RTVS as the Partner of Slovak Films

In the troubled 1990s and at the start of the new millennium only a few Slovak films were made and the participation of the public-service TV in co-productions was also low. However, the productivity of Slovak cinema has recently increased and its support by the Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) has also revived.

Over the course of 24 years (1990 – 2014) 195 Slovak films were made, 81 of which were co-produced
by the Slovak public-service television. While
up to 2011 the number of film co-productions of RTVS ranged from one to five projects per annum, subsequently their number increased. Appreciably. In 2013, the RTVS supported 11 cinema films, in 2014, one more. At the same time, the RTVS strengthened the promotion of co-productions on its TV screens.

In the past two years (2014 and 2015) a total of
43 films – 17 feature films and 26 documentaries
– got on the co-production list of the RTVS. Not
all of them are full-length and some are primarily destined for television broadcasting, but more than half of them are related to cinema distribution.
For these 43 titles from the given period, the co- production input of the RTVS was almost four million Euro (EUR 3,985,438). The highest input was provided to Mariana Čengel Solčanská’s fairy tale Love in Your Soul (Láska na vlásku, EUR 738,377) which achieved a high rating even when broadcast on RTVS. However, in this case the RTVS did not just provide a financial input, but a non-financial one
as well. Within it, the public-service TV was able
to offer their own studios, props, costumes, post- production capacities, etc.

When in mid-2012 a new management starting working in the RTVS headed by the General Director Václav Mika and the Programme Director of the TV part of RTVS, Tibor Búza, the Central Register of Ideas was established and decisions on co-productions are made on the basis of the applications submitted. “This management set standard rules. Every single application or idea has to go through an evaluation system. Projects have to be enrolled in the Central Register of Ideas where the proposals are then distributed among individual dramaturges. They prepare the evaluation process. These projects are subsequently evaluated at a public forum, i.e. at a dramaturgical council. They are evaluated in a complex manner – the idea, artistic level, budget or the way the project will be implemented. If the council recommends the project, it progresses to the final phase where it is evaluated in the grand programme council. This decides whether or not the RTVS will get involved in the co-production, or if the project will be postponed,” explains Tibor Búza. According to this system the proponent of the idea should get a response from RTVS no later than twelve weeks from entry in the Register.

“The filmmakers who submitted their ideas to
the Register can continually see the stage of the evaluation and who is evaluating the project.
There are strict rules now determining the approval procedure, continues Búza. The change also affected the number of applications in the Register which has increased. “This is primarily
due to the fact that the rules have changed and the filmmakers appreciate it. We don’t have a problem with saying no when necessary, but we will present a clear argument why we don’t want to get involved in a particular project. We always try to give a relevant response to everyone and I have to say that the ideas undergo a really harsh evaluation. I think that the RTVS dramaturgy is currently at a very decent level,” explains the Programme Director of the TV. According to the RTVS, in 2014, altogether 32 projects submitted to the Register, 20 of which were feature films, were assessed. Last year, it was 28 projects (24 feature films).

“As the RTVS is the only relevant additional source of funds in Slovakia in addition to the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, co-productions with the RTVS are in many cases essential for the producer,” states producer Barbara Harumová Hessová. On the basis of her experience, she appreciates the approach of the individual staff members of the documentary dramaturge in the RTVS but, at the same time, she emphasises that there is always room for improvement in the collaboration with the TV. Compared with the past, director and independent producer Peter Kerekes also recorded a more helpful approach on the part of the TV, even though he names weaker points too. He would, for instance, welcome a shorter period from the submission of the project, through its assessment and evaluation to the provision of funds. “It would be good if
this process could be accelerated even more but
the TV would have to have a budget secured for
a longer period in advance. There is a lot to be wished for in order to be satisfied, but that requires a stable management that will not change after every election, on the one hand, and also intensive pressure exerted by producers on the other hand.”

With regard to feature and documentary films that had their premières in cinemas last year, the RTVS co-produced, for instance, Eva Nová
by director Marko Škop, Seven Ravens (Sedem zhavranelých bratov) by Alice Nellis and Koza (Koza) by Ivan Ostrochovský. As for films that will be released in cinemas (and on television) the RTVS co-produced, for instance, Agave (Agáva) directed by Ondrej Šulaj, Red Captain (Červený kapitán) by Michal Kollár and the documentary Coolture (Cooltúra) by Miro Remo. The aim of the RTVS is
to support films with different audience potential. My Dog Killer (Môj pes Killer) is an excellent art film that we got involved in at the last moment. We are interested in films that score highly at festivals but another thing is that we are going to try to support audience films as well, as was applicable for Wilson City (Wilsonov) which in my view will be successful with audiences,” continues Tibor Búza. As for projects in development, for instance, the documentary about the primary photographer of The Beatles, Dežo Hoffman who came up with the concept of jumping bands and who brought top personalities of the music world to the Bratislava Lyre, is interesting. According to Búza, interest in this project is already tremendous, even foreign TVs are interested in it. With regard to other projects in development, a spectacular documentary about Slovakia on the occasion of Slovakia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union should be mentioned.

“The involvement of the RTVS in many co- production projects often results in the rights
to sell the licence. Currently, the RTVS features
as a relevant producer and co-producer and it
also strengthens its position by returning to the international selling markets MIPCOM and MIPTV in Cannes. This also extends the co-production collaboration to the sale of licences abroad. Last year’s presence at the autumn MIPCOM market brought success in the forms of sales of licences for the broadcasting of two fairy tales across the Polish territory, Love in Your Soul and Seven Ravens, which were successfully broadcast by Polish PULS TV over Christmas,” said Juraj Kadáš, the RTVS PR Manager.

However, in addition to films, the public-service TV has ambitions to enter the international market with its own projects. “We would like to offer
our programmes there and even now, we have several requirements, so we are preparing the first packages that we are going to sell abroad. We have some backlogs in this respect, but when the current management started working in the TV, nothing was here and we had to set up everything anew.
For instance, we have to arrange M/E tracks for the purpose of sales. Approximately 90 per cent of older projects from four-five years ago don’t have them at all, because no one reckoned with the possibility that they would be sold abroad. Nowadays we make projects prepared for these tracks, for instance the second season of the dramatic TV series The Colonnade (Kolonáda) or Secret Lives (Tajné životy),” adds the Programme Director of the TV part of RTVS, Tibor Búza. The RTVS will also take part in the MIPCOM fair in April 2016.

Zuzana Sotáková
Seven Ravens (Sedem zhavranelých bratov), PHOTO: archive of A. Nellis