What to expect from the third edition of Heart of Europe TV Festival and Forum?
BY Yako Molhov
The Heart of Europe TV Festival and Forum will be held for the third time in Warsaw this September. Marek Solon-Lipiński, Director of International Relations at TVP, tells Yako Molhov what will be the main highlights of the event this year, including a new attractive location and an expanded agenda.

A call for new projects in the TV Film, Series and Documentary genres is currently open until August 15 with Marek revealing the lineup of jurors who will be evaluating the pitches exclusively in this interview.
Marek, the Heart of Europe TV Festival and Forum will have its third edition this year, taking place September 25-28 in Warsaw. The event has grown from a festival showing content from public broadcasters in Central and Eastern Europe to also featuring a forum for creators from the region who can showcase their projects and do successful networking with industry executives. Could you share more details about this evolution of the festival?
Indeed, today the Heart of Europe TV Festival and Forum is a fast-growing audiovisual forum with a focus on showcasing projects of film, series and documentaries from content creators of the CEE region to the audience made up of broadcasters, distributors or representatives of festivals. We welcome projects at various stages of development. Submissions for this year are open until August 15th.
However, when we started back in 2021, it was as a small event put together under pandemic restrictions. Initially, we made a contest for Central European public television channels, showcasing their best content: films, series, documentaries, programs for kids, entertainment shows as well as digital projects.

I must admit though, that the first edition was very successful and groundbreaking in some way, as it was the first time when top public media executives from CEE countries gathered together at an event which was dedicated exclusively to their work. We got to know each other which quickly gave tangible results: an increased volume of program sales and acquisitions or new ideas for co-productions.

The evaluation we did in 2021 showed us what the needs of our stakeholders were. We learned that there is demand for events which focus on content and ideas coming from CEE. That’s why we decided to expand and introduce some new important themes to the Heart of Europe initiative. Crucially, we have opened it up for other stakeholders on the market – especially production companies and creators themselves. That’s how the conference part of our event started to grow and to become a significant benchmark for the industry in Europe.

The call for entries in the Forum segment is open until August 15 for creators from Central and Eastern Europe. What are the different categories, how will the judging of the winning projects take place and who will be the judges? What kind of projects is the festival looking for in terms of stage of completion?

This is the part of our event which we are constantly developing. This year we are looking for projects at various stages of development in three categories: feature films, series and documentaries. The call is open for entries from 16 countries of the CEE region: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia. We also welcome projects from independent creators coming from Belarus, since we believe it is important to support dissident creatives from this country, who often had to flee from their homeland after 2020.

I am very happy with this year’s lineup of jury members who will evaluate the projects submitted to the forum. The juries are made up of top executives from key parts of the industry.

The feature film jury will be joined by Faruk Güven, Director of TRT Sinema, Victoria Yarmoshchuk, CEO of Film.UA, Triin Tramberg, programmer of Tallinn Black Nights Festival, and Silvia Stefanescu, Programming and Strategy Director of PRO TV.

The series competition will be judged by Ivan Ljubičić, Managing Director of Pickbox and Mediavision, Jevgenii Supin, manager of TV Beats Forum at Tallinn Black Nights and Veronika Kovacova, Executive Vice-President International Sales and Acquisitions at Beta Films.

Documentary pitches will be evaluated by Karol Piekarczyk, Art Director of Millenium Docs Against Gravity Festival, Markéta Štinglová, Head of Co-productions at Czech TV, and Michael Treves, founder of JMT Films, Israel.

There are also TVP representatives in each jury. All the pitching sessions will be moderated by Martin Blaney, an experienced festival correspondent of Screen Daily.

All jury members will be present in Warsaw at our event. At an earlier stage, they will help us in the preselection process which will lead to the choice of up to ten projects in each category, which will then be invited to the Heart of Europe Forum. Apart from the opportunity to showcase their ideas in front of the juries and the public, the winners of our pitching competition will receive prizes from our generous partners: free badges for MIPCOM or MIPTV, accreditations for Tallinn Black Nights Festival as well as invitation packages from NEM Zagreb.

Aside from the pitching opportunities it offers, the Heart of Europe Forum is also designed as a networking platform. What kind of executives and professionals are expected to attend and how will the event facilitate networking between them?
Networking is the crucial value of events like Heart of Europe Forum. This year our conference will be held in a new location which is Warsaw’s Centrum Koneser, a loft-style post-industrial cultural center located on eastern bank of the Vistula River in a former Warsaw Vodka Factory, which is now full of trendy restaurants and bars, modern museums and boutiques. I strongly believe these surroundings will make Heart of Europe an even more perfect place to network.

As I mentioned before, all our esteemed jurors will be present at the event. Since our background is public service media, you may expect a number of representatives of this sector here in Warsaw, including the European Broadcasting Union, which is one of our partners again. However, since we are open to participants coming from the whole industry, we expect to have a much broader representation of other broadcasters and platforms, as well as distribution companies. Moreover, there will be a number of representatives of our partners present, such as MIP Markets, NEM, Conecta Fiction and Entertainment, Tallinn Black Nights Festival, not to mention CEETV!

What is the agenda of this year's Heart of Europe TV Festival and Forum and what will be the main highlights? Could you give us an outline about the main topics, trends and issues that will be the focus of the event?
As usual, we are preparing a diverse agenda with panel discussions and presentations. Together with CEETV we will organize an interesting panel on formats coming from our region. The question on how the TV format ideas from the CEE region can travel internationally will be answered by people coming from a broadcaster, a local company creating ready formats, as well as a representative of one of the big international studios. Another topic we would like to cover is AI. We invited a representative of AI industry, an author using AI in his daily work, as well as a media analyst from the European Broadcasting Union who will give us an overview on how the question of artificial intelligence in audiovisual industry is addressed on European level. Given our focus on content creation, we are also looking forward to the discussion on the changing role of festivals in the cinema and TV industry. This part will be joined by some prominent representatives of festivals, the distributors who often work with industry parts of international festivals, as well as by the content creators who have successfully used the opportunities given by the festivals.

Aside from the panels, there will be a number of presentations and keynotes on various topics. One of them will be an update on how the Ukrainian industry is coping now, over eighteen months after the Russian invasion. We strongly believe it is important to keep this issue front and center and to constantly build bridges between the Ukrainian creatives and the rest of Europe.

Heart of Europe started off as a festival focusing on works of public media in the region. What have been the main benefits for public media, have you registered a higher volume of content exchange for example?
The role of the Heart of Europe Festival is significant for the content sales and acquisitions between public broadcasters in Central and Eastern Europe. Each year, soon after the competition, a number of programs which were presented at the festival travel around our region. TVP constantly contributes to this. To give just a few examples, in last two years we aired the Estonian series Traitor and the Ukrainian documentary Bucha 22, while a number of our entries to the festival, such as Wartime Girls or March ‘68 were aired in several countries around the CEE region. I am also aware that the same process of content exchange is happening between the other public broadcasters who take part in our competition. What is more, the links between the broadcasters often lead to new co-production initiatives. TVP recently produced a series of documentaries on our shared history in cooperation with Lithuania's LRT. Now we are working with Croatia's HRT on another documentary which will be ready soon. These projects were born thanks to the Heart of Europe Festival and wouldn’t be possible without it. I expect more to come.

How many participants do you expect to welcome in Warsaw this year?
Last year there were around 150 people accredited to the festival. This year we expect a slight increase in this number.

Will the Heart of Europe TV Festival be available online for people unable to attend?
There is a number of ways you can participate in our event online.

First, the entire selection of our Festival competition will be available to stream for one month on our website heartofeurope.tvp.pl. We are also going to create a FAST channel on our mobile app TVP GO, on which you will be able to watch all the content submitted by the participating broadcasters. It will be available to watch in original languages with English subtitles in 14 countries of CEE region.
If you are interested in the industry part, then all the panels and presentations will be available on our website and our YouTube channel soon after they finish. As for the pitches, they require in-person participation. You have to come to Warsaw, if you want to see the presentations of the projects!

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