Daniel Ebner, VIS Vienna artistic director on main rules of the festivals

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May 13, 2017 

Daniel Ebner, VIS Vienna artistic director on main rules of the festivals

VIS Vienna starts in June. Last year Festagent team visited the famous cinema forum and talked to its artistic director.

Daniel Ebner — artistic director  VIS Vienna film festival.



How does the festival work

It's quite a simple thing: we have a permanent team (5-8 members), those one who work all the year long and volunteers (about 40), they are with us from April till May. They are students mostly who try to get into the film industry. That's great when your festival team consist only from the people knowing what they want and trying to understand how does it work from inside. from the audience seats it is impossible to see, you should be within the process. In order to understand all the connections. The festival grows and everyone has a work for himself, noone rest.

Who makes the programme

We have several sections and each one has own selection commitee plus some people working at the preselection. Each competition programm is watched by five people not more, because it's much more difficult to organise the work of the big team of selectors. Everyone has own preferences and we have to rate all the films and give them pluses and minuses. That's why each programme has own coordinator, but still the final decision makes artistic director. I have a veto if I absolutely don't like the film. But as a rule we have another startegy. If the film causes different but strong emotions t means that it deserve to be included into the programme. Only such contradictory films do deserve to be shown.

How many films are in the competition

Among 3500 films that we've got this year we chose 114 for the official selection. But we also have special programmes and curator programmes. That means  230 films more. Overall we have 344 films this year. This is the highest rate so far. Because we have special sections for music videos and we managed 5 programmes with them, so this is up to 60 films.

Russian films

Unfortunately there are not so many films from Russia this year, about 50 in total. Though I understand that there are much more shot. Usually we get either commercial films or much smooth ones, or independent films that are close to amateur movies or television stylistics projects. Nothing in between. And we first and utmost are looking for serious director's  view. I would like to watch more Russian films along with movies from other countries. We got the Osacar qualifying festival status. This is  a great compliment to our work. Applications' ammount has risen in accordance. Our selection commitees work hard: we have to spend much more time at the preselection stage in order to give a right  rate to every film. We also must discuss each descision, all advantages and disadvantages. We simply can't do it superficial and on te run. 


Ivan Zolotukhin, Olga Bazhenova, Daniel Ebner

Film duration

All the films nowadays are too long: 45 minutes is practically a sentence for every film. Seems like the best duration is among 10-17 minutes, not more. As an example if we decide to include a 30 minutes film into the programme, it must be of a real high -quality to deserve its place into the programme. Way too short films are not in priority either. This is also can't be an advantage for a film.  It should stay in your memory. Of course there are some exceptions but they only confirm the rules. For the previous Oscar was nominated Patrick Vollrath's film «All will be good» (Alles wird gut). The filmmakers had two versions of the film: 30 minutes and 9 minutes. He made an experiment: applied both versions to the festivals to see the selector's reaction. Most of the festivals prefered the short one. But in 2015 the full version was taken for the Critics week in the Cannes. And after that all the festivals start making the same choice. No award fot the  9-minute film. The idea is - if you have a perfect story then it mustn't be short.

Music rights

When applying the film directors must fill in the application form where they point whether the film has clear rights. We trust them and do not check. But we had some precedents mostly with the music videos and fan-videos. At one of the previous festivals accidentially was a member of one of the music companies and heard a melody from their collection. It turned out that the rights were not clear. So we had to withdraw the film from the competition. But this is an exception. Earnest filmmakers of course pay more attention to it and do not make such mistakes. But you should always keep it in mind. Because we don't know when the music company or label member will be among the audience. 

Contacts with the filmmakers

We are trying to keep connections with our participants and mostly with the winners. We follow their projects, festival successes. Аlso we have  our own residences and workshops where we invite the winners for the month. They live in Vienns and work with the absolute comfort. We want them to feel like being at home after getting the prize.

Cinema markets and paid screenings

We show the films participated in our festival in Vienna and other cities and try to make screenings outside the cinemas, use any opportunity. All of them are commercial of course. For example we show short films in the chairlift cabins while the tourists raise to the top of the mountain. It takes about 7 minutes. It's great when along with the festival the cinema market takes place, in Clermont-Ferraund for example they made this cooperation perfectly. We invite TV industry members to the festival and it gives the chance for the filmmakers to sell their films. We also pay our participants for the competition screenings. Unfortunately many festivals can't let it fot themselves. But it is necessary for every director to have an opportunity to move forward.


Интервью записали Иван Золотухин и Ольга Баженова
Подготовила Валерия Огурцова