Why coronavirus mustn't stop us uncovering new talent
How might the coronavirus crisis affect the unearthing of new directing talent, and how can the Young Director Award help nurture those nascent filmmakers as they navigate their way into the industry? The YDA jury Chairman for 2020, Karim Bartoletti, explains.
This year's Young Director Award faces the same problems which all events are currently facing as the coronavirus crisis cuts a swathe through such gatherings.
But, despite the cancellation of the 2020 Cannes Lions during which the YDA usually takes place, the shots supported competition, which awards and celebrates new directorial talent, is continuing with a digital event and will still highlight the best young directors from the last 12 months.
Here, this year's YDA jury Chairman, the Partner, Executive Producer and MD of Advertising at Indiana Production, Karim Bartoletti, discusses why the YDA is so important to the industry present and future, why talent is as important as it ever was, and why the YDA is a 'room in which new directing talent will be heard'.
Above: Karim Bartoletti, this year's YDA jury Chairman.
Why did you accept the invitation to become YDA jury chairman for 2020 and how important is it to make sure new directing talent is recognised and nurtured?
It’s an honour to have been asked to be the Chairman of the Jury of the YDA 2020. The YDA is the only award show that gets to the heart of what our business, as producers, is all about: the talent of the makers and the directors. For 23 years the YDA has put a spotlight on the new directorial and production talent, helping the award winners to be seen, celebrated and propelled into the business. Some of the greatest directors in our industry have started their careers by walking onto the YDA stage to pick up a YDA award.
Some of the greatest directors in our industry have started their careers by walking onto the YDA stage to pick up a YDA award.
I have followed the YDA for more than 20 years. I have also been fortunate enough to have been invited to attend the YDA jury in the past. For us producers, this award is the only place we can see, find and learn about the best talent around. I have a deep respect for the fundamental basis that keeps this award as relevant now as it has been for more than two decades, and I cannot be more excited and honoured to preside over the most talented group of international jurors to judge the best work created by some of the best new talent in the world.
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Above: Last year's Special Jury Prize winner, Thessa Meijer, and a clip from her winning film, The Walking Fish.
Although the Cannes Lions has been cancelled, the YDA will continue as a digital event; why is it important for the YDA to carry on?
The question we asked ourselves was not whether it was important for the YDA to carry on in 2020, without Cannes, but whether the reasons Cannes was cancelled were the same reasons we should decide to cancel the YDA 2020. The YDA is a craft award, an award that helps directors and producers, an award that has an intrinsic love for our craft and the nurturing of new talent. The answer on why we should move ahead with the YDA in this very 'complicated' year, is in the core of the YDA itself.
We asked ourselves... whether the reasons Cannes was cancelled were the same reasons we should decide to cancel the YDA 2020.
Cancelling this year’s award would not help this year’s young directors, it would actually hurt them. In fact, the work created by the young directors in the past yea should not wait another year to be judged or awarded, because the YDA jury will judge creative, directorial and authorial talent. The event needs to carry on for the talented directors that enter, as skipping a year would only hurt their career, not help it.
Skipping a year would only hurt [directors'] career(s), not help it.
To make this year’s award happen we decided to completely change the set-up of the show to adapt to all of the restrictions that the coronavirus crisis has brought upon us. We therefore adapted our schedule to allow for a longer call for entries and longer judging periods for the jury, plus an indefinite extension of our Early Bird discount rate, to help our entrants participate in the YDA despite these 'strange times'. All judging has moved online and will be done in two sessions, and the jury will be as international, as diverse, as interesting and interested as ever. There's possibly even more jurors than years past with it all culminating in an online award show at the end of July to reveal the winners.
The jury will be as international, as diverse, as interesting and interested as ever.
All the things we are planning for this year’s YDA will make the show even better. The only thing we are, regrettably, not able to give our winners this year is walking up on stage and getting, for most of them, their first award, hearing the audience applaud for them. I have always loved that about the live YDA award show], it is what has always made it incredibly human for me. Seeing young directors, at the beginning of their careers, being celebrated. I can assure you that our 2020 winners will also be celebrated this year, in any possible way within the realms of our physical-distancing possibilities.
Above: Some of this year's YDA jury; Eve Ashwell, Andrea Stillacci, Rebecca Skinner, 2018's Special Jury Prize-winner, Vincent Lambe, and shots' very own Daniel Huntley.
How much of an impact do you think the coronavirus crisis might have on the production industry and the burgeoning new talent waiting to break through?
Imagine you are a chess player and someone told you that, starting tomorrow, the chess board would have the same pieces but they would not move according to the same previous rules. That is how the 'new normal' of production will be. We will recognise all the pieces but we will have different rules on how we interact with one another. The coronavirus crisis will change our attitude towards each other, will change the attitude of brands towards their consumers, will change the attitude of competitors towards one another, but regardless of it all, it will not change the attitude of directors towards their craft.
Most directors I’m talking to at the moment are either filled with the need to do something, say something, express something, or they are frustrated by the fact that they are not shooting.
Creativity will still need to be paired with directorial talent and talent is something that cannot be 'distanced or 'locked down. Most directors I’m talking to at the moment are either filled with the need to do something, say something, express something, or they are frustrated by the fact that they are not shooting. This need to express oneself, to be on a set, is a great creative emotion… as frustrating as not being able to be on a set is.
What will not change is the intuition we need in finding the talent for the jobs we have.
So, I think, when all of our countries start opening up - as Italy has done already - we will, as producers, enter a new world and we will have to learn the new rules of the game we have always played. What will not change is the intuition we need in finding the talent for the jobs we have. That is where the directors and the young directors come in, as they have always done. Especially if you intersect all of this new normality with the travel bans and the quarantine periods that most countries are requiring: this might help young talent be considered more in their countries, or as interesting new solutions for certain types of creativity.
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Above: A trailer and scenes from Vincent Lambe's 2018 Special Jury prize-winning film, Detainment, which went on to be nominated for an Oscar in 2019.
This year also sees the introduction of Best Use of Humour as a category; do you think advertising, and the world at large, needs diverting amusement now more than ever?
Humour is our theme for this year and, as dramatic as the events around us are, Francois [Chilot, YDA President] and I thought very strongly that we should stick with it. I love the fact that we decided to not let the numerous emotional revolutions that we are going through impact or change the overall theme of this year’s award.
Humour is not about blandly making fun to get a laugh, it is... a cultural examination, an ironic intellectualisation, or even a creative evasion of a moment in time.
Humour is not about making light of the situation, but it is about intelligence: cultural intelligence, social intelligence, emotional intelligence. Humour is not about blandly making fun to get a laugh, it is, when done well, a cultural examination, an ironic intellectualisation, or even a creative evasion of a moment in time. What better moment to smile and laugh a little more.
Above: Francois Chilot, the YDA President.
Do you think finding gifted new directors has become more or less difficult over the course of your career?
I think creating content has never been easier and this has given everybody the chance to be filmmakers and photographers. The democratisation of professional technology has made it easier to have people show their talent, but has made it more difficult for producers who thrive on finding the 'right talent', the 'real talent', to see it through all of the clutter that this democratisation has created.
Anybody can scream but not everybody can get heard on a battle ground that is as big as the world itself ands that has many players.
I think we see a lot of good stuff every day, but how much of it stands out as being exceptional? Finding that talented gem is not easy and, for the talented directors, elevating to the surface to be noticed is not easy. When I started in the business there was a small percentage of incredible directorial talent and very few places in which new talent could show itself. The world, and the conversation, was less global. Today, anybody can scream but not everybody can get heard on a battle ground that is as big as the world itself ands that has many players.
If you scream in a room you will be heard, if you scream in the middle of the city, you might be neglected. The YDA is your room.
The YDA allows the battleground to be international, but the audience to be focused on finding the exceptional. That is why directors should take advantage of the YDA to allow their creative voice to be judged and, better yet, rewarded. If you scream in a room you will be heard, if you scream in the middle of the city, you might be neglected. The YDA is your room.
I love the challenge and love and respect and responsibility that I have in giving this year's winners the best and most amazing award show we can.
This is, undoubtedly, a very difficult year to be the Chairman of the YDA Jury, but I love the challenge and love and respect and responsibility that I have in giving this year's winners the best and most amazing award show we can. This year will be different, for sure, but we will have the same focus on talent and the great work that the YDA has always has. That’s why I hope producers that have produced good work for their young directors, and the directors themselves, will participate as strongly as ever to allow the amazing jury that we have put together to see, judge and award the best projects and the best work produced all over the world in the past year.