Bosnian filmmakers rally to shape industry’s policies

Caption: Pictured is the opening night of the 2012’s edition of the yearly International film festival "Kratkofil Plus" in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Credit: Kratkofil Plus

Bosnia and Herzegovina’’s films are the country’s best cultural export. At the 2013 Cannes and Berlin film festivals, industry leaders showered acclaim on two of the country’s recent national releases. Meanwhile, the renowned international Sarajevo Film Festival has put the spotlight on the country’s many talents, and on the array of business opportunities the industry holds behind the screens.

But, Bosnian filmmakers fear the tide of the financial crisis may be washing away their cinematography gains over the past 15 years. They believe much more investment and bold action is needed to keep the industry afloat and to curb, for example, the on-going brain drain.

“Film industry workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina are employed less than three months per year on average compared to six months in other European countries. This results in many of our young and qualified creative talents migrating for better opportunities abroad,” said film producer and founder of Vizart Film Association, Mr Zoran Galic. “But we know our film industry has the capacity to create new jobs and, as we have seen over the past decade, our films promote social cohesion and contribute to developing cultural values.”

With help from UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity, Mr Galic recently rallied a team of established Bosnian filmmakers and industry experts nationwide to research and analyse the country’s film sector. The purpose, he explained, was to establish the basis for new measures and policies to boost the sector.

The landmark study mapped the most pressing gaps in the industry’s legal framework. It showed that be­tween 2008 and 2012, dedicated public support to cinematography had dropped by 65%, and that 2012 was the second consecutive year with no increase in production since 2002. But most significantly, the analysis managed to demonstrate that “each euro invested by the State in filmmaking delivers eight euros of turnover for the industry,” explained Mr Galic. “And, these are exactly the kinds of numbers we needed to show our government counterparts that investing in creative industries is a profitable undertaking,” he added.

Conclusions from the research were packaged into an Action Plan aimed at the country’s decision makers. Priority areas of intervention at national and entity level are fleshed out in the Plan including the need to improve competition, set tax incentives and promote foreign productions that could benefit from the country’s excellent locations and experienced labour along the filmmaking value chain. The creation of a common national Fund was also tabled. The aim is to promote more film releases and co-productions across entities.

Freshly graduated filmmaker, Dusko Stanivuk, attended a conference in Banja Luka last March where the study findings and the Action Plan were widely shared. “The Action Plan is a great foundation for the development of cinematography and creates a new optimistic perspective for young authors,” he said.

At the two-day event over 50 participants from government, civil society, film festivals, representatives of film, educational and research institutions endorsed the Action Plan and agreed on a multi-year strategy.

“We know it won’t be easy but we are confident we have kicked off an unprecedented process,” said Mr Galic, encouraged by the fact that some of the key proposals made at the Conference are already in the making. For example, a national association for filmmakers is now being created.

Only a few years ago, filmmakers from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and those from Republika Srpska were working separately. Through this project, “it was the very first time filmmakers from the two entities joined forces to come up with the policies that can turn Bosnia’s film sector opportunities into industry growth, jobs and sustainable development,” said Jovan Marjanovic, from the Sarajevo-based Obala Art Centre.

Vizart Film Association in cooperation with the Obala Art Centre and Sarajevo Film Festival were the organisations that led the research. Download copies in English of the publication, including the Action Plan: Mapping Film Industry in BH.

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