By: Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural
“We got the Russians to stop reading Dostoevsky and start watching soap operas!” Startling statements such as these could often be heard at the 7th Annual Business of Film Conference (Connecting Hollywood and South East Europe) that took place on Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 from 9-11 a.m. at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles located at 5750 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 100.
This annual Business of Film Conference is a project of the South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) and serves as a dynamic platform for Hollywood innovators and entrepreneurial filmmakers seeking opportunities in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The Republic of Germany often co-produces films from these regions, which is why the Goethe-Institut was selected as the host venue.
This year’s conference took place during the tenth annual SEEfest running from April 30th through May 7th with film screenings in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Read more about this year’s SEEfest at http://seefilmla.org/
Other supporters of the Business of Film Conference included the Consulate General of Switzerland in Los Angeles, UCLA’s Center for European and Eurasian Studies (CEES), Film Frontiers Initiative, the Latino International Film Institute’s Cinema Project, the Romanian American Professionals Network, and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
Conference panelists included Kim Holland, President of Entertainment Finance; Larry Namer, President/CEO of the Metan Global Entertainment Group; Nonny de la Pena and Sean McConville, Producers; and Stephanie Joalland and Darko Lungulov, Directors. The panel was moderated by Hans Martin Liebing and SEEfest Director Vera Mijojlic.
Larry Namer was introduced as a “brave American who goes abroad” with a Midas touch in challenging regions such as Russia and China. “I have this uncanny ability to look at a society anywhere and be able to see what’s in the interest of the group and turn it into a pop cultural media,” he claimed.
Namer battled great distrust of Americans and the American media to introduce the soap opera SANTA BARBARA in Russia where it ran for ten years. China is now the world’s #2 box office market second only to the United States. It has a huge pirate industry and Larry introduced the TV program GOSSIP GIRL in China after noticing the sorts of shows that the Chinese were appropriating.
Namer urged the audience members to “go where Rupert Murdoch [the well-known media magnate] is NOT” and remain respectful of cultural differences. The world is definitely interested in what goes on in Hollywood.
Namer observed, however, that not all films needed to be internationalized and that not every story had to appeal to everyone. “You can make movies for Eastern Europe. For the U.S. For China. It doesn’t have to be global. Stories start out well. . .but end up diluted because they start adding elements that just don’t belong.”
Sean McConville agreed that the most important element in a film was poetry. Tell a great story, large or small, and try to find investors and an audience for it. “Creativity is indispensable!” McConville insisted.
Kim Holland reminded the group that investment had its own language and that filmmakers needed to understand what investors wanted to see if they were to succeed. In general clearly budgeted film concepts with some established actors were the most likely to give returns to the investors, Holland thought.
Vera Mijojlic wrapped up the discussion by alluding to the “element of madness” necessary to make international films before dismissing the hungry group for lunch courtesy of Duarte High School Culinary Arts. All had benefitted greatly from the variety of viewpoints gathered under one roof at the Goethe-Institut that morning.