Lennart Ström • Managing director, M:brane
“We are already working on a programme item called We Will Be Back 2021”
by Jan Lumholdt
- We spoke to Lennart Ström, managing director of the M:brane co-production forum for children's media content, about the last-minute cancellation of this year’s edition
We chatted to Lennart Ström, managing director of M:brane, the co-production forum for children's media content held in Malmö, Sweden, since 2007, about the almost literal last-minute cancellation of this year’s edition.
Cineuropa: Let’s start with a peek back in time – can you talk about the genesis and gradual establishment of the M:brane platform?
Lennart Ström: About 15 years ago, I noticed the need for a meeting point when it came to children’s and youth films, especially for producers aiming to raise the bar in terms of quality. Given the Nordic countries’ long and good – and well-deserved – reputation in this field of cinema, I saw a void to fill. We hired Annette Brejner from the Documentary department of the Danish Film Institute, where she had dealt with pitching and networking. She brought some very good ideas with her and adapted them for our forum, which first took place in 2007, mainly as a kind of encounter between Nordic neighbours.
In 2008, KIDS Regio was born, under the Cine Regio umbrella. A little later, German companies started to join in, and we got a Polish partner in Kids Kino Industry in Warsaw... Increasingly, things have been progressing nicely while the original idea has been retained and fine-tuned: personal meetings and encounters are at the core of the three days of the forum, with everything and everyone in the same “bubble”, so to speak, involving interacting and “inter-creating”.
Originally named the Financing Forum for Kids Content, and from 2020 onwards M:brane, our subtitle is Smart Content for Savvy Young Audiences. Through Annette’s visions, the event now also includes RealYoung, a workshop on creative documentaries for young audiences in collaboration with IDFA in Amsterdam. For the last three years, we have been getting support from Creative Europe as well as Malmö City and Film i Skåne, which has been along for the whole ride. Our list of international partners has grown steadily over these last 13 years: at this year’s edition, we were due to welcome 186 participants from 25 countries.
The COVID-19 alarms were sounded with quite diabolical precision, as this year’s event was planned from 10-13 March. You cancelled just before the storm. Was it a hard decision, and will you manage to do any damage control?
We made the decision on 6 March, four days before kick-off. It suddenly felt natural. Several participants were about to board flights from North and South America, and the signals just kept coming in from across the globe; some got travel bans from their employers, while others decided to stay at home because of underlying illnesses such as asthma or because of their desire to avoid being quarantined upon returning home. We weren’t interested in an event where 60% of the people would be absent and where those present would risk not being able to make their way home afterwards. It was, of course, a disappointing step to take, but the immediate support of the participants clearly proved that we did the right thing.
As for damage control, we have set up a contact schedule between producers and decision makers, and also conducted our RealYoung workshop online, which worked really well. We carried out an online pitching session with the 25 projects found on our Festiciné page, where the 42 decision makers who would have been at the forum were able to take part in pitches recorded by the producers. Our Best Pitch Award will also be handed out. As for lost revenues, the situation poses some problems, as this is a global rather than a national case. There will be some financial struggles to endure in times to come, regrettably.
As for a peek into the future, are there any plans on the agenda?
Loads, and not without some degree of lust for revenge… We are already working on a programme item called We Will Be Back 2021. We feel our handling of the situation has earned us understanding and respect – not least on social media – and even some newfound friends out there. So even this dark cloud has proven to have a silver lining.
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