Leopold Grün • Managing director of AG Verleih, organiser of European Work in Progress Cologne
“We wanted to do something for the benefit of European arthouse cinema and movie theatres”
by Ioana Florescu
- We talked to Leopold Grün, managing director of AG Verleih and organiser of European Work in Progress Cologne (EWIP), ahead of the second edition of the independent industry event
We talked to Leopold Grün, managing director of AG Verleih – Association of German Independent Film Distributors, which organises European Work in Progress Cologne (EWIP). Boasting a selection of 28 highly diverse projects that are currently in production or post-production, the second edition of the independent industry event mainly supported by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW takes place during the Film Festival Cologne, between 14 and 16 October.
Cineuropa: How did the idea for this initiative come about and what is the aim of EWIP?
Leopold Grün: We primarily wanted to create an opportunity for outstanding film projects to find world sales agents and distributors and hoped to increase their chances of getting invited to festivals. Here, they have the chance to do not only all that, but also to encounter additional financiers, as well as to find post-production support. Furthermore, we noticed that in Germany, as well as in several other countries, it has become quite common for theatrical distributors to acquire films that are at a very early development stage, basing their decision solely on the script. Once the films are completed, it often turns out that they do not have the qualities that the distributors were initially hoping for, nor the theatrical potential. Consequently, we also wanted to give distributors and world sales agents the opportunity to acquire film projects that are already in production and for which there is already some visual material available. Since the projects are at a later stage, it is easier to evaluate them in terms of visual style and directing. It is also less difficult to assess their theatrical potential. We wanted to do something for the benefit of European arthouse cinema and movie theaters.
Is there any other way in which the EWIP differs from other work-in-progress markets?
We did not want to become competitors of other European work-in-progress markets. Several existing markets focus on Eastern European productions, whereas we showcase a higher number of projects from Central and Western Europe. That, of course, does not mean that we are not eager to welcome outstanding Eastern European projects. Yet our goal was to create a complementary platform, and we were very fortunate to receive the support of the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW. In addition, we truly focus on arthouse cinema. This, however, is not necessarily something that sets us apart from other work-in-progress markets.
What were the results of the first edition?
Several of the projects selected last year managed to find a world sales agent during the event. We also had film festival representatives as guests, and, as a result, many projects were invited to prominent film festivals. Last year’s big winner, Elmar Imanov’s End of Season [+see also:
film profile] was invited to Rotterdam and won the FIPRESCI award, Easy Love, directed by Tamer Jandali was the opening film of the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section at this year’s Berlinale, The Girl with a Bracelet [+see also:
film profile] by Stéphane Demoustier premiered on Piazza Grande in Locarno, EWIP-Winner Martin Eden [+see also:
interview: Pietro Marcello
film profile] by Pietro Marcello was invited to Venice International Film Festival, and The Taste of Pho [+see also:
film profile] by Mariko Bobrik recently screened at San Sebastian. A significant number of film projects that were part of last year’s EWIP went on to be presented, awarded and acknowledged at international film festivals.
What are the qualities that EWIP is looking for in a project?
We’re looking for arthouse projects that have outstanding artistic qualities and the potential to attract audiences to the movie theater. It is often difficult to decide if one project is better than the other but fortunately, they get evaluated by members of the AG Verleih, who are all very experienced. This year, we have expanded to accepting documentary films. In their case, for example, we have to ask ourselves if the film is only interesting because of the topic it deals with, or if it has cinematic qualities – narrative and stylistic – that reach far beyond that aspect. We ask ourselves if the films are likely to attract audiences to the cinema because they show something that one cannot see on a tablet, smartphone or laptop display.
How do you expect EWIP to change over the next few years?
I have the optimistic inclination to say that cinema will reassert itself. I believe that streaming platforms will lose a part of their audiences as people will comprehend that movie theaters have something to offer that one cannot experience at home. I believe that cinemas will recover. Maybe they will not enjoy the popularity they once had, but overall, their situation will improve. We are dealing with an overabundance of films, so what we need to do is to increase the quality of the film market itself by supporting and promoting valuable films. All over Europe, we should draw attention to outstanding cinematic works, such that are suitable for movie theaters, so that people will know that they have a tempting alternative to watching films at home – and this is also what European Work in Progress Cologne is doing and will continue to do.
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