HFM BoostNL expert interview: Anna Ciennik

Script consultant Anna Ciennik will be one of the core mentors during the upcoming BoostNL programme of tailor-made support and guidance, kicking off at HFM 2021 and culminating at IFFR 2021. The programme will again present a selection of international projects that have been supported by IFFR’s Hubert Bals Fund and Dutch projects in development, providing participants with strong industry exposure and top-notch inspiration for the advancement of their projects.

Since graduating from the French la fémis film school in 2010 (specialising in production), Anna has worked in various capacities - mostly as line producer and post-production supervisor - for the French Film Academy Les César and Les Films d’Ici, as well as the likes of Les Films de Pierre and Kazak productions. She has also been reading scripts for companies and institutions in France and the UK including the CNC, Why Not Productions, and Creative Films.

Anna’s interest in international independent production led her to join Paris’ Co-production Village and Les Arcs European Film Festival where she has curated the co-production market between 2017 and 2021.

This means that all of Anna’s advice and guidance on script matters is backed up by crucial knowledge of what the market is looking for and how it is structured, as well as international film personnel.

Like all script creatives (she is a self-confessed language geek) Anna deploys metaphors in describing her work. “It\'s a conversation, but I never impose, or I never offer the ‘truth,’” she says of the guidance she offers to scriptwriters. “The truth is within the author. What I try to do is to help him or her find it. It’s more of a midwife job.”

“I also like to say that I act as a mirror,” she continues of the process of facilitating script improvement. “In France, we have a game for kids. You have two similar drawings and you search for the differences, for the discrepancies. On the script the director may say, ‘I wanted you to laugh here, or I wanted you to cry there.’ And if that wasn\'t the effect, if that’s not what happened to me when I was reading it, then we try to work out why there is this discrepancy and look to narrow the gap between what the writer wants to say and what is in the script.”

One of the key results of the coaching offered by Ciennik — and fellow BoostNL script experts Kate Leys and David Pope — is a greater sense of clarity across the overall project, she argues. “When the writer is stuck, I often feel that the answers are already there in the script, but that he or she is blind to them. Sometimes it\'s small intuitions, a side character, or a small detail in the script that\'s not fully developed and what the writer can’t see. So it\'s about developing this aspect of the treatment or the script to get closer to what the writers want to say.”

“Sometimes stories are under-developed,” Ciennik adds.

“There\'s not enough material, there\'s not enough structure and the character is not evolving enough. And sometimes the scripts are packed with stuff. And it’s really about finding among the jungle of ideas what is the core element, what is really important for the writer and how to make the script more accessible for an audience, you know, not to draw in all the ideas.”

“When you work on first features that often happens. With a debut feature you have the feeling that you\'re reading three or four features in one, because the writer or the director is putting all his heart and all he knows into it,” she ends.

BoostNL Selections 2021

  • Becoming Dubois (The Netherlands) – Joost van Hezik
  • A Chronicle From Nagorno-Karabakh (The Netherlands, Turkey) – Ibrahim Karatay, Janneke Pol
  • Flat Girls (Thailand) – Jirassaya Wongsutin
  • Lost Songs of Distant Realms (Bolivia) – Kiro Russo
  • Nightsong (Brazil) – Maya Da-Rin
  • The Right Answer (The Netherlands, Ukraine) – Mariia Ponomarova
  • A Winner Is Seen At The Start (Kazakhstan) – Zhannat Alshanova

About the Holland Film Meeting (HFM)

The Netherlands Film Festival is the central, most extensive meeting place for professionals from all corners of the Dutch audiovisual industry. Within the framework of the festival, the annual Holland Film Meeting builds and expands bridges between the Dutch and international worlds of film, TV, and digital storytelling. Together, we broaden our horizons and deepen our stories by exchanging knowledge, collaborating on projects, and finding our future audiences. Learn more about the Holland Film Meeting.

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