One of the busiest guests of this year’s Visegrad Animation Forum in Třeboň (CZ) was Sabine Minniti, Team Leader of the TV Programming, Audience and Innovative Approaches sector for MEDIA Creative Europe.

Minniti’s hands-on workshop provided participants with practical tips on filling out the TV Programming Application for Creative Europe Media. In terms of producers from Central and Eastern Europe, not many have been successful in this respect; to be specific – only one project, the Slovak-Polish-Czech project “Websters” from director and producer Katarina Kerekes, has been funded. In total, 23 projects were supported by MEDIA last year, most of which were largely successful in France, Great Britain and Germany. Preference is given to projects for young audiences and low or medium capacity production. An important condition for awarding the grant is the contractual provision of at least 50% of third party financing (broadcasters, public financing, sales agents, etc.). About 10 to 11 broadcasters were involved in selected projects, with the participation of at least 3 out of 3 different countries.

All attendees of VAF2018 were given the opportunity to ask questions and consult their projects individually. Sabine Minniti also kindly gave an interview for the Association of Czech Animation Film.

Where do you see the biggest difference between the work of artists in Western and Eastern Europe? What are the specifics of their work?

First of all, you need to realize that you are relatively new players on the European market. Creativity from your region began to reach the West after the political changes in the 1990s. For similar reasons, you also have limited access to funding. This is probably the main difference compared to Western and Eastern European productions – you cannot have the same production and co-production strategy when, for example, you have incomparably lower budgets compared to France or Germany.

Where do you think our strengths and weaknesses are?

The positive thing is that I see an incredible amount of creativity and talent here. But people are too shy – they aren’t emboldened. They still think they’re not good enough. I say: Yes, you are as talented as the others and you should show Europe and the world what your talent is! I met young creators who have a real passion for animation, who really want to do something and to cross borders.

What may be pulling you back are the out-dated attitudes of public service televisions. Many of them still think the same way as in the times of communism. They prefer custom production over supporting original projects, and that’s wrong. In contrast, trends are moving towards the development of strong commercial products that reach international distribution even at the other end of the world – ones that are sold in India or China, for example.

Does the CEE animation industry have a chance to make its way into the Western market?

I believe that it does and I’m really pleased about that. I was in Ljubljana in December when the CEE animation workshop happened and for me it´s a huge step in that direction. Because unifying 19 countries is politically huge, I would say. I may even call it “the awakening of the force”. It is the first time I see people wanting to do something together instead of each one standing in its corner and facing the walls. Because as far as I understand, the access to your national broadcasters is not easy. The CEE public broadcasters are still in an old-fashioned socialist model, where they were mostly commissioning projects rather than supporting original projects.

In Western countries, this is different. There are a lot of huge companies producing strong commercial projects and this works so well now, especially in France or the UK and Germany, so they are exporting part of their production and post-production to India, China or the Philippines. And this is working so well that they are taking that back to their own country!

Since 2007, we’ve had an Animation Plan for Europe, where the Commission really wants to put a focus on animation, because we believe it is a cross-border method of cooperation. I want to say that the MEDIA Program has decided to put a focus on the CEE region and is trying to help as much as possible. I am coming here as a sign that we are offering an umbrella of support. For example, at the European Film Forum in Annecy, there will be a producer stand from the CEE region for the first time.

Also, both VAF and Anifilm as festivals and markets or Animatika in Lubljana are supported by the MEDIA budget. There are several aspects of our support.

What would be your message to the producers from CEE countries?

Collaborate and be proud of what you´re doing!

How do you like the VAF in Třeboň?

Unfortunately, I don’t have much time here, just two days – this afternoon I’m leaving again. But there are very nice people here, more open, cool. They have great ideas, they seem to be looking for new approaches, “out of the box”. I wish them all to be successful!

Sabine Minniti has worked at the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Agency in Brussels since 2006. After working for the Erasmus Mundus Action, she joined the Creative Europe MEDIA sub-programme in 2013, where she is the team leader for the TV Programming, Audience and Innovative Approaches Sector. She closely follows all TV Programming scheme developments, especially those concerning the animation sector.

Author: Mirka Reifová