Former IDFA senior programmer Martijn te Pas has made the most of corona lockdown, deciding to launch a new documentary consultancy out of Stockholm. He explains all to Business Doc Europe.
After almost 20 years at leading doc fest IDFA, Martijn te Pas knows more than most how documentaries work (although he is the first to admit that the process of learning never comes to end).
Which is why, back in March, when he decided to offer up his knowledge and expertise as a freelance consultant to the international production community, the response was both immediate and very gratifying. “In a few days I got so many offers of work I had to very soon put a stop on sending out emails,” he says.
Te Pas’ new company is named euROPE doconsultancy and is aimed at directors and producers to whom he offers SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of films both at development and edit stages, and expert advice and guidance on festival and distribution strategies.
“Because of my long experience at IDFA as a programmer,” he says, “I have a lot of knowledge about the structure of films, how they must communicate to audiences, and to international audiences. Also, what is important for festival programmers (who are all very different of course) and how a film should be multi-layered, creating room for the imagination, and not just an overload of information. And with strong characters or protagonists, but not too many. There are all kinds of parameters that can make a film much better and make it more like cinema, and not like a tv formulaic long reportage.”
He adds: “Of course I am not an editor, so I won’t work on a very microscopic level but I have a strong knowledge of what festivals want and what a film needs for release on a big screen. When a filmmaker is making a film with an editor they are locked in a room, and at some point they don’t see what it is any more. And so a fresh eye like mine is important. And I can be brutally honest too – why not? Because I want the film to be good, and sometimes you have to be brutally honest and say ‘this film can be a lot better.”
Te Pas will advise on festival and release strategies to help deliver the greatest impact and widest outreach. “They [the filmmakers] must have a Plan A and B for a film release, and sometimes even a Plan C. They must know how to work to achieve that, to prepare, to be aware of these decisions when they are already making the film – or before. That’s what I want to stress to them.”
euROPE doconsultancy clients already include the Swedish Mantaray Film (producer Stina Gardell) which has a slate of five upcoming releases. He is working closely with filmmakers Peter Triest, who is making Parked Life for Belgian outfit Savage Film, and Bulgarian Svetoslav Draganov on Snescha and Franz.
Te Pas is also consulting for Swedish producer Mario Adamson of Sisyfos Film, specifically on Max Eriksson’s The Scars of Ali Boulala, in which a world-famous skateboarder tries to heal his inner scars.
In addition he is Guest Programmer at Nordisk Panorama and advises for IDFA Forum and IDFA Bertha Fund. In June he will moderate for B2B Doc (Baltic to Black Sea Documentary Network).
In the middle of a global pandemic that is redefining our business modus operandi, does Te Pas think that the doc business can maintain levels of enterprise to keep him in gainful employment in future?
“Absolutely,” he responds. “Documentary filmmakers and professionals are used to working under conditions that are very unfavourable, and that has helped them a lot in dealing with this crisis. They find creative and fantastic ways to deal with it, to remain in touch and to inspire each other – and probably to make great stories out of it all.”
Te Pas is also mindful of the huge interest in documentary right now as people are forced to remain at home. “They feel that after they have seen all the Netflix fiction, there is much more in the world that is appealing for them to see. Broadcast figures [for docs] are going up significantly, and that could have a domino effect as further interest in non-fiction soars. I really feel that. Even the big companies see the great possibilities for creative documentaries and the untapped audiences that can be reached.”
All of which bodes well for Te Pas and his future plans. “I left IDFA, but the documentary fire is still burning inside me,” he ends.