ON THE BLOG: IFFR discuss the success and scope of their 48th edition

The 48th edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam took place this year from 23 January to 3 February, with 500+ films (and 146 world premieres) packing out the programme. The festival received a grant of €63,000 through the Creative Europe Film Festivals scheme, enabling it to reach an audience of over 300,000. 

CineMart, the international co-production market that creates a platform for filmmakers to launch their ideas to the international film industry, also received a Creative Europe grant of €250,000 through the Access to Markets scheme. 

We spoke to the team at IFFR to get a sense of what makes their applications for funding successful and how they use their funding to maximise opportunities for filmmakers and expand on their vision year upon year.

Tell us about your company/organisation (location, size of office, or anything we might be surprised to learn!)

This year the festival celebrated its 48th edition, and the 36th CineMart welcomed 16 new projects in development looking for financial and creative partners. At the core of every IFFR programme is a desire to celebrate and support daring, boundary-pushing and courageous cinema. Having an office in the heart of Rotterdam creates a perfect synergy with this ethos, as it's a city that keeps changing and reinventing itself (over 175 different nationalities reside there). 

In terms of staff, IFFR consist of 23 people working year round. The entire team expands to 121 people in total during the run up to the festival and we grow even bigger during the festival itself with over 900 volunteers. IFFR Pro consists of a team spanning seven people working year round and we grow to around 21 people, covering all the industry related events and sub-departments.

What are your company’s ambitions and how has Creative Europe funding supported these?

At IFFR we feel a responsibility to create a sustainable, but ambitious and experimental space for filmmakers to develop and present their art. As a festival and market, our goal is to help bring these works to the right audience and make sure it's seen by as many people as possible.  

At IFFR Pro we innovate our programmes and explore our role as a festival and market by addressing and researching the industry’s foremost challenges. We do so by actively engaging with filmmakers, artists and professionals. This is most apparent in our Reality Check Conference and think-tanks. Our main ambition remains to be an active partner on all projects we present and support at IFFR Pro, be it projects supported by the Hubert Bals Fund, projects that went through our tailor-made programme BoostNL or projects presented during CineMart.

Creative Europe gives us access to financial resources and support to organise our programmes, allows us to support new works concretely and financially, and gives us the space to discuss and discover production and creative needs together with the selected projects and present them to a large international professional audience. The support of both Creative Europe and our international partners is invaluable. In the coming years, we aim to be even more hands-on with the projects in development we select and take great care in organising events that call upon action in the industry, making sure pressing matters get a place within our programming. 

How has the CineMart expanded and changed since its inception?

CineMart is part of IFFR Pro which we try to shape to the needs of the projects. We have decided since the 2018 edition to be more hands-on with the projects we select and make a cut in our selection, bringing the amount of projects we select down to 16. We try to cater as much to their needs as possible. Focusing on this, we decided to appoint mentors that could act as a guide through the project's CineMart journey and offer advice on potentially interesting parties. Since 2018 we have also started organising our Reality Check conference in which different urgent topics are discussed with leading film industry professionals.

For the past three years, we also organise BoostNL (in collaboration with Nederlands Film Festival) which is the project based development programme in which eight projects in development receive training and mentoring for five months in order to cater to their (often) very specific needs. We try to set up expert meetings with film professionals and professionals from other working fields. The programme is very tailor-made and comes to a close during CineMart at IFFR where they will have the possibility to have one-on-one meetings in the same fashion as the CineMart projects. New since last year is the Spotlight event in which both the CineMart and BoostNL projects discuss their ideas with a moderator for an audience of attending professionals in a very convivial matter, deepening the conversation beyond what is already available in our project booklet.

Can you share any feedback you received from Creative Europe on your application? What made your application successful?

What made our application for last year successful is that at IFFR Pro, we are constantly discussing how we can improve and innovate without losing sight of the needs of, and current debates within, the industry. Every year we re-evaluate and adapt our long-term strategy for the upcoming edition. We do so by working with a very experienced team, brainstorming with other departments within the festival and active industry professionals. This way we can actively anticipate the current state of affairs in the film industry and incorporate that in our strategy and application. 

Aside from financially, how has the Creative Europe funding been beneficial?

Although we are supported by Creative Europe financially, their support is also a marker of trust and validation in the festival. 

Is there anything you were worried about before applying?

As an organisation, it is always a challenge to raise enough financing to fulfil your ambitions. And of course, organising an event on this scale we need the support of Creative Europe to make sure we can devise our programmes to the highest standard. It can become tricky in the sense that it’s uncertain whether Creative Europe believes in the improvements and changes we aim to make each edition, as much as we as an organisation do. When organising new events and programmes, or improving our existing ones, we have to make sure we are clear on our motivations and evidence these with strong arguments and research and write in detail on how we aim to achieve it. It is always uncertain whether these points come across exactly the way you want it to.  

Who should apply for funding and what advice would you give to potential applicants?

Anyone organising an event which spans multiple strands in a way that we do. Be innovative, be specific and believe in what you do. The applications are read and reviewed by experts in the filmmaking community, but never assume everyone is aware of what you do and how and why you do it. Always approach your application like it is the first time you are writing it and make sure you meet and cover all the requirements. If you have any doubts or questions, contact your national Creative Europe Desk, or your contact at Creative Europe, as it can really help you set the right direction for your application and include (or exclude) certain ambitions, and programmes or events you are organising.