By Panayiota Pagoulatos
After two years of living in a state of pandemic anxiety and isolation, attending in-person events again feels both extraordinarily radical and likewise so utterly ordinary. With barely a mask in sight anymore, it was as if you could almost forget what the last two years have been like. Almost. For most people it seemed life had returned to normal a while ago, but that was not the case for me. It was my first time on a plane since October 2019 and it was a Super Big Deal.
My first trip to the south of France was for MIPTV in April, one of the key annual events for the global TV content industry. Aside from the immense joy of interacting with colleagues and clients in person again, it was a huge reminder of what you don’t get when you’re solely relying on video conferencing: serendipitous introductions that lead to LinkedIn connections and maybe the start of a professional relationship. You just don’t get those opportunities if you’re not there to create them.
My second trip to Cannes was for the Marché du Film, the business market that takes place in tandem with the Cannes Film Festival. This felt like my first time to Cannes ever, because I’ve never experienced an event like this. The energy hummed throughout the small city whether you were anywhere near the red carpet or not. And in between meetings and my own professional obligations, I wanted to take full advantage of being at this incredible festival surrounded by all this talent.
The first stop I made was to meet with Osnat Bukofzer, President of WIFT Israel over at the Israeli Film Pavilion. All the country pavilions function to promote the films/filmmakers from their region, as well as shooting incentives, and to foster coproduction cooperations with other nations, among other activities. With the high number of producers and film buyers present from all over the world, it is a lucrative opportunity to have a presence at Cannes. But I really wanted to know what it was like to be part of WIFTI and to be at Cannes (which doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for supporting women filmmakers but you don’t need me to tell you that).
During our chat, she said: “The community from all over, it’s a such a strong power, really. Much more than a strong power. I can feel it inside when I’m sitting with WIFT members from all over the world and the fact that I can call WIFT Italy [or some other country], it makes the world a really global place. And I really feel that I belong, to be part of something that is bigger than I. It’s a big community and I feel it in this sisterhood, I really feel it. And the minute I felt it, I knew this is the answer. Maybe not all the answers, but the answer for us moving to the next level.”
Bukofzer also organizes WIFTI panels and networking events at Cannes which continue to grow, pandemic disruptions aside. I wasn’t able to attend but I kept hearing about what a rousing success it was throughout the rest of the week.
My next stop was to meet with Petrina D’Rozario, Founder & former President of WIFT India, now in New Zealand representing Screen CanterburyNZ which is the local film commission for the Canterbury region. We talked about her vast industry career that took her between India and New Zealand, as well as the importance of being part of a global community like WIFTI.
D’Rozario said: “Once you’re a WIFT member, you’re a WIFT member globally. That connectivity, that acceptance, I think is something that holds [versus] other organizations that are more regional. This is more global. For instance, New Zealand and New York [chapters of WIFT] are collaborating with each other for online programming, which encourages us to share the knowledge across borders. It’s great being back in Cannes representing Screen CanterburyNZ. It’s hard work and this is where the work is being done, meeting with producers and promoting the region.”
D’Rozario also participated as a speaker on the WIFTI panel with other Heads/Board members of global WIFT chapters, including NYWIFT’s own Board Member Joyce Pierpoline.
My final stop took me to the Greek pavilion which is hosted by the Greek Film Center and EKOME, the National Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication. I met with Vasiliki Diagouma, Head of Communications & International Relations at EKOME, who filled me in on all their various initiatives. As a child of Greek immigrants, I was especially curious to learn more about their industry, and it turns out, there’s a lot happening in the world of Greek cinema. Our conversation also led to me attending a works-in-progress screening hosted by the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. It was really inspiring to see these daring projects brought to life on the big screen.
Overall, it was such an incredible experience being at the Marché du Film (and very busy). If there’s one thing I took away from being at Cannes, it is how important community and support is now more than ever. So if you find yourself at an international market or film festival—whether it’s the first or the fiftieth time—look for your people. Whether a business partnership comes out of it or not, staying connected, sharing your experiences, and hopefully learning a thing or two, that’s the pulse that will help keep you going in this tough-as-nails industry.
Till then, à tout à l’heure.
Learn more about the WIFTI panel at Cannes 2022, co-presented by NYWIFT.
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