Gudula Meinzolt spent twenty years between Latin America and Europe. Wanting to do something meaningful, she first studied nursery but did not want to go back to work so, she went to University and enrolled in Latin American Studies for Film, thus beginning to work in Film in Berlin. During the Forum week at the Berlinale, she would do different activities and had different jobs. One was doing a series of films – especially Latin American or early films made by women. Gudula then proceeded to do another training to become cinema manager, which led her to work in a Freiburg art-house cinema and at a film festival. After several other trainings and a one-year distributing stint in Berlin, she went back to Peru where she taught German and, as she had worked for a long time with Peruvian and Latin American filmmakers in distribution, she began to train as a producer. She founded her own production company, Mil Colores, in 2004 and worked with Latin American directors, setting up with her commercial partner, Autentica Films. Together they have produced between ten and fifteen films since 2004, their slate mostly consisting of fiction films and works by Latin American directors hailing from Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay. Their films have screened in Locarno, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastián and Toronto. Parallel to her work as producer, Gudula also worked as Head of the Mannheim Co-production Market at the Mannheim Film Festival from 2005 to 2011, when she joined the Visions du Réel Film Festival as Head of Industry.
Can you talk about the beginnings of the DOCM and its evolution over the years?
Gudula Meinzolt: The DOCM was created thirteen years ago. We began at the Visions du Réel Film Festival with a video library and then went on with the “Pitching du Réel” Co-production Forum and after, some more discussions and round tables. When we arrived with the new team in 2011, we enlarged it a bit more, and it now has the maximum size. The festival is a big festival in a small town and our profile is a boutique industry program – creative documentary and very individual visions. We have the same profile as the festival, and what we are interested in from the market/industry side of things, is to create spaces and possibilities for networking and professional get-togethers and meetings because, I think, one of the most important issues of a festival nowadays, even more than before, is to bring people together, to exchange their visions on the one hand, and their expertise on the other. I also think it’s more and more difficult for documentaries to get seen, to get discussed, and to get a certain visibility. And, film festivals play a very important role in that. We are looking for newcomers, new talents, so we want to be a point of departure of a filmmaker’s career and for the film to travel to other festivals and be seen. So, we offer activities for nearly all the professions and we always try to think about technical professions such as sound or editing. We’ll work on this as well in the next years.
This industry part is important for both sides of the film business. On the one hand, we offer activities for all the professions and, on the other, we want to accompany projects and filmmakers from different stages of development of the projects; from the very beginning all the way to the Media Library and to the sales of the finished films. And, in order to do that, we have developed different instruments and activities. We begin with the “Pitch” organized by the RTS (the French TV channel in Geneva) – they are our partners and they actually also buy films, come to the pitchings, look for interesting projects and give money to one project for research and development in the early stages.
What would you say sets DOCM apart from other film markets in the world?
G.M.: I think that we have a very balanced program – balanced in the sense that we help filmmakers from the very first moment until the film is finished. So, as I have just mentioned, we have a variety of events from a Co-production Forum – for development and research – to “Docs in Progress” for the editing and post-production stages all the way to the Media Library. We try to offer something for all the professions like the “Festivals Connection” or the “Producers Soup” where producers can connect. I also think it’s important that we take place in a small city, and that way, we offer many opportunities for people to connect, which, at big festivals, is difficult because everybody’s so busy. Here, it’s a very good size and it’s connected to the festival, so we have same the profile and we work together, which is a really important feature.
How is this edition of DOCM different from last year? What are the novelties compared to the last edition?
G.M.: Well, we’re always doing more because we have so many ideas, so much is happening and so many interesting people are coming. I also travel to different festivals and markets and I am in contact with my colleagues and we exchange ideas and talk. Many things are happening and we have many DOCM events this year.
We have, for example, a new activity this year. It’s called “Festivals Connection” and film festivals meet each other during this event and exchange ideas, practices and challenges because everybody wants to or is conscious that nowadays it’s very important to have an industry part at a festival, especially for festivals with world premieres, like us. So, it’s very effective for the industry on the one hand and on the other, we want to make films travel and we want to encourage filmmakers who are coming to look for partners for new projects.
We also have a lot of discussions, like the “Doc Think Tank” for example. We had, once again, the “Doc Pitch,” which is also important for us because we work with many archive film directors and we try to actually help them distribute films and think about this. We have many more films in the Media Library for example, so there’s quite a lot of need.
How did you follow up this year on the plans you had for DOCM last year?
G.M.: We always try to follow up. We are going to do some new things and we are fine-tuning others. For example, for “Docs in Progress” we are wondering what we can do and the meetings with experts are now a longer consultancy. For example, we did “Generation” differently this year; it’s more about meetings – people can meet each other, connect with each other… so that they can know each other, recognize each other. They have been talking about certain topics together so it’s now easy to be in contact.
There’s a focus on films that are still being made or that are in progress in the industry part of the festival. Why is it so important, according to you?
G.M.: Because, I think, film festivals have the task to actually take care of the filmmakers. So, we are looking for new talents as well and we are looking to help them make the film they actually want to make – with their own voice. So, when you make a film, it’s very difficult to find this infrastructure for example: to do a good research, to get feedback… So, we feel the need to help filmmakers, to support them in this sense. In general, it is very important to have a good development of the film, especially the films we want to show.
It’s not quite as equal as it should be; there is still a lot to do to actually get women behind the camera and the technical and artistic professions still mostly belong to men.
How many or how often does a film that was here in the market, get selected in the next editions?
G.M.: Well, we take a lot… For example, this year, it’s Didube, bolo gachereba which was in the “Focus Georgia”. We showed it in the “Rough Cut Lab” and it was selected now. Or Eileen Hofer, with her film Horizontes, she participated in the “Pitching du Réel”, then in the “Rough Cut Lab”, and the film was then was selected. We also find new filmmakers and want to support them in order for them to come back with finished films.
Can you talk about women in the film industry? Do you think the women on the documentary scene are as equally underrepresented as the ones in fiction?
G.M.: Well, I don’t know. When it comes to a lot of money, men are always trying to take advantage, to be there. I know a lot of female producers and there are a lot more film festival directors now. And, in general, when I look for projects or speakers, I always have in mind that it should be 50% – at least. When you see the discussion in the Swiss film industry, they have a group as well and they held different meetings last year in Locarno. So, this discussion is ongoing and, for example, they want to see how many projects are proposed by women, how many are then awarded. And, it’s not quite as equal as it should be; there is still a lot to do to actually get women behind the camera and the technical and artistic professions still mostly belong to men.
I noticed women are much more present in the executive part of the film industry, in jobs like sales agents, acquisitions or heads of industry at film festivals. Creatively and artistically, there’s still a big gap to bridge…
G.M.: Yes! I agree. There are so many female film students but, afterwards, things get much more difficult and it’s true, it’s a very difficult life. You have to travel and then once you have a family it becomes even more difficult. And, up until now, women have had many responsibilities. Also, when I try to invite important people as speakers, they say: “I can’t travel so much, I have to stay with my family; I want to stay with my family.” Men as well.
But, that’s encouraging if men want to stay with their families; women can travel then! That’s helpful.
Can you talk about the increasing inclusion of virtual reality at film festivals and how it is connected to documentaries today?
G.M.: Well, that’s a difficult question in the sense that what’s going on is quite interesting because from this immersive filmmaking people may feel more connected when they see something of virtual reality. We have been working with the Interactive Documentary Workshop – that is our digital arm, let’s say – and they are working quite a lot with VR projects. But, up until now we haven’t actually included them in the festival. Maybe we will in the future, I don’t know – it depends on the new artistic director, Emilie Burjès, and on what she wants to do. For me, it’s always good to be looking at what’s happening and what’s interesting. Maybe, personally, I’m not so convinced by the things I’ve seen so far. It might be interesting especially with the journalistic idea behind; for journalistic purposes, for example: to get people actually involved, connected and committed, maybe like what I heard about The Guardian or other newspapers employing these new possibilities. But, it’s still quite at the beginning and we sometimes don’t know how to finance it. I think ideas are there, but sometimes people can’t afford to do all these technical things that are needed and other times, they are short pieces. I haven’t actually seen any long VR piece yet. What I saw last year in Amsterdam for example, did not do it for me. I don’t know. But, I’m always curious and I am always looking at what is going on. When they say: “Ah! It’s the future!” I don’t think that’s the only thing that will be in the future. I think we will still have these “old-fashioned” online platforms and we might have other ones that are not 3D, which, for me, is not that interesting. Basically, we don’t know yet what will happen. But, as far as the industry part of festivals is concerned, we have to be open, to look, and to recognize.
This interview was conducted during the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Visions du Réel Film Festival.