French producer Dominique Welinski, who is mentoring three BoostNL projects in 2020, points out that she operates within the “hard core arthouse universe.”Previously a distributor, she made the quantum leap to production two decades ago as she wasn’t being offered films that she would choose to go and see herself, and so she set out to make them instead.Welinski curates and produces the Factory for Directors Fortnight at Cannes (which presents 4 x 15-minute shorts directed by 4 pairings of international and local emerging directors), and has produced or co-produced films around the world, including Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s BURNING BIRDS, Midi Z’s ROAD TO MANDALAY and Yona Rozenkier’s THE DRIVE.Her relationship with CineMart dates “almost from the beginning”, and when asked what specifically qualifies her as a market mentor her answer is simple. “My eyes and my heart.”Her approach to her mentoring task at IFFR is equally simple. Get to the point, is her advice. Cut to the chase.At CineMart 2020 each hopeful pair will have 5 minutes to whet the appetite of the potential investors in the hall, as well as convince them that their particular producer/director relationship is one that can stand the stresses and strains of high-level film production. What’s more, people don’t want a rehashed version of what they already have read in the catalogue, Welinksi underlines.
She will, therefore, prep her charges accordingly for the questions they will eventually have to answer. What is their personal relationship with this topic? Why does it have to be a feature? How does the producer and director pair intend to work together on their project? And are they of the same mind?“If they don’t want to make the same film, why should I want to partner with them?” Welinski askes rhetorically.“Five minutes on stage seems really short but it makes you focus and be precise all the time. Plus it introduces the personalities of the filmmakers,” she adds. “It is a spotlight session and not a pitch, so it is more about empathising and empowering the project, and this is done through dialogue between the mentor and the project holder.”
owards the end of our chat, we were interview-bombed by filmmaker Dawood Hilmandi, who enthused about Welinkski qualities.“She understands each project, can see what is possible and she can awaken the best in a director. She mentored me three years ago in Locarno and I won the main pitch prize there,” he said. “Besides the producer skills that she has, and the great questions she will ask, she also has a great sense of where a project can go.”
The three projects that Welinski is mentoring in 2020 are diverse and eclectic.The Indian film RAPTURE by Dominic Sangma has received HBF Script and Project Development support and was selected for participation at La Fabrique programme at Cannes 2019. “I met the director in Goa, so by chance, I already knew the project. It is set in the Christian Assam region of India and is about magic realism and discrimination, and therefore makes sense given recent events.”THE STATION is directed by Amsterdam-based Yemeni-Scottish filmmaker Sara Ishaq. While the HBF-supported project is set in Yemen, it will be shot in Jordan. In the film, a Yemeni militia recruiter tries to take over a women-only petrol tanker to send to the fighters before evening curfew. “It was a film I loved when considering it for HBF support,” stresses Welinski.Her third film, WILD GLEAMING SPACE from Panama, directed by Mauro Colombo, is a lyrical and existentialist reflection on death and our coping with it.