Heart of Europe TV Festival returns with bigger, second edition
BY Yako Molhov
Marek Solon-Lipiński, Director of International Relations at TVP, talks to Yako Molhov about the upcoming second edition of the Heart of Europe Television Festival, organized by the Polish public broadcaster. Following the successful first edition last year, the festival returns with more initiatives for the pubcasters and producers from the CEE region.
Marek Solon-Lipiński, Director of International Relations at TVP
Marek, TVP is organizing the second edition of the Heart of Europe Television Festival in November this year. What were the results of the inaugural festival in 2021 and what have been the main challenges for you when organizing this year’s edition?
The first edition of the Heart of Europe festival was exceptionally well received by the participating TV broadcasters from Central and Eastern Europe. It proved that there has been a strong demand for a shared ground on which broadcasters and creators from our cultural and geographic backgrounds can meet. We have much in common, a shared history and sensibilities that translate into the nature of creativity in the region. The festival showcases and strengthens these ties, building a new platform for creative and business exchange in the industry in our region. What we can clearly see after the first edition of our event, is a higher volume of mutual sales and acquisitions within the region as well as increased demand for common projects.

We want, and this is our goal and challenge, to more firmly define the character of this community and show it to the world as a unique quality that can captivate audiences around the world. This value will translate into business goals. We want to create a space around the festival for the exchange of ideas and content, which will be a showcase of our region to the international audiovisual industry. A new event within the festival is also an opportunity to do this: Co-Production Forum, which is designed to exchange and support new creative output in CEE countries.

What will be the highlights of the 2022 edition of Heart of Europe?
The most anticipated event of the festival, apart from the competition itself, is the Co-Production Forum and the competition for Ukrainian screenwriters “Talents: Ukraine!” as part of Ukrainian Day with events devoted to the Ukrainian creative industry and the potential of our future cooperation.

As part of Co-Production Forum, we are planning to organize pitching sessions for its participants. We will also organize debates on the most important issues we are facing these days regarding the producing and programming for TV in our part of the world and the challenges we are coping nowadays as public broadcasters.

Of course, we are excited to meet the broadcasters and filmmakers from the region themselves. The meetings are extremely fruitful in terms of building our awareness, because they broaden our perspective of what is happening in the television market today.

What titles will TVP present during the festival?
This year we want to present a number of our new productions which deal with the topic of the festival, which is to show the diversity of Central and Eastern Europe. Two Eagles House is a historical series depicting the tragically intertwined fates of Poles, Germans and Ukrainians, whose paths cross in an old villa in the city of Wrocław.

Among a number of documentaries presented at the festival, I would underline two. Kościuszko. A Very Contemporary Guide – is a film produced in cooperation with Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT, showing common Polish-Lithuanian national hero in his struggle against Russian empire. Mothers of Wartime is a documentary series dedicated to women who escaped from war-torn Ukraine and found refuge in Poland.

In addition to that, we will showcase our projects such as SaveUkraine – a live charity event produced in Warsaw by TVP in cooperation with Ukrainian media and over 20 broadcasters from around Europe just a month after the Russian invasion or TVP World – a newly established English-language news channel dedicated to Central and Eastern Europe.

How many participants do you expect to welcome in Warsaw this year?
We will be inviting public broadcasters, film funds and authors as well as experts to take part in the industry panel discussions planned as a side event. That would hopefully circle around a number of 150 guests, aside from the Polish Television professionals responsible for content programming and production, available for potential talks about cooperation. We very much hoping to gather everyone on-site, in Warsaw. The dates will be 14th to 17th of November.

Tell us a little bit more about the Co-Production Forum that you are launching this year. What is the main purpose of this initiative and what countries can participate? What will be the categories?
First and foremost, we would like to create space for the content-makers in the CEE region to come to present their projects in front of the broadcasters and funding institutes. We have opened call for submissions of feature films, TV series and documentaries. We invited content creators from 16 countries: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. With our event we would also like to give the industry professionals an opportunity to meet and discuss possibilities of starting and developing co-production partnerships. Our initial goal was to create a forum that would link the producers in the region on one end, and broadcasters on the other, but as we went on with this idea, we learned there is a need for expanding the event with possible attendance of film funds to whom the film and TV content producers could talk to. We also decided to create space for industry discussion on the direction of programming for the CEE produced content. We are hoping that this event will grow to be an important industry networking spot that will bring the CEE content production into focus for both those in the region and outside of it.

Tell us more about the “Talents: Ukraine!” competition for the best script for a Ukrainian TV series. What made you set up this competition and what will be the awards?
It is probably obvious the Ukrainian media industry practically does not exist at this moment. The war left many people in many industries with no or little possibilities to function in their occupations, and we decided to set up a supporting initiative for the media industry. The Ukrainian TV series script competition Is the first step in this direction: we would like to give the screenwriters who have been working on their stories before the war started a chance for their works to come to life. The competition is designed for the TVP to acquire rights for the scripts that are addressing international audience and produce the series later. The selected screenwriters will also be awarded with a cash prize for the script rights.

Will the Heart of Europe TV Festival be available online for people unable to attend?
As last year, the second edition of the festival will also feature nominated productions accessible within a certain timeframe via the online platform www.heartofeurope.tvp.pl. Access to the films is free of charge.

Have you considered broadening the scope of the Festival to include commercial broadcasters and streaming services from CEE in the future?
Now we see the importance of building a festival for public broadcasters, because in this way we can strengthen the role of public media in the dynamically changing world’s audiovisual landscape. We believe that a strong public media with its public policy can take on the role of guarantor of creating high-quality content for all viewers, and ensure the future of democratic debate and civil society. At the same time, the concept of the festival is not rigid, we are not locked into a specific, unchanging formula. Growing competition from Big Tech also makes us think about new, creative formulas for cooperation with the commercial sector and streaming services. We observe the market and respond flexibly to its needs, so the future may bring different directions for the Festival and public television.
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