After two years of lockdowns, mental health has been neglected by many. Because Go Short was one of the first festivals to commence this year after another winter in lockdown, Go Short wanted the festival to be something more than just a way to step outside the bubble. It was a place where filmmakers could work on their own mental health. That’s why Go Short chose for this theme arching the Industry Day of 2022: Mental health.
The day began with a plenary session in one of the largest film halls in LUX film theater, Netherlands. From far and wide, filmmakers came to see Stephane Kaas speaking to the audience about the power of failure. He showed fragments of stories that seemed to be success stories – however, these stories proved to be quite the contrary of success stories. He started off with the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse from Eleanor Coppola. This film shows the mental breakdown of Francis Ford Coppola and all his setbacks from up close during the making of Apocalypse Now. Terry Gillian’s proces of making Lost in la Mancha was also used as an example. His lead role gets hospitalized and during shooting, a huge storm comes to almost destroy the entire set and all the equipment there. It didn’t help that such a storm at such a place was considered an anomaly.
The point? Every seemingly successful story can actually be a huge f*ck-up story instead when you really look at what happened during the making process. Failure is not a bad thing; the biggest of the world wouldn’t have been able to do their work without it.
And this wisdom brought us to a panel talk with Rebecca Day (founder & psychotherapist at Film In Mind), Pien van Gemert (Coaching in de Cultuur) and Stephane Kaas. The panel was moderated by Emilia Mazik from Short Waves Festival. They spoke about how to stay mentally healthy and financially stable as a filmmaker or -professional. How do you make sure that you get paid a fair share for your work as a creative? And what tools are available to make it easier for filmmakers to keep financial independence? These sort of questions were asked by makers that were in the audience. With a so-called catch box, a cube made of foam with a microphone in it, the audience was made a participant with the discussion. Whether a filmmaker had a burning question or just wanted to make a statement: it didn’t matter, any form of participating was allowed. Lastly, festival director Kirsten Ruber mentioned that Go Short and Coaching in de Cultuur would soon start a intervision course by filmmakers for filmmakers. This intervision course is meant to be a safe space where makers can speak about their struggles confidentially. This will be spread out into different sessions and will, in total, take several months.
“This is something I wished we’d do more in the U.K. as well. Taking responsibility and learning from peers is extremely helpful.”Rebecca Day on the intervision course
In comes Remko, a failure fitness coach. Dressed in a blue Adidas jacket, he takes the audience with him in his infectious enthusiasm and his energetic appearance. He hammers the importance of giving up control and embrace your own failures instead of condemning them. “By sharing your failures instead of keeping them to yourself, it no longer remains an individual process. By doing that, it’s far easier to shrug that negative feeling away,” he tells the audience. His wisdom is followed by exercises that challenge the audience in a rather peculiar way. The exercises were designed to let the members of the audience fail miserably. But, to fail miserably together is what bonded the filmmakers and film professionals in that brief moment of shared failure – and shared joy.
It was by no means mandatory for the filmmakers to be present at the speed–date sessions and the program Producers meet scriptwriters inside the library. But the ambitious, motivated filmmakers who want their films to be made absolutely didn’t want to mis this chance. And after all, that’s not extremely difficult to understand, because this way of networking is worth gold in the film industry and there are always new contacts to discover for a starting filmmaker who is still looking for someone who sees potential in his/her work.
For some filmmakers, it can be a big step up to get in contact with professionals from the film industry. Mails with great pitches or astonishing ideas remain unanswered and end up at a producer’s pile, labeled ‘things we should definitely maybe do something with sometime perhaps in the future’. Many filmmakers ask themselves how they’ll ever get their grand and fantastic film ideas done. That’s why Go Short wanted to make this process more accessible. Aspiring filmmakers were offered a chance to talk to one of those film producers and other film professionals and received tailor-made advise. According to Sara van Lookeren, a freelance dramaturge who was present as one of the film professionals, this meeting was incredibly useful for starting filmmakers. Her advice? “Study projects you admire and learn from the way these films were distributed and produced.” Jolijn van Rees, NL Filmfonds: “Sometimes aspiring filmmakers don’t know when they should pitch their ideas to a producer. My advice to them is to diversify in order to get the producer that’s fit for you.” Erik van Drunen, also from NL Filmfonds, resorted to the failure fitness from Remko during the plenary session in the morning. “A common mistake that I see with aspiring filmmakers is that they’re too cautious. Take the risk to fail and enter the realm of filmmaking actively; you have a story to tell.”
Producers meet scriptwriters
Another group of filmmakers, who applied in advance of the festival, were aiming their arrows at their pitch. In another meeting inside the library, scriptwriters could pitch their film ideas in front of a producer. The writer was given five minutes to blow away the producer with a fantastic pitch. If the producer didn’t bite, it was on to the next one and try the same thing over again. There were six producers present. Every writer had their own way of pitching ideas. One writer pitched six ideas in one take, hoping that one of the ideas would stick. The other had only one idea, but this was then entirely worked out, in details. It was obviously a nerve-wrecking experience for the writers, but luckily, the delicious sandwiches eased the tension a little bit.
Interactive afternoon sessions
After lunch, it was time for interactive workshops. One of these workshops was about NFT’s, Web3 and DAO’s and on how these new inventions may be used in the future for filmmakers and on how it can change the future. Another workshop, called First Impressions put filmmakers to work by making them show the first scene of their newest film project to a panel of film experts – if they dared. The two workshops we’d like to cover in this particular report however, are the roundtable sessions and Sex on set: don’t screw it up!
When the tummies were filled and everyone was hydrated enough, filmmakers and -professionals could get into conversation with one another about a diversity of themes that dominate the film industry momentarily. In total there were six different roundtable sessions to choose from that were all going on at the same time. One table covered how to work together with streaming services like Netflix and the Dutch Videoland without losing your authenticity as a filmmaker, or risk losing your idea as soon as you pitch it at a meeting with the streaming service. Marthe Naber Heuer, founder of Mediamonster and filmmaker of the Dutch documentary De Lachgaskoning, was asked to explain why she took this risk anyway: “You’re not giving away a part of yourself; it’s rather a chance, a learning experience, instead of a restriction of your own way of creating.”
At another table, professionals were fiercely discussing a totally different subject, the Fair Practice Code. Rosa Scholtens from Laat Je Niet Naaien (translation: don’t get screwed) lead the session, including among others Emma O’Hare from Dutch Culture. The conclusion was that filmmakers should organize themselves better and stand for their rights as individual artists to get paid a fair share. O’Hare: “The difference between producers and filmmakers is quite distressing; ask a room full of producers if they’re able to pay for their monthly expenses, and every single one in that room will raise their hand. Do that in a room filled with filmmakers and you’ll see just a couple hands touching the sky.”
Sex on set: don’t screw it up!
The world of cinema trembled when the #metoo-scandals became public. And even though some great steps were taken in the wake of these publications in order to prevent this behavior in the future, we still have a long way to go, according to intimacy coordinators Philine Janssens and Marjan Lammers. Ever since it’s obligated for American production companies to hire an intimacy coordinator on set, actors are guaranteed a safer work environment. And even though this is still a work in progress as well, the right intimacy coach on the right place can open many doors to progress. By doing physical exercises with actors and actresses and by functioning as a trusted person who can lobby in meetings with the producers and writers and stand up for them. They also make sure that the actors and actresses wishes are granted when it comes to visible nudity on screen. “It’s an important task,” says Janssens, “because by doing this work, I’ve been able to make adjustments in the scripts for many actors and actresses.” Her clients, but also writers and producers, often times commend her for her work. “It’s not a hype; it’s needed.”
There’s a difference however in the development of intimacy coaching in different countries. Production team in the UK and in the US are often ahead of the curb, especially when it comes to European countries. Janssens: “When I was in Italy for a production from a world renowned large production company not so long ago, I felt like I was merely a checkbox. The producer asked himself: ‘do we have an intimacy coach yet? Yes? Great.’ And that’s all. That doesn’t help the cause, obviously. And still, it’s better than nothing, because I can still practice power in that role. The only thing is that I need to be bolder than in other cases.”
Janssens’ experiences in the field were supported by a selection of sex scenes, analyzed by Lammers. This displayed the difference between a scene made by a production team with an intimacy coach included and a team without. Her razor-sharp comments prove that the more attention goes to intimacy coaching, the stronger the quality of the sex scenes become. “Sometimes you’ll see a sex scene and you think: was this a necessary scene to support the story? Or was the director looking for an easy way to apply some tension to the film? Carol is a perfect example of how it can go terribly wrong. Apart from the fact that the sex scene doesn’t add any value to the story, it was apparently an incredibly traumatic experience for Rooney Mara, one of the two leading ladies. As a film enthusiast and an intimacy coach, it breaks my heart watching this scene, because it neglects both quality as intimacy for actors.”
So what are the right examples? “The hit show Sex Education is renowned for its good work with intimacy coaches. This is potent in the series and adds to the quality of the acting. They show how sex is both natural as well as awkward, with a hint of typical British humor,” says Lammers. So even though one sex scene is directed better than the other, one thing is perfectly clear: watching people having sex on screen with a room full of strangers has never been so educational.
Is there a better way to end your day than having a drink? No? That’s what we thought as well. After a productive day, filmmakers assembled in the Festival Pavilion to share their experiences of the day and the knowledge they gained. Since Go Short’s subtitle was Outside the Bubble, it was only logical that a glass of bubbly was waiting for them inside. After this informative day, filmmakers and professionals could relax and get entertained by visiting the program of the Music Video Competition. The people who wanted to continue into the late hours, they could visit the Industry Party at Café De Wit Wasserij.