Time for a break

Time for a break

Speaking at IDFA this week, Irena Taskovski, founder and Managing Director of Taskovski Films, has been highlighting one side of the documentary business that few practitioners are willing to talk about openly – their health.

What good is an Oscar for your documentary if you’re going to die the next year anyway?

Speaking at IDFA this week, Irena Taskovski, founder and Managing Director of Taskovski Films, has been highlighting one side of the documentary business that few practitioners are willing to talk about openly – their health.

Cash strapped filmmakers, distributors and sales agents are running themselves into the ground, sacrificing their health and mental wellbeing, as they try to produce, finance and show their films, often against considerable odds. As the pressure mounts, many stay up too late. They drink too much. They sleep too little. They’re constantly away from home.

In recent years, several well-known figures in the business have experienced strokes, heart attacks and other ailments in the course of their work which places relentless demands on them. Several suffer from depression. That is why Taskovski, a sales agent and producer who is as busy as her colleagues, is setting up mindfulness retreats for stressed out documentary professionals. 

The name of her programme, due to be launched officially next year, is FAR. One of the retreats will be in Europe and one will be in India.

“Many people are losing health and I feel the craziness of what we do,” Taskovski explained the thinking behind her new venture. “We need to start taking better care of ourselves.”

Her workshops will provide advice on “self-care and mindfulness” and will drum into attendees the very basic and obvious fact that “if they lose their health, nothing else matters.”

Of course, the reason doc professionals work themselves into the ground is that they are passionate about their projects and they don’t have the resources to delegate or take sabbaticals. That’s why Taskovski will ensure her workshops are affordable.

“We should take care of ourselves…and we should take care of ourselves as an industry,” Taskovski declares. “We swim in the same pond. Somehow, whether we want it or not, we end up being competitors with each other.”

Instead, she suggests, professionals should collaborate and look after each other. “No one publicly talks about it because of the fact that it is a small industry.”

The doc professionals are often campaigning tirelessly about subjects like climate change or the refugee crisis but they don’t consider the toll their work is taking on them.

For a few days at least, the doc professionals attending Taskovski’s retreats can disconnect and forget about cellphones, social media feeds and meeting schedules. Her idea is that they can “stop for a while, spend some time with nature and spend time with themselves.” Yoga will be on the agenda.

London-based Taskovski has been in the business for over 20 years. Even as she promotes her new mindfulness ventures, the sales agent doesn’t forget she has a new slate of movies to sell.

In Amsterdam this week, she has been introducing buyers to competition entry Shadow Flowers from Seung-Jun Yi, about a North Korean woman who ends up in South Korea and is then banned from ever seeing her family again. She is also handling Pushpendra Singh’s Pearl Of The Desert. Meanwhile, Taskovski Films is also aboard Nishtha Jain’s The Golden Thread, a Forum project, billed as a “visual essay exploring the human drama around the dying jute industry in West Bengal.”

We have been following this project for two years now, working with the director both creatively and in sourcing the finance,” Taskovski explained.