Mira Staleva • Head of Sofia Meetings
"We are a platform with the principal ambition to present new media and new distribution models in the rapidly changing world of cinema"
by Ştefan Dobroiu
- We spoke to Mira Staleva, the driving force behind Sofia Meetings, about the challenges of organising one of the biggest co-production platforms in Eastern Europe
For the 16th year running, Mira Staleva is serving as the head of Sofia Meetings (13-17 March), the co-production platform of the Sofia International Film Festival. Here is what she has to say about this year’s edition, including a few useful tips for the pitching teams.
Cineuropa: What was the biggest challenge in preparing Sofia Meetings 2019?
Mira Staleva: The same as the previous 15 years: to stay close to the newest, bravest and most open-minded filmmakers from Eastern Europe, trying not to patronise or to babysit them, but to share and strengthen their courage to make their first, second or third film. Bear in mind also that it’s the second film that is the hardest to make.
Can you share some of the statistics for this edition?
Sofia Meetings applications come from everywhere, from Buenos Aires to Vladivostok, which applies every year. This edition is welcoming 34 projects for first, second and third films. The Works in Progress section will screen 23 titles still in post-production. The Second Film Projects selection of the main Bulgarian industry platform for film contains six projects, one of them from Bulgaria. The Plus Minus One Projects section for first and third films comprises ten projects, five of which come from CEE countries with co-production capacity. The Works in Progress programme comprises 17 feature-length fiction films and six documentaries, with new movies by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth, Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva, Stephan Komandarev and many others.
We are very happy to see our projects circulating all around the world. Her Job [+see also:
interview: Nikos Labôt
film profile] by Nikos Labot was presented as a project here two years ago, and now we are screening it after its Toronto premiere and the many awards it has won. Plus, we had Butterflies [+see also:
film profile] by Tolga Karacelik (Grand Prix at Sundance 2018), Fugue [+see also:
interview: Agnieszka Smoczyńska
film profile] by Agnieszka Smoczyńska (screened in the Cannes Critics’ Week) and Dau by Ilya Khrzhanovskiy. And to mention just a few names from last year, Hannah [+see also:
film profile] by Andrea Palaoro, Ága [+see also:
interview: Milko Lazarov
film profile] by Milko Lazarov, ¾ [+see also:
interview: Ilian Metev
film profile] by Ilian Metev, Directions [+see also:
interview: Stephan Komandarev
film profile] by Stephan Komandarev and Arrhythmia [+see also:
interview: Boris Khlebnikov
film profile] by Boris Khlebnikov.
What, in your opinion, makes a good pitch? Do you have some tips for the directors?
Let me share some advice. Be short: the best pitches are a few minutes long. They’re concise and exciting. Speaking with passion and knowledge for three minutes will express your story better than a nervous, convoluted, ten-minute ramble. Be prepared: know your pitch inside out by practising it on friends first. Practise it on family members. Practise it on your pet dog and on your grandmother’s houseplants. Be yourself; you know yourself better than anyone else. Be passionate: remember, a pitch is a form of sale. You’re selling an idea, a script and yourself, so you’ve got to be passionate about all of those. And you have to be passionate about the production process. Consider that audience expectations will be different from yours. Deliver a coherent story considering the audience reach. Hold back a little: the idea isn’t to spill your entire story. You want to get them hooked, but leave them wanting more. In your verbal presentation, this means you don’t necessarily tell them the ending; let them ask for it. Make the perfect pitch package: some will bring the whole package with them, while others will only have a one-sheet. Ideally, you bring the one-sheet with you and have a pitch package ready to email, courier or drop off as a follow-up. This way, you leave them wanting more and have a chance to make an excellent second impression.
Do you think the pitching directors and screenwriters are thinking about the audience at such an early stage of development? Should they be?
They should be. The market is very different and merciless nowadays. Although the director is free to choose between different formats, styles and concepts, he or she should care about the audience and how his or her work makes connections with people.
How do you expect Sofia Meetings to change over the next few years? Is there anything you are hoping for in regard to the platform in 2020 and beyond?
Sofia Meetings has provided a stage and a platform for many projects to get off to a flying start and for many directors to begin their careers, which I hope will continue in the future. As usual, we wish to attract young, talented film directors. We are a platform with the principal ambition to present new media and new distribution models in the rapidly changing world of cinema.
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