Melik Karapetyan • Director, GAIFF Pro
"Creating professional networks is more important than handing out the awards"
- Cineuropa visited the Yerevan Golden Apricot International Film Festival's industry section, GAIFF Pro, and talked to its director, Melik Karapetyan
Cineuropa visited the second edition of the Yerevan Golden Apricot International Film Festival's (7-14 July) industry section, GAIFF Pro, and talked to its director, Melik Karapetyan.
Cineuropa: GAIFF Pro is a relatively new event. How did it start and develop?
Melik Karapetyan: Even before GAIFF Pro took place for the first time in 2018, the Golden Apricot Film Festival had various industry activities, such as Directors Across the Borders, Pitching Sessions and the Armenian-Turkish Platform, but these were events that were an integral part of the festival. When they approached me to set up a separate section for the industry, I wanted to create a wider platform that would focus on the region of the Lesser Caucasus. This encompasses Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Turkey, but we do not limit the projects to just these countries, because some territories are in dispute, and it is important to us that the stories be characteristic of the region. The other main criterion is that it must be the first or second feature-length film, whether fiction or documentary, by the director.
We present an average of three projects per country in the C2C Market and two projects per country in the Work in Progress section. We invite international producers and funds to come and meet representatives of these projects. In addition to organising one-on-one meetings, we have various talks and panel discussions, and "Rendezvous" events at which we talk to celebrity guests from both the festival and the Pro section, so it's a whole package.
How do you pick the projects?
We do not pick the projects ourselves, but rather it’s the readers who will select them from among the applications. We had three readers this year: French producer Dominique Welinski, German producer Martin Hagemann and CEO of the Estonian Film Institute Edith Sepp. We purposefully select readers and professionals geographically so that we can cover the interests of the European – and especially the Eastern European – market, because it is our primary target for co-productions. We have a rule not to have readers from the region, because the selection should be objective. Our readers look for quality and projects that have international potential. So if a project is selected, it has already passed one exam, so to speak. That is our main strength, that the selectors are strong.
GAIFF Pro handed out three awards this year (see the news); how important are they for the event?
It is difficult for us to get funding for the awards, so we are very grateful to our partners. Last year, we only had one award, the Prime Minister's Award for the Best Armenian Projects, and this year, we had more, but we didn't announce them in advance during the application period.
Some people say that awards are important in order to attract stronger projects. I think that, if we have stable awards, we can indeed go in this direction, but at the moment, we don’t know if these awards will stay intact for the following year, so I don’t want to urge projects to apply just because of the awards. To me, it is important that they come and meet with professionals whom we carefully select for the market. Even if it is just five or ten people, they are the top names in the industry, and for the young filmmakers at GAIFF Pro, it is a great start if they can meet with Katriel Shory, Hagemann or Welinski.
Our main goal is to develop projects with potential for international funding, and to connect the filmmakers with international professionals. Creating professional networks is more important than handing out the awards.
What are the main advantages of GAIFF Pro?
There are several festivals developing industry platforms in the Caucasus region, but they are mostly for the local projects from their countries. Our regional concept is the opposite of theirs, and I think that there is more benefit for Armenian cinema in connecting with the region as a whole. These are small countries, but if there are 15 projects from the region, people who are interested in stories from this part of the world will come to the market, sooner or later.
This year, when the festival got a new generation of organisers and programmers, we talked about the concept, and the festival competition for regional short films complements what we are doing, as does the showcase of the best films from the region.
We have a good position here, good weather, a friendly environment and a nice city. Compared with last year, we did the scheduling differently in order to have fewer overlaps because the panels and talks are also educational, so attendees can benefit from more than just the market.
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