BFN and SMartDE Co-host Conference for Belarusian Filmmakers

October 18, 2023

From October 10 to October 13, 2023, the Belarusian Filmmakers’ Network (BFN) jointly with SMartDE conducted a conference for young Belarusian directors and producers in Berlin, Germany. The event was dedicated to the socialization and professional integration of freelance Belarusian filmmakers in the German and EU film industries. The extensive event program was aimed at strengthening cooperation and exchanging experience in the sphere of the cinema.

Magdalena Ziomek, SMartDe CEO, and Leonid Kalitenya, Co-founder of BFN, opened the conference together.

Magdalena Ziomek said: "I‘m really happy to host you all here, I‘m really curious about your projects and ideas and what can we do together, and I hope this is only the first step in our cooperation and we can learn from each other how to cope with these complicated times."

Leonid Kalitenya commented: "We have set ourselves the most ambitious goals: to fine-tune the relationships within the network and gain an understanding of the common goals and steps to achieve them, to establish relationships with European partners, and to formalize the internal structure of the BFN as a network in order to automate decision-making. I hope we will get the most interesting results".

The program of the event included keynote speeches, talks, presentations, discussions, and networking.

Magdalena Ziomek spoke about the European work landscape; Iwona Preis, CEO of SMartDE Sweden & Intercult Productions, delivered a presentation on the implementation of international culture projects in the EU; and Julek Jurowicz, SMartDe founder, described his experience of creating a European network.

Helga Grigoryeva, a film producer and festival organizer, explained how to work with sales agents and the international festivals and Marcin Luczaj, New Europe Film Sales, informed the participants about the short film market in Europe.

Pierpaolo Festa, Crew United, told about a European platform that unifies more than 36,000 filmmakers; Lilla Puskas, Medienboard Berlin, explained the structure of film funding in Berlin Brandenburg; Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen, Artists at Risk, guided the Belarusian filmmakers through the possibilities of funding their projects.

Wekas Geba, a freelancer and SMartDe member and Khaled Barakeh, a multidisciplinary artist and activist, talked about the artist‘s journey.

In total, 24 Belarusian filmmakers from seven countries gained meaningful insights for their EU career development from twelve international experts. In their feedback to the event, the participants alike highlight the benefit of the conference.

Artsiom Lobach, director, comments: "For me as a director trying to sell my latest film, the most useful event was the networking night in the attic. Such informal events are efficient because of the point-to-point communication".

Yauheni Lytkin, director and producer, argues: "I believe that such events are extremely important for the Belarusian film community. Many filmmakers have left the country and are looking for like-minded people and ways to continue their work. Others have stayed in Belarus, in a so-called 'internal migration'. That's why the desire to unite, to develop new plans and roadmaps is so important today. In a world of rapid change, the formats of interaction between producers and directors, investors and freelancers are evolving, as are the approaches to creativity. It is important to keep up with this development so that in time a high-quality and modern cinema will emerge in Belarus and the mechanisms for creating the industry will be clear. I firmly believe in this and will try to contribute to it."

Alexander Volkov, director and sound designer, adds: "For me, the network's goals and ways of achieving them have become clearer, so the transparency and structured work with no vertical management look like a key to promoting projects. Belarusians are willing to cooperate and achieve goals together, so the transition from one man projects to the joint ventures I see as the short-term result here. Speaking for myself, the conference was more like a 4-day brainstorming session and helped me to build a path of personal development. I consider it a small success for the BFN on it‘s way to a big one."

In addition, the conference attendees received greetings from the representative of the Federal Foreign Office that supports BFN in 2023 within the Eastern Partnership program.

About BFN

The Belarusian Filmmakers’ Network (BFN) is a network that unites independent young filmmakers from Belarus, including those living in exile. BFN aims to put Belarusian cinema back on the European film industry's map. For more information, please visit the BFN website

About SMartDE

SMartDE is the German subsidiary of the international freelancers’ cooperative SMartGroup. For more information, please visit the SMartDE website

Photo Ali Ghandtschi