In many ways, the Meetings on the Bridge (MoB) section of April's Istanbul Film Festival is a perfect fit for the Holland Film Meeting. Both represent the needs of their producers beneath the umbrella of their national film festival. Both present important co-pro pitching platforms that deliver top finance personnel and offer generous prizes to the best projects in selection. And professional attendees of both events are offered a varied menu of panels and workshops to address topical issues within their business sectors.
So it is not surprising that the two institutions are liaising closely in 2012 to promote the Dutch and Turkish industries in tandem, and to determine how producers from each can collaborate most advantageously in the future. (The collaboration is supported by the Government of the Republic of Turkey within the framework of the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands.)
One difference between the Holland Film Meeting and Meetings on the Bridge however lies in the latter's presentation solely of Turkish productions during its pitching platform. But this has not proved in any way an obstacle to the development of closer international relationships with key European territories. Far from it.
"In 2010, with the purpose of supporting co-production and cultural exchange between the two countries, Turkish-German co-production development funding was initiated in collaboration with the Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg and Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein funds and with the contribution of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism," points out MoB head Gülin Üstün. "In the last two years, 14 Turkish-German co-productions received funding. Similarly in 2011, Turkish-French co-production meetings were organized in association with CNC andUnifrance."
Üstün is keen that similar co-operation can be forged between with the Dutch audiovisual industries. During her event in April 2012one of the panels was on the success of children's films from the Netherlands and included Claudia Landsberger, head of EYE International, prolific producer of kids' fare Leontine Petit and head of Cinekid for Professionals Fleur Winters. According to Üstün, right now there are no films made for children inTurkey and therefore the keen interest shown by the panellists in helping to develop this sector was very welcome. "They talked about making kids' films, but the most important thing was bringing together the Dutch and Turkish producers and heads of institutions on the panel where certain pledges were made, which was very important from the Turkish perspective." Üstün comments.
The new millennium marked a turning point in the fortunes of Turkish cinema, with 2011 posting record returns. Last year a total of 288 films were released, of which 70 were home produced. Audience figures for these films amounted to over 21 million, which accounts for half the total admissions. "But the country still has a small film market compared to its population of 73 million, and as such it has a high potential for growth," Üstün observes.
Of immediate interest to international producers looking to work with their Turkish counterparts is a draft law that will offer financial incentives to make such investment more of a reality. (A 2009 amendment to VAT law opened the doors to US blockbusters such as TAKEN 2 and GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE which were both shot in Turkey, as well as the latest James Bond film SKYFALL, shooting this year.)
"The General Directorate of Cinema is drafting a law encouraging foreign films being shot in Turkey," Üstün points out."This law, which is expected to be enacted before the end of 2012, aims at providing financial support to foreign productions and also minority co-productions.This is especially crucial in terms of reciprocity in co-productions. But most important of all, we expect this law to revise and even restructure the wholefunding system for filmmaking in Turkey."
In terms of the type of project that would be best suited to Turkish/international co-production, Üstün is keen to start from a modest base and build from there, with a preliminary maximum budget of €1 million per project, subject to future amendment. In terms of subject matter, she stresses the international appeal of real life experiences. "I was pleased to hear the news that THE BLUE WAVE (Zeynep Dadak - Merve Kayan) an award-winning project of MoB 2011 and which was also selected for Holland Film Meeting (aTurkish- Holland-German co-production) received funding from the three countries and Eurimages, and will start shooting in October 2012. Asli Özge's second film WOMAN AND MAN another Turkish - Holland - German co-production has completed shooting."
Another key aspect of the MoB/Holland Film Meeting collaboration is the choice of seminal filmmaker and playwright SemihKaplanoglu to deliver the Sight and Sound Cinema Militans lecture in September. Kaplanoglu won the 2010 Berlinale Golden Bear with his BAL. "Besides being an award-winning auteur, Kaplanoglu also acts as a mentor and an inspiration for young and emerging directors from Turkey," Üstün stresses. "His latest three films were co-productions, and he has also realised his first minority co-production with Bosnia Herzegovina with Aida Begic (DJECA /CHILDREN OF SARAJEVO) which premiered in Cannes. Therefore, I think that both as filmmaker and a producer, he is the ideal individual to be present there as a lecturer."
So, how will Üstün measure the future success of her ongoing and future collaboration both with the Holland Film Meeting and the heads of key funding and festival institutions? "First of all, it is of great importance that we are creating a platform to bring together filmmakers and heads of institutions from the two countries," she underlines."Their first meeting was at Meetings on the Bridge in April and we are creating a second opportunity for them to meet and continue to discuss their projects, to make new contacts or share practical news about possible co-operations. But ultimately, the signing of a co-production treaty between Turkey and Holland in the following years as a consequence would be the cherry on the top."