T-Port Blog

Welcome to T-Port’s Industry Interviews, where we chat with people from the short film world about their roles, organisations, and the future of short film.

This week we caught up with Sven Schwarz, the Administrative Director of Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg to chat about great films, beautiful festival experiences, and why he loves his job.

What about your role and organisation do you find most inspiring?

The most inspiring part of our work here in Hamburg is the possibility of bringing quite a large number of people from various different cultural and geographical backgrounds together, and to see how during the course of each festival new networks, connections, circles of friends, and projects can evolve.

The task of creating a place that functions as a meeting place and which also offers creative input through its many details and facets is inspiring in itself since every year we create something unique – not only by the content of the programs but also by the design of our festival centre.

Photo (c) Claudia Höhne

There are good films, but, in your personal opinion, what makes a great film and how do you separate the two?

Of course the line between a good film and a great film is very subjective, but in general a good film needs to be executed along some parameters of the filmmaking craft (which again can be defined quite subjectively). But a great film, in my opinion, is one that pushes the boundaries of creativity and/or innovation. A great film is definitely allowed to have its flaws, maybe even needs to have them, in any case for me it is a specific edge which makes a film great.

Photo (c) Claudia Höhne

If you could only watch one film on a loop for the rest of time, what would it be?

Just one!?! Maybe in that case I should combine my love for music and film with the “New York is killing me” music video by Chris Cunningham. (If projected as dark as possible!)

What makes Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg special?

I think what makes us special is the specific DIY style of the festival which prevails since its beginnings 40 years ago – even the festival is produced in a very professional way.

The members of the festival team are highly encouraged to contribute to the festival’s presentation on site and through this contribute their uniqueness to the festival. And I am not only referring to the core team but to all the 150 people involved. I am convinced that our audience – visitors from Hamburg and international guests alike – see and appreciate this involvement.

Photo (c) Claudio Höhne

What advice would you give for upcoming filmmakers who want to get involved? Where do they start?

Quite simple: at festivals! Go there, watch films, meet people, take part in workshops. It’s really fantastic how much the festival scene can offer upcoming filmmakers!

Photo (c) Claudio Höhne

Does your organisation recognise a particular type of filmmaker or film? If so could you describe what / who you’re looking to work with?

Along the lines of my earlier answer regarding good and great films, we are definitely looking for great films. Those that push boundaries are the ones we all love.

Photo (c) Claudio Höhne

Tell us about some of the filmmakers you have helped, what have they gone on to do?

i think it is unfair to pick a single filmmaker as an answer or even any at all. Of course we might have been helpful to many filmmakers but I don’t think we should take too much credit for this. It is our job and duty to support filmmakers and their films but in the end it’s the films themselves that formed their career.

Do you have any events or particular shorts you’d like to promote – tell us about them here.

If it comes to blatant self-promotion I would of course love to promote the other project I am involved with “A Wall is a Screen”. For twenty years now we have been presenting short film walks where films are projected site-specific on walls and other structures all over the world. The audience follows the projection team from wall to wall and film to film. If we are coming to a city near you you definitely need to check it out!

Why are short films important?

Because they push boundaries! They are the starting point to every filmmaking career (and if you dare you can even stick with them for the rest of your career!). They can quickly react to political issues and situations. Short film festivals are just an amazing and beautiful world!

Where do you see the world of Short Films in 10 years, what should/needs to change?

Looking at the ever-rising numbers of produced short films it will get harder and harder to find the great ones. Not because there are less of them but because the pool in which they are is so big. This means that the festivals will have to put in even more work to find the great films. We definitely need to stay curious!

But on the positive note with ever-changing possibilities in terms of technical developments I am really excited to see which innovative new directions we will see.

What do you think is lacking in the process of distributing and promoting short films by upcoming filmmakers?

There is certainly a lack of outlets for short films. There need to be more cinemas that are screening short films, VOD needs to present not only the few usual suspects but needs to have space for a wide variety of short films. And even with many distributors and platforms doing great jobs, our main task is to bring the films to the people!

What do feel young film talents lack the most today, after graduating from film school?

Speaking from my field of work I am very often shocked by how little filmmakers learn about the distribution, or even screening possibilities for their films. Many film schools don’t even teach a basic ABC of film festivals, starting from telling their students what a submission platform is and how to properly use them. They need to know what a fake-festival is!!!

And then if it comes to distribution possibilities this is even worse.

Many film festivals do a great job in addressing these questions, but I think this should be taught in film 101.

What is your single most important piece of advice for upcoming filmmakers to follow?

I don’t want to sound like a motivational poster but the most important thing is to follow your own vision.


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