Alessandra Pastore holds a degree in Cinema from the University of Siena. She has worked on the production of historical and socially relevant documentaries with Fabulafilm in Italy from 2004 to 2011. Since 2006, she has also been involved in the coordination of a number of international vocational training programs including HerMeS (Council of Europe, Eurimages, 2009) and the Director Across Borders Workshops (Euroeast Culture, 2012-2013). She is currently responsible for the overall management and the coordination of the Maia Workshops and its alumni network (EU Creative Europe Media Programme, since 2006) and is the financial manager of the Maia Associazione Culturale. Alessandra also consults with production companies on development and co-production issues and is frequently called to lecture on training initiatives both in Italy and abroad. Alessandra is currently developing LAND-Local Audiovisual Network & Development, a format aimed at developing professional skills and networks in local environments in connection with the work of Film Commissions and Regions. Since 2016, she is Industry Coordinator at When East Meets West (WEMW), the co-production forum in Trieste, Italy, and starting from its 2019 edition, Alessandra is the Head of the Industry segment of the Vilnius Film Festival – Meeting Point Vilnius (MPV).
Tara Karajica caught up with her at the 2019 Vilnius Film Festival.
The tenth edition of MPV is relevant to emerging film professionals. Can you elaborate on that? Why was it important to focus it on emerging film professionals?
Alessandra Pastore: The focus on talents has always been the main and strongest point of MPV. The beginning of a career is always the most delicate phase, where professionals need encouragement, advice and a “safe environment” to be able to develop their network and themselves before their project. In that sense, I am happy to push MPV further in this direction through different initiatives: the Coming Soon pitching session, of course, but also by introducing scheduled individual meetings for selected debut projects that will allow people to discuss the project but also to personally get to know the decision-makers and other professionals, and to receive advice. Ideally, MPV would become a platform where professionals can discover talents and, on the other side, the springboard for emerging film people. In order to follow the “exposition” of new professionals, a new partnership has been established with Festival Scope Pro: all our guests will have access to a dedicated session with all the directors’ previous short films; for a debut director this is the real “business card.”
In that sense, can you talk about the Talents Nest that you are organizing in partnership with the Maia Workshops?
A.P.: The new Talents Nest initiative goes in the same direction and is entirely dedicated to emerging professionals: the idea is to bring together approximately twenty talents from the Baltics, ex-soviet countries and the Caucasus in order to introduce them to the international audio-visual industry. For most of them it will be the very first international experience and the first step would be to help them create a network among themselves and with all the other guests attending MPV. The link with the Maia Workshops, the training programme for emerging producers, was very natural. I have been working with Maia for more than ten years and I have learned that some of the doubts emerging talents had could be easily solved with an informal chat and by asking “stupid questions” that you are usually not allowed to ask in a more structured meeting.
What what else is new this year? And, what do we have to look out for in this edition of MPV?
A.P.: This year’s edition intends to be very “practical.” Both the panels and master-classes are oriented to facilitate the daily job of professionals. From the exchange of the best practices on distribution to the comparison between film festivals and their strategy to raise their audiences; from the concrete use of the blockchain to how to market films in the “connected” world. I would really like to give practical tools to people attending the event on different levels: with scheduled individual meetings – it will be the first time at MPV –, with speed date sessions among producers, thus giving the talents the chance to meet decision-makers in dedicated sessions and to the professionals to meet new talents and potential future partners!
What can you say about the 2019 selection of the Coming Soon Projects and the new platform? What were the selection criteria? I understand there are seven projects with female directors and thirteen with female producers…
A.P.: Our main criteria for the selection has been again a practical outcome for the projects. We asked ourselves what we can concretely do for the projects that we were going to select. All MPV strategies had been built around this question. All the industry events are “gates.” Our job is to support projects and people, sometimes also advising them in terms of strategy or on the best window for their film. In the same way, we didn’t pay attention to the figures till the very end of the selection and I was happy to find out that more than 40% of “our” directors – always the most difficult “role” – are women. It was not planned; we didn’t need to force it and this is a matter to underline! The same happened for the Talents Nest selection: fourteen out of twenty-one talents are females and we didn’t need to think about it in advance: they were just the right people for that platform!
Can you elaborate on the panel on women in film you are organizing in partnership with WIFT Lithuania?
A.P.: The topic of women in the audio-visual industry needs support and attention. And in Lithuania, there is a very interesting movement: WIFT that is now being officially implemented. I felt that for this specific situation, a networking “event” entirely dedicated to them was needed more than a panel, a platform where they could freely exchange opinions, discuss and create common strategies. MPV is giving them (us) the chance to meet in an international environment and brainstorm on future partnerships and strategies. I see this as a first step for the future development of our cooperation and I am also curious to know the outcome of the meeting during MPV!
What is your stand on the situation of women in film today?
A.P.: The level of professionalism of women is incredibly increasing and the awareness of it is finally there. The networks and movements dedicated to women and their needs are now a lively part of the audio-visual industry on all levels. I strongly believe that this should be explained and supported. I can feel the dynamism in every part of the industry and I believe that this is a direction that cannot be reversed.
We are seeing how you connected your work with the Maia Workshops with MPV, but how do you complement your work at MPV with When East Meets West?
A.P.: I would like to be the living proof of the importance of networking and complementarity! I learned at Maia what the needs and fears of emerging professionals are – which very often are my same needs and fears – and how to face them when trying to find solutions in a constantly evolving industry. I have learned that not all great professionals are good “teachers” and that the choice of a partner needs time, respect and reciprocity.
When East Meets West is a co-production forum focused on the development stage and that every year combines delegations of emerging and more experienced professionals. MPV is a work-in-progress session oriented to talents, so the natural “second step” after a co-production market and a great place for more experienced professionals to “hunt” for talents. This combination of elements somehow gives a large overview of our industry that I feel I can apply to MPV on the one side as well as to WEMW on the other.
What do you have planned for the future of MPV? What other changes are you planning on introducing?
A.P.: This 2019 edition will be a very important test for the future development of MPV. I would like to push further the new elements that I have introduced, trying to position MPV better in the international panorama on a larger scale, but I need to carefully evaluate the feedback that I will receive from the selected projects’ teams, from the guests and also from the talents; they all are our flesh. If I feel that this could help them, I will keep going in this direction – otherwise, I am ready to work on a different strategy!
Why would you recommend MPV to emerging female filmmakers?
A.P.: Increasing the network in a medium-size event is always the best way to start, a first step before entering bigger markets. MPV is the perfect place for relaxed meetings than can be deepened in Cannes a few weeks later and the place where to meet people interested in new professionals. And where 50/50 in 2020 will be reached in an absolutely natural and quality-driven way!
Who are your partners on this edition? Why?
A.P.: I worked a lot on partnerships. Cooperation is the base for the development of every market. Some of them were already good and established partners such as ICO, the Marché du Film, Baltic View and some came very naturally like the Maia Workshops or WEMW, for instance. Other came for common interest: Film Festival Cottbus and Connection Cottbus with whom we co-organize a panel, Festival Scope Pro, Gruvi and Cinemarket are partners in master-classes, the Golden Apricot Film Festival and the Minsk International Film Festival-Listapad are partners in the Talents Nest while the Baltic Pitching Forum and the FEST – New Directors | New Films Festival are delivering industry awards to two talents.
How has the collaboration between MPV and the Lithuanian Film Centre changed since you have taken over? How does it work now?
A.P.: I have a long and beautiful story of cooperation with the Lithuanian Film Centre. Their strategy to support the local industry is very effective and I could feel since the very beginning that they had a clear vision of it. So I am simply continuing in this direction, sharing strategy on both national and European levels with them, combining strategies to support the local industry and working together to identify the right partners. For instance, we opened MPV with a double presentation of opportunities for Lithuanian and Baltic professionals. There was a presentation of the training programme LIM that will have a session in Lithuania in 2020 and Les Arcs Industry Village that will have a Baltic focus on 2019. Both initiatives are supported by the Lithuanian Film Centre.
How did you see MPV before you took over? How do you see it now?
A.P.: Every time that I attend an industry event, I have the same approach: enjoy the professional “bubble” that I am in, increase the network and take advantage of all the wonderful and inspiring initiatives that are built around the event. And, of course, enjoy the city. I will probably have no time for proper meetings and less time to enjoy the panels, but I am in the privileged position to spend much more time in the city, to welcome everybody and try to be helpful to a lot of professionals!
How will MPV help the Baltic film industry this year?
A.P.: MPV started with a focus on Baltics in two ways: by exploring the next opportunities for them – LIM and Les Arcs – and by comparing the best distribution practice in the region. The panel “Recipe for survival: Art-house distribution practices in the Baltics” will analyze what could be the strategy for Baltic distributors in order for them to survive when three thousand admissions for an art-house film are already considered a success. And how the cooperation with producers helps them deepen the USP. Six case studies of films distributed in all three states have drawn on audience differences, marketing and exhibition strategies; the panel has questioned the territory’s homogeneity and has tackled points of collaboration rather than competition. The panel was organized in cooperation with the Creative Europe MEDIA Offices in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
This interview was conducted at the 2019 Vilnius Film Festival.