By Aurore Engelen
The second edition of the mentorship programme for female distribution professionals, devised by Europa Distribution, has now wrapped in Brussels
After launching a highly promising first edition of it EDMentorShe programme at the height of the pandemic (read our article), the European network of independent film publishers and distributors Europa Distribution hosted the final session of its second edition in Brussels on July 8, providing its participants with opportunities to meet in the flesh after several months of online fruitful discussions and questions.
Six duos were reunited in this final session, offering up a rich and diversified vista of the distribution sphere in Europe. CEO of her own firm Greta Garbo Films (Lithuania), Greta Akcijonaite was joined by Commercial Manager of Wanted (Italy) Marta Marchesi; Head of Acquisitions for Haut et Court (France) Laure Caillol was joined by Marketing & PR Manager at Cinema Delicatessen (The Netherlands) Safirah Dijskstra; Managing Director of Polyfilm (Austria) Sabine Hoffmann was joined by Business Affairs & Marketing at Cineart (The Netherlands) Machteld Schulte Nordholt; Head of Sales and Acquisitions at Kino Pavasaris (Lithuania) Aisté Racaityté was joined by Bad Unicorn Programmer Sandra Sankat (Romania); Head of Acquisitions at Arsenal Film (Germany) Käte Schaeffer was joined by Aerofilms’ (Czech Republic) Marketing & PR Manager Beata Mrazikova; and, last but not least, ex-Chairwoman of Filmcoopi (Switzerland) Carola Stern was joined by Vanessa Ciszewski who manages her own firm Luftkind Filmverleih (Germany).
EDMentorShe first saw the light of day when female board members and management at Europa Distribution realized that, during their annual conference, they mostly came across men despite there being no shortage of women in the film distribution field. Women are a regular feature, whether in acquisitions, sales, programming, communication, press, marketing and legal affairs. But they’re not so common among the CEOs. Roughly, 70 % of the 116 independent film distribution companies forming part of the Europa Distribution network are headed up by men, 33 are headed up by women. This can be explained because a lot of this companies have been founded by men, but still, it may be time now to strongly support young women who’d like to build up their own firm.
What is the best way forwards, in light of this situation? The question of career evolution proved central to the informal discussions between the duos and to the final session in Brussels. Women’s horizons are often curtailed which drives female professionals towards other sectors, not out of choice or desire but necessity.
Most young women working in the distribution sector have a solid cinephile background, and have graduated in either film, artistic or cultural studies. But what they all have in common is their love of films, the pleasure they derive from talking about them, discovering new works and following the progress of industry talent. Understandably, the field of acquisitions is an appealing career objective, but many are wondering how they can prove themselves in the area of reading and choosing projects. The sphere of acquisitions remains the “holy grail” and has been central to questions and conversations between mentors and mentees.
Education and training may well be a key to unlock lots of situations, for the professionals as well as for the audiences. The mentees have stressed how much workshops and trainings have been useful for them when they were wondering how to evolve in their career. The mentors agreed that training was an asset both for the employers and for the employees. It’s a way to keep your motivation, and to enhance your performances. It can also be a kick to your career, lead the way to a reprofiling of your post, as your skills evolve and your experience increases.
But how do you evaluate your work and your contribution towards the company’s advancement? When you’re working in a sector as fascinating and passion driven as the film industry, asserting your wage requirements can prove tricky because many already believe you’re lucky to be working in this sector. Trainings and workshops are also a way to understand how you can be an added value to your company. Know your own worth is always a good way to negotiate your evolution in the system.
Education is also a crucial point regarding the audiences. As they seem to be growing thinner year after year, and especially after the pandemic, it seems more important than ever to reach the younger audiences. The school circuit represents a real opportunity for a second run after the theatrical one. Some countries such as France or Belgium have designed strong programs to look upon, aimed at schools and teachers. « Teach the teachers » may also be a clue. It’s not only about providing pedagogical files, but also about raising their awareness on legal, cultural and educational aspects.
Central to the mentors and mentees conversations is the sharing of experience. The seniority of the mentors means that they’re in a position to share their successes as well as their failures, which are a precious source of learning. The programme is a safe space where participants can talk, confide their doubts and hesitations, and devise career plans and strategies which will help them continue to thrive in this sector, without burning out. And the example of these mentors is an inspiration in and of itself.
Ultimately, the goal is to create professional and informal links between the participants. This can take on many shapes, from the practical exercise one of the duos did in Cannes around a movie they both coveted, to regular online meetings reuniting the program alumni, or casual drinks in festivals or markets.
After the success of the first two editions, Europa Distribution is highly convinced that strengthening a solid network between women in distribution will help reducing the discrepancies. The third edition of EDMentorShe has been launched, with exchanges starting from next September.
With the support of the Creative Europe MEDIA Programme of the European Union