Exclusive EAVE interview with Estelle Robin You about the CHANGE training course

“I don’t think I have ever felt this level of emotional attachment and political engagement in a workshop.”

By Lilla Kadar

EAVE had the pleasure of speaking with Estelle Robin You, French documentary producer from Point du Jour – Les films du balibari, group leader of a very special EAVE programme called CHANGE Co-production Training Course 2021-2022 whose final workshop was recently held at CPH:DOX in March.

The 6 months long tailor-made course – co-developed, co-financed and co-organised by EAVE, CPH:DOX, and IMS International Media Support – consisted of three residential workshops in Kyiv, in Tbilisi and in Copenhagen with the aim to stimulate inter-regional co-production and to connect documentary projects from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine to regional and international markets.

“The core idea was to bring together producer-director teams from the European Eastern Partnership countries to share their realities but also their visions about their work and create a relationship between them.”

CHANGE is the first training programme to bring together documentary filmmakers from this specific region. Most of the projects are political/activist films or they have a political layer in the story.

The line-up includes one Ukrainian project in early stage of development: SILENT FLOOD by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuck, produced by Karina Kostyna, is set in a Ukrainian religious community that lives in great seclusion, rejects modernism, and carries on traditions from generation to generation.
The other projects generally deal with themes around post-Soviet existence in these countries, such as EVER SINCE I KNEW MYSELF, produced and directed by Maka Gogaladze from Georgia.

The workshop consisted almost entirely of women filmmakers. Estelle explains that first they thought it was a coincidence that so many women were chosen. But as they dived into discussions on gender equalities with IMS experts, they realised that women filmmakers in the region – except for Georgia - are more likely to work in documentaries than in fiction films, as men take most the fiction work being better paid and having more prestige. On the positive side, in these countries women can take on roles in documentary that are very empowering because they can make a change in society. In Georgia the situation is different because women filmmakers are actively working on fiction stories but they are nonetheless fighting hard for their industry.

“I believe that with artistic vision and international scope, these projects can become very strong. Some of them arrived with a lot of anxiety about their projects, but in the end all participants commented on the «safe space» that has been created at the workshop.”

As a group leader, Estelle shared a lot of her professional experience in the group: her successes, as well as her failures and difficulties, thus allowing the group to open up as well.

“There were a lot of personal experiences and their life stories were just as powerful as their films. I have been a group leader before at workshops and also a participant and loved it, but I don’t think I have ever felt this level of emotional attachment and political engagement. It was fascinating and overwhelming at the same time!”

Sylvia Stevens, British documentary consultant from EAVE Producers Workshop was involved at the first two workshops to work on the projects. Sylvia helped point out where more reality was needed, how to strengthen the stories and how to deepen the connection to the characters and their stories. Often participants were able to find a twist in the story that made it political without ruining its artistic values.

Sylvia says: “There was something extra special and intimate in the CHANGE workshop. Women filmmakers together - some from countries not long ago at war with each other - bringing their stories, sharing their experiences, finding their voices, transforming their projects to reach an international audience.  It changed not only the projects but all of us and made a network for life.”

Estelle also noted that in Tbilisi the bond between the group members became even deeper and a special “bubble” was created. It was in Tbilisi that the tutors began focusing strategically on the upcoming pitch presentations at CPH:DOX.

The war gave a sense of urgency to the CHANGE programme. CPH:FORUM had decided to be present for the buffer countries, they wanted to give a space on the market for these projects.

Katrine Kiilgaard, the Managing Director of Copenhagen Film Festival, and Head of CPH:FORUM Tereza Simikova made a very strong political opening statement at CPH:FORUM in which she showed support to Ukrainian and Russian filmmakers who fight against the regime.

The dedicated CPH:FORUM team not only helped with travel arrangements, but they prepared the group before the pitching session: there was a 2-hour online session explaining how this market works and who the decision makers would be. Participants could attend a case study about INTO ETERNITY by EAVE Producers Workshop Head of Studies Lise Lense-Møller that focused on practical hands-on advices related to documentary production.

Estelle, producer and consultant Christian Popp, Lise Lense-Møller and Henrik Underbjerg from IMS gave feedback on the rehearsals before the real pitching and coached them for the individual meetings.

The pitching – moderated by Gitte Hansen - was particularly emotional. “When the Ukrainian producer Karina Kostyna appeared online, and started sharing their realities, there were many tears and emotions in the room. It was a very strong moment that obviously could not have happened if the group hadn’t been so tightly connected.”
After pitching, participants had the opportunity to present their projects during the meetings with the decision makers. These were curated meetings to connect the projects with those who could actually help them and potentially support them later. There were both physical and online meetings, plus there was a lot of space to network and find out who's who.
"They come from countries with low funding capacity or small or complex industries, and if they want to go international, if they want to develop their skills, workshops are the best thing they can do. So, some of them have already done a lot or will do more, and hopefully they will see each other again at more pitching sessions. And some of them have also applied for the EAVE Producers Workshop!"

Elene Mikaberidze – producer of BLUEBERRY DREAMS - has been one of the participants from Parachute Films, Georgia. Her feedback sums it up:

“CHANGE has been the place to finally have the chance to think deeply about what impact we wish our film to have and it was wonderful to dream about it, but mostly to work on it!”

CPH:DOX guests from Georgia issued a statement on March 31 in response to the recent dismissal of Gaga Chkeidze, director of Georgian National Film Center (GNFC). Georgian producers are increasingly organizing themselves to form an association for which they will require both international experience and funding support.

The CPH:FORUM / CHANGE presentation featured the following seven projects:

  • 9-MONTH CONTRACT, prod. Anna Khazaradze, dir. Ketevan Vashagashvili, 1991 Productions, Georgia
  • BLUEBERRY DREAMS, prod. Elene Margvelashvili, dir. Elene Mikaberidze, Parachute Films, Georgia
  • EVER SINCE I KNEW MYSELF, prod & dir. Maka Gogaladze, FORMO, Georgia
  • HOMEMADE MULBERRY VODKA, prod. Nare Ter-Gabrielyan, Sona Margaryan dir. Anzhela Frangyan, Nerak, Armenia
  • LIVING AGAINST THE ODDS, prod. Yelizaveta Petrosyan, dir. Mariam Ohanyan, Legal Gender Cultural Foundation LIZA, Armenia
  • SILENT FLOOD, prod. Karina Kostyna, dir. Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuck, Tabor, Ukraine
  • Confidential Project

More information:

Page published 20 May 2022. Updated 1 June 2022.

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