Europa Distribution Wraps its Fourth Edition of the EDMentorShe Programme in Brussels

By Sarah Quinless


The EDMS programme was first created in 2019 with the aim of increasing female representation in management and leadership positions in the independent distribution sphere. While the sector otherwise maintains an equal balance of genders, with women very well represented in acquisitions, sales, programming, communication, press, marketing and legal affairs, this balance shifted when looking at CEO level.  Indeed, it was observed by Europa Distribution in 2018 and among Europa Distribution members, women then accounted for 30% of CEOs. The programme was consequently created to address this situation, and improve it through the years. It pairs a young woman in distribution with a more experienced female distributor who will mentor her, and help her develop the skills and mindset to succeed in their careers and possibly set up their own companies in the future. Since then, the programme has continued to develop and grow continues to offer a unique space for women in distribution to share experiences, enhance their knowledge and skills and create a strong professional network.


On Friday 12th of April, the closing session for the fourth edition of this programme took place in Brussels, reuniting this year’s edition 10 pairs.  They met regularly online (and where possible at festivals) since Summer 2023. Laure Caillol from Haut et Court, France was paired with Audrey Neuville from Belgium’s O’Brother. From France also, Sarah Chazelle of Jour2Fête mentored Amelija Otkinskiene from Lithuanian Distribution company Kino Pavasaris. Vi Nguyen, Film Consultant for the Netherlands Film Fund and former head of Imagine Film Distributie formed a pair with Andrea Bertók of Mozinet, Hungary. Katarzyna Orysiak- Marrison from Poland’s Gutek Film was paired with Dutch Charley Spaan of Cinema Delicatessen. Benelux-based Elise Van Marcke from The Searchers was paired with Dovile Grigaliunaite from Kino Pavasaris, Lithuania. From Norway, Anne Marte Nygaard working for Arthaus joined up with Liana Mimran Osadon of Daroma Productions, Israel to form a pair. Sabine Hofmann from Austrian distribution company Polyfilm was paired with Paulina Jaroszewicz of New Horizons, Poland. From Belgian Cinéart, Julie Vanderkelen formed a pair with Sweden’s Maria Razakamboly of Nonstop Entertainment. Belgian Katrien Volders who works freelance for companies such as Paradiso, Cherry Pickers and Vedette was matched with Kasia Siewko from Gutek Film in Poland. Mette Søgaard from the Danish distributor Camera Film formed a pair with Diana Santamaria Varas from Atalante, Spain.


The closing ceremony was composed of extremely varied discussions and insights, mirrored of course by the diverse goals and outcomes held by the pairs. For many mentees, the programme posed an opportunity to learn about the independent film industry, develop concrete skills such as script analysis, learn about markets and festivals and some pairs even exchanged marketing campaigns for common titles as part of the learning experience. Discussions on these more practical, hard skills gave rise to a conversation about the role of women in acquisitions. Mentors and mentees alike agreed that it is vital to have women doing acquisitions, or at least be part of the process since they make up half (or sometimes more) of a film’s intended audience. As such women active in acquisitions can bring unique insights and perspectives. Furthermore, the participants also noted that feedback of those with other responsibilities in distribution companies are also key for acquisition strategies. For example the marketing and sales teams must of course work with the films acquired, and as such can provide useful input from the beginning. Those who work within marketing can have unique insights about circulation and audience development and consequentially should not work in isolation but rather bring these ideas from the beginning.


Some mentees shared how the mentorship programme brought very visible, concrete changes. For some this meant hiring assistants, a better allocation of tasks or a more defined workflow. Many mentor’s remarked that the mentees were more than capable of making these changes themselves, and succeeded well in doing so, but that it was extremely useful for the mentee to have an external person for validation. A common sentiment among all present, was the need to communicate. Mentees were reminded that their colleagues are not mind-readers and the importance of speaking up and making colleagues aware if there is an issue or problem. It can sometimes be the case that women shy away more from confrontation, yet women also have the right to speak up and address things – this does not make them difficult; it makes them better communicators. One mentor spoke specifically about the importance of ‘an empowered no’. Participants agreed that it can sometimes be more difficult for women to say no and remarked upon how this can sometimes lead to becoming over-stretched and over-worked. Certainly, a take away for many mentees is the ability to say no, stand up for themselves, and take credit for work that they have carried out. For many, one of the most identifiable ‘results’ of the programme was immense personal growth.


And of course, it was not just mentees who benefited from closing session and the programme overall. A common sentiment among mentors (something also evidenced by multiple women signing up to be mentors year after year) was how much they themselves learned from their mentees. Many mentor’s highlighted how conversations with mentees had encouraged them to reflect on their own work in a new light. One mentor commented that for her ‘the most beautiful aspect’ of the programme was the exchange it creates in both directions. Participants noted how the regular mentorship meetings had become a safe space among daily life, where mentees and mentors could speak in confidence about a huge range of issues.  This concept of having an outside perspective from someone who is also somehow an insider to the industry is a winning formula for mentor and mentee alike.


Overall, the closing session offered a truly unique space for women from a diverse range of countries and companies to come together and share about the mentorship programme and the broader experience of being a woman in distribution. Topics ranged from the importance of equal paternity leave for mothers and fathers and women not ‘losing out’ by taking time off, to the importance of an accurate job title. Many pairs remarked that they felt their mentorship would continue beyond the programme, a sentiment which has been repeated year after year by pairs from different editions. Undoubtedly the programme continues to succeed in helping women to develop professionally and grow their professional network and ultimately provides women with a place to discuss, share and grow.