The opening day for project submissions for the 2012 Berlinale Talent Campus (11 - 16 February), is set for this coming Wednesday, July 20. The deadline is 5 October. Reading the submission guidelines is important, of course. But, in general, if you're wondering if you qualify, take a look at last year's participants. You might be surprised at who gets to attend the Talent Campus, for the population is extremely diverse in terms of nationality, age and professional experience.
In the interests of providing a unique POV on the Talent Campus, I asked my friend from Chicago, producer Lisa Gildehaus, to share her experiences from last year. Every time I met with her for a quick coffee or dinner in Berlin during last year's fest, she was glowing with excitment and energy, telling me that it was absolutely the best way she knew to experience the Berlinale. So without further ado, here is her guest blog for SIM; thanks so much for sharing, Lisa.
Why you should apply to the Berlinale Talent Campus (yes, YOU, 40 year old filmmaker, with a mortgage and a kid and a film that’s halfway done):
A year ago today, five days after I’d turned 39, I sat down to start my application for the Berlinale Talent Campus. It was my second year in a row applying and part of me thought, "Am I wasting my time?"
But ever since I found out about the Talent Campus, I’d been harboring a dream to get accepted and spend February in Berlin. (A girl’s gotta dream.) The previous year, along with my rejection letter, I’d received one brief additional sentence: "The selection committee noticed potential in your work and we sincerely hope that you will consider applying again next year."
That packs a lot of promise into one little sentence. After exchanging a few emails with programmers, I received one other tidbit that made me feel even more optimistic. It said, "We have a lot of people apply as directors. But you have a great deal of experience as a producer. We strongly encourage people to apply in other categories if they’re qualified--as producers, editors, sound mixers, DPs etc." So I took that to heart and, when the application opened on July 15, 2010, I sat down to get started.
On December 21, I got the email that said I was accepted. I was ecstatic. (Although I was secretly convinced I was going to get an email by noon that said "Oops! We didn’t mean to accept you!"). By 5 p.m., I was terrified. Was I going to make a fool of myself? Was I qualified? Was everyone else going to be younger than me?! (The answers to these questions are: Maybe; Yes, I think so; and, No, not at all.)
If by this point you’re thinking, "I don’t really know what the Talent Campus is so I’m failing to understand why you’re so excited," I’m going to let the smart Sydney Levine (whom I met at the BTC) explain it to you in her excellent rundown of the 2010 BTC program.
Now let me tell you the most amazing part: In addition to panels and seminars and meeting people who are in the program with you and presenters from all over the globe, you get a magical badge when you’re in the BTC. That badge gets you into any movie in the festival, any event, any discussion, the European Film Market, Embassy parties (as we discovered), and generally anything you want to do. It gives you free reign to go up to people and introduce yourself, to join conversations and ask questions. It’s a free pass to learn and experience. Life after a week of that feels pretty lame.
In terms of my costs, the American Embassy covered part of my airline ticket. Some people got more, others less. The festival covers lodging at a totally decent hotel/hostel near the main train station. They’ll give you a dorm room that you share with five other BTC members for free or, for ten euros per night, you can upgrade to a room of your own, which is what I did. It was nothing fancy but it was clean and secure. There’s also a bar/lounge on the main level so there’s always a place to go looking for fellow Talent Campus participants.
If you’ve never been to Berlin, it’s a pretty damn awesome city. It's stuffed with artists and is incredibly cosmopolitan. The trains make it so simple to get around (although last winter was pretty mild so I did a lot of walking). And Berlin hosts an abundance of cheap, good eateries. I hear it’s glorious in the summertime. But the city has a special charge during the film festival that brightens up the grey February days.
I met dozens of filmmakers I’m still in touch with from Australia, Norway, Lithuania, all over Europe, Argentina, Nigeria, Hong Kong. I've had great conversations with them about filmmaking in their home countries. I’ve started collaborating on potential projects with some people I met. I’ve also been in touch with some of the presenters and production companies. The BTC opened a vast network of connections for me, which was one of the stated goals of my application.
I’m a mid-career filmmaker but I’ve never done very well on the festival circuit. The Talent Campus and their incredibly hard working organizers are there to help you get out of it what you want, meet who you want to meet, get into the events you want to get into. But it helped me to go in with clear objectives and a sense of purpose… as well as a hunger to learn and socialize.
The prospect of spending a week at a film festival like the Berlinale and getting to meet 350 other filmmakers from around the globe lived up to everything I’d hoped it would. Wish I could apply again this year.
Black and white photos courtesy, Lisa Gildehaus. Photo of Gildehaus courtesy, Berlinale Talent Campus.