Vincent Förster is the Programme Manager for Shorts at Berlinale Generation as well as a member of the selection committee for International Competition at Filmfest Dresden.
We caught up with him to find out more about what he does, why he loves programming for kids, and to find out his advice for filmmakers.
Hi Vincent! What about your role and organisation do you find most inspiring?
At Generation, we’re programming for young audiences (and everyone else, really). That way, we have an incredibly heterogeneous audience that is constantly growing and evolving, not least given demographic changes within the Berlin population (and beyond). So we really need – and want! – to keep our fingers on the pulse of time. Bridging film education and film programming that inspires young people to go to the cinema, engage with and understand film as a medium to make sense of the world is a wonderful challenge and my main drive to do this job.
There are good films, but, in your personal opinion, what makes a great film and how do you separate the two?
That’s a tough one. Very subjective also. I guess, apart from exquisite craftsmanship and a sense of care and sincerity for the film’s characters/protagonists and/or topic, I subconsciously check in with myself constantly while watching a film: Does it move me? Does it suck me in with its energy? Does it make me think and reflect on life and, in doing so, does it challenge me in my preconceived ideas of a topic/society/cinematic language? Does it surprise me with formal, visual or storytelling elements?
A great film dares to take risks, doesn’t play it safe, without being too ambitious. It doesn’t need to succeed in everything it tries to do, but also shouldn’t fail, of course. It’s a fine line, really – and still a very vague answer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If you could only watch one film on a loop for the rest of time, what would it be?
I don’t think I could. Or should. It’s as if I was supposed to only eat one dish for the rest of my time on earth: I’d get bored, angry and sick of it too quickly. I can watch films again and enjoy them, but only one until forever and ever? That’d be quite a torment. There’s just too many good things out there that I don’t know yet and are worth to be discovered.
What makes your organisation special?
Our programmes and cinemas are a home for both outspoken young audiences and open-minded adults alike. We curate age-specific comprehensive programmes of convention-breaking young people’s cinema that seeks to challenge without overwhelming.
Moreover, it’s important to us to nurture an open and controversial dialogue with our audience, the filmmakers, industry guests and film critics.
In the context of the Berlinale, despite being part of this massive machine, we are offering a platform for (often young and upcoming) filmmakers in a very intimate and familial, yet professional framework that is very popular with audiences.
The short films we show receive wide attention from other festivals and through our linkages to the European Film Market are offered opportunities to begin their distribution path.
What advice would you give for upcoming filmmakers who want to get involved? Where do they start?
Watch films – in the cinema, your local library, but also on the many different online platforms out there. Also, read about short film – Talking Shorts is a great starting point.
But, of course, it’s always best to experience it all in person and go to festivals, watch programmed films, mingle with fellow filmmakers and industry folk, and participate in panel discussions, workshops and debates around prevalent topics within the industry. It’ll give you access to and an understanding of the short film world, of what’s hot at the moment, but also where the gaps are that need to be filled.
It can be both daunting (for any kind of personal reasons) and expensive (you invest time, might need to travel, pay for tickets etc.) to put yourself out there – a structural problem that we need to address as an industry. But people in the short film world are very laid-back and approachable – and there are more festivals near you than you might think!
Does your organisation recognise a particular type of filmmaker or film? If so could you describe what / who you’re looking to work with?
Our youngest cinema-goers are between 4-13 years old, for whom our Kplus competition is most relevant (though everyone else is very welcome to watch those films too!). The 14 plus competition shows films for teenagers from 14 years onwards. Therefore, we’re looking for films that:
a) explore the lives and worlds of children and teenagers
b) tell stories through the eyes of their young protagonists
c) take young people seriously in their narratives and cinematic languages
d) make young people’s experiences tangible.
However, all that doesn’t mean we’re exclusively looking for children and coming-of-age films. Especially animation can be more abstract and experimental too.
Do you have any events or particular shorts you’d like to promote – tell us about them here.
The call for entry is open for both Berlinale Generation and Filmfest Dresden: The former ends on 15 November, the latter on 1 December. So send your films our way!
Why are short films important?
Short films are a kind of anarchic playing field for filmmakers, a laboratory for narratives and forms that keep cinema alive. They are rebellious, resisting in their rich language simplification in cinematic terms and open a window to the world that reveals its complexity.
There’s no (or very few) rules to follow when making a short film, they aren’t as expensive and time-consuming to make as features, they aren’t quite as subjected to the logic of the market either, they teach you to be exact and concise in what you want to tell, they keep cinematic forms alive that might otherwise disappear (claymation, pixelation, essayistic collages, stop-motion, photo films, silhouettes, experimental work with film material).
They have the ability to react more immediately to day-to-day politics, they open up different visual and real-life microcosms within the span of 70 minutes when programmed together…In short: the list why short films matter is endless 🙂
Where do you see the world of Short Films in 10 years, what should/needs to change?
The short film industry needs to nurture what it has developed over the past years against an ever-increasing financial pressure – its community, formal independence, its festival spaces – while adapting to the changing circumstances regarding audience development, possible outlets and working conditions of both film- and festival-makers. We got to form gangs, alliances, unions because we’re in this together.
What do you think is lacking in the process of distributing and promoting short films by upcoming filmmakers?
Short film deserves more recognition as an art form in its own right, outside the short film bubble, and should not simply be regarded as a necessary step before making a ‘real’, i.e. a feature film. A first feature is not a debut film – it’s most of the time a short film!
With more recognition should come more opportunities and outlets for showcasing short films: more slots on TV (and not just late at night), in cinemas (as programmes, but also as a pre-feature-screening) and VOD-platforms.
What do feel young film talents lack the most today, after graduating from film school? Where are the gaps in the film industry?
Film schools should teach young filmmakers more about distribution and screening options for short films, as well as teach them more about festivals (including the fake ones) and developing festival strategies. Knowing about what kind of films a festival does and doesn’t select is incredibly beneficial, both for your finances as well as your confidence.
There should also be more funding for making short films to bridge the gap between film school and the expectation to make a feature. We need more stimulating, supportive, and collaborative spaces for emerging filmmakers to experiment and try out new things. It is through making that you develop a voice and vision, which eventually helps you to find a space within the industry (or outside of it).
What is your single most important piece of advice for upcoming filmmakers to follow?
Keep making films, despite and because of everything happening around us!
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