Pitching at ZagrebDox – Memories

ZagrebDox 2014 is running. I have watched several films, reviews and reports will follow. Here are some memories which are published in the catalogue of the festival. A look back to the first edition of ZagrebDox Pro:

In 2005 ZagrebDox started. And today it is a very well established and functioning documentary event, respected among professionals all over Europe and (most important) with quite a strong audience attendance. It has a regional Competition, an international competition, side programmes, retrospectives, debates, you name it…

The man in the middle, the founder of it all, Nenad Puhovski, asked me for advice and help, when he started the festival. He wanted to establish a pitching forum like the ones we had been organising for almost a decade at the EDN (European Documentary Network), where I was the director and Nenad member of the Executive Committee. The first year, 2005, it was more a kind of workshop, where 14 projects were brought for development discussions with knowledgeable people like Sabine Bubeck from ZDF/arte, the distributor and producer Heino Deckert, Rada Sesic from the idfa Jan Vrijman Fund – and Nenad, Cecilia Lidin, my colleague from EDN and me.Among the 14 filmmakers were names like Macedonian Atanas Georgiev, Sinisa Juricic from Croatia, the Serbians Zeljko Mirkovic and Boris Mitic, Assen Vladimirov from Bulgaria. All of them now well known names internationally, who have pitched their way to co-productions and/or support from broadcasters and funds.

The 2005 opening of the festival was great for me, not only because of the workshop but also because Nenad had asked me to a member of the jury – that has to watch all international AND regional films. I was with idfa’s Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen and local master Krsto Papić. We did not have time to watch all the films in the theatre, so Adriek and I were running down the corridor of our hotel to exchange vhs tapes of the films. Pioneer times!

Pitching… I asked Nenad to refresh my memory for this introduction…

article to the retrospective of pitched projects that became films after Zagreb and many other pitching events, and he sent me an article from the catalogue, where he describes the times, when he started his career ” when “getting” a documentary film was relatively easy”, through conversations and the result was that these “humane, relaxed and creative contact with an editor or a dramatist resulted in some of the best Croatian documentaries of that time…”

Nenad and I are from same great (!) generation, now grandfathers, and I remember the same situation from the other side of the table, as film consultant at the Film Board of Denmark. Yes, it was conversations, coffee and cigarettes, some paper work (from half apage to let’s say 10), ok here is the money, full financing, and good films were made.

So, the question comes up: Do all the pitching sessions, the trailers/pilots, the paper work, the financing plans, the rough cut showings etc. – do they produce better films at the end of the day?

And now you get a real Danish answer: Maybe! Honestly, I think that with the pitching itself (the 7 minutes including visuals + the 7 minutes discussion) it is impossible to convey what you want to do, BUT you can raise interest for further coffe conversations (no tobacco, smoking is disappearing, I am afraid), contacts, budget strategies so you get money from the MEDIA Programme etc. AND in many cases you see good films being produced with a director from one country, a cameraman from another, an editor from a third…Creativity has no borders. And through pitching sessions and other market events a new generation of producers, who know how to move internationally, has come up. And first of all, it is for bigger budget films a necessity to go and sell your film project.

Look at the titles of films that passed by ZagrebDox to be discussed as projects and pitched. There are more that could have been picked, but the 7 chosen are films with high quality, some with strong international support, some with local/regional.

“Cash and Marry” (photo), I was at ZagrebDox for the premiere, there was a crazy and wonderful atmosphere in the hall at the University Campus. “The Caviar Connection”, I remember my nervousness on their behalf when Dragan and Jovana Nikolic pitched at idfa Amsterdam, they became the stars of that year. “Cinema Komunisto”, well the film runs in cinema in Paris… I have brilliant memories from many good years at the festival and I am happy to see that ZagrebDoxPro still exists, in a much bigger version now, and well handled by two other EDN persons: Leena Pasanen and Stefano Tealdi.


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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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