recently. Miri Fajta (directed by Petr Kačírek and Martin Chlup and world premiered at Ji.hlava IDFF) follows the story of Romani artists. In Healing Me (by Tereza Tara) the director was observing herself for more than 10 years to discover the true meaning of her illness. Beside online distribution, both films will have a site-specific screening accompanied by discussions with the authors.
Right now, we are finishing our co-production documentary series Who Owns the City (directed by 4 directors), shot in Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, describing and comparing the rapid changes in city districts.
Deeply submerged in the production is the team of documentary film The World According to Jiri (by Marta Kovářová) dealing with the environmental topic of uniform global carbon tax. Short animation film The Pigeon Soldier (by Michaela Lovecká) will soon begin the motion capture process with actors, including the talented Josef Trojan.
We also follow up on our Kaznice LIVE streaming project, reshaping the brand for the post-pandemic era and exploring new territories with site-specific VR content.
Moreover, we are also developing fiction projects. The shooting of online comedy series Amateurs of Kingsfield (by Robert Vrba) is to start in the fall of 2022. And there is one feature-length fiction project on the table but I cannot disclose the details yet.
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 2023 edition is 31 March 2022.
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