WORK(shop) it! Abroad: DOK.Incubator Q&A

This month for WORK(shop) it! Abroad, we’ve got first-hand feedback from the DOK.Incubator documentary workshop in Central Europe. Taking place over three sessions, DOK.Incubator is an intensive platform for filmmakers to be paired with industry professionals to advance their projects through the edit phase and on through distribution. The workshop is highly selective, inviting only 8 projects this year to benefit from the rigorous environment of feedback and exchange.

Documentary Producer Veronika Janatkova of Kloos & Co. Medien documentary production company based in Berlin, Germany attended the May 30- June 6th workshop intensive and gave us low-down on what went on.

ASL: Tell us about the project you brought to DOK.Incubator, and what phase that project is in.

VJ: Our film is called Holy Cow by Azerbaijani director Imam Hasanov. The film is about Tapdyg, a simple man from a remote picturesque area in Azerbaijan, whose dream is to buy a European cow and to bring it to his village. His quest to achieve his goal will bring more than just a cow to his village, but social change, as well. The project has been in production since late 2012. We have a lot of shooting behind us, development workshops as well, and now we are into the editing process with the last shooting days yet to come.

ASL: What did you expect your project to gain by participating in DOK.Incubator?

VJ: As we are in the rough cut stage, a requirement to be eligible to apply for the workshop, I was expecting to get feedback on our rough cut, get help with bringing the film to film festivals, and to better target the film’s potential audiences.

ASL: Did participating in DOK.Incubator’s first sessions chip away at that goal?

VJ: Yes! And it went much further than that. This first session was focused on the edit. We spent a lot of time analyzing the film, getting in-depth feedback from the mentors leading the workshop. We discussed every scene and every shot.

I think that when making a film, we, the people working on it, we expect too much from the viewer. We expect them to see what we want them to see, make the same assumptions we do as filmmakers, and see more than is actually on the screen. When making a film, we become specialists of our film and subject, but tend to forget that the viewer might not get all the information or understand all of the things we are trying to say with our editing. I think it is very precious and crucial to get a new and fresh opinion at this stage, and get some help finding the best ways to communicate our film clearly to an audience who has obviously not spent as much time on our subject as we have.

ASL: Tell us about the workshop leaders present during the weekend?

VJ: As per the requirements of the workshop, each participating project had at least three team members present – the director, editor, and producer of the film. We were four, as our project is a coproduction, two producers were present. The mentors are all from these three fields, all very experienced and all ready to get involved and help our projects. The mentors come from all over Europe, mostly, and almost all of them have experience exercising their craft around world on different types of film productions. Most of them have also won numerous awards. Combined with the fact that they really show an investment in our work, it’s really just perfect.

ASL: What was the single best takeaway of the weekend- the one thing that will change the future of your film?

VJ: It’s hard to say. All of it was great. For me the best was to sit in the editing room and talk structure and meaning for every cut and every storyline in the film. The workshop is quite small, with only 8 projects participating. That allows the mentors to work really closely with the teams, get to know the footage, and understand the film we are trying to make.

ASL: What’s the next step for your project now?

VJ: Our team members are based in 3 different countries so it is a lot about logistics. Just now we are planning the last shoot and one more editing session in Berlin. We are also going to present the project in Docu Talents in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic in early July. Doku Talents is a special platform that’s part of the Karlovy Vary international Film Festival. Nine documentary films are selected and given the chance to pitch to festival organizers, buyers, distributors and journalists.

ASL: Where do you hope to be with your project by the second session of DOK.Incubator in August?

VJ: I really hope that by the end of the second session in August, we will have our picture locked. We will also work on the identity of the film, meaning the way we present it, including the poster, flyer, the website, written texts… It is all very crucial in reaching out to the audiences. I learned at this workshop that there are 14,000 films made each year, so the automatic audience for our films is about zero. So we’ve got a lot of work to do to build up from zero and draw attention to our film. We would like our film to be seen by as many people as possible, so it is really important to start thinking now about how to let people know about the film and get them interested.


Thanks Veronika, for your feedback on DOK Incubator! As a reminder of just how tight knit the international docs community is, we’ve already hosted a DOK.Incubator 2013 participant here in Seattle. Chuck Norris vs. Communism, a feature-length documentary about the birth of revolutionary spirit in Romania in the 1980s issuing from the popularity of black market VHS dubs of American Hollywood blockbusters, screened this May at SIFF.


Looking for more opportunities for your films? How about a new platform of online pitching? Deadlines are coming up for the new European Documentary Network Online Pitching sessions:

Join in and get your film out there!