“I believe in the power of storytelling”
Industry Report: Documentary
Franziska Sonder • Producer, Ensemble Film
The 2022 Emerging Producer from Switzerland considers curated platforms and festivals to be crucial to get documentary out into the world
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Franziska Sonder: From a very young age, film opened a door to the world for me. Through cinema and film I was able to learn about the big world, its stories and thus its people. Since then my insatiable curiosity always makes me want to discover more stories.
I believe in the power of storytelling, it’s an important part of our society. It’s not only an important part of how culture and history was passed on, but also an important part of how connections between people are still made today. I believe that in this fast-moving era a carefully created film can provide deep insights into a subject, while telling a powerful story, and has the ability to move an audience substantially.
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?
We had to deal with critical numbers of cinema admissions before the pandemic, but the current situation has definitely made me think even more about the current structures. For current projects I definitely put a bigger focus on alternative financing and exploitation options and am weighing them more carefully and extensively than ever before. Even though many films are made for the big screen, I am looking more into the options of (direct) online exploitation.
What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
Being able to share films together with the audience and filmmakers is a unique experience. This coming together is an important part of cultural exchange and I am sure that this will keep cinema alive.
However, the cinema market, especially for documentaries, is very small, even non-existent in some territories. Therefore, I consider curated platforms and festivals (with their loyal audience) to be important aggregators to get documentary film out into the world and to its audience. What concerns me is when there are only a few monopolists, as this limits creative and emotional diversity.
What projects do you have underway?
Brave New Mankind (documentary, in production, directed by Maurizius Staerkle Drux and Benny Jaberg) is a sensual expedition that accompanies a young generation of scientists and philosophers on their journey to the core of humanity. With breathtaking experiments they change the genetic code and create new identities.
Becoming Astronaut (documentary, in development, directed by Roman Hodel) follows four astronauts at ESA who resolutely pursue their dream of flying into space and embark on a challenging odyssey around the world.
Arctic Link (documentary, in development, directed by Ian Purnell, Winner of the Kompagnon-Fellowships Prize at Berlinale 2020) is shot on a vessel that lays fibre optic cables, the film follows the construction of the world wide web across the melting ice of the Arctic ocean.
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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