For five days in September, the Green Screen International Wildlife Film Festival takes over the small fishing village of Eckernförde, Germany, inviting filmmakers, industry professionals, and wildlife-loving audiences from across the region.
Industry veteran Dan Salerno attended on behalf of Documentary Business, and shares his takeaways.
by Dan Salerno
With no physical movie theaters, Eckernförde transforms its churches, schools, and gymnasiums into cinemas, pitch forums and networking venues, creating a pop-up community where producers and buyers can pair up on projects.
The core of the festival is the international competition for the Best Nature Film of the year, where prizes are awarded in 16 competition categories.
This year, Green Screen showed more than 100 films on topics ranging from conservation to climate change and species extinction. Over 20,000 tickets were sold.
Now in its 17th year, this close-knit corner of Germany has become an important meeting place for the natural history industry and offers important insights into the role that niche European markets play at the regional level.
The German Natural History Market: Broadcasters Own Their Own Destiny
- My seminar Natural History in a Streaming Era was well-attended as we discussed the genre’s latest trends in the global landscape, and where new opportunities are rising up.
- After the session, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with several producers as we continued sharing insights from across the spectrum.
- The key takeaway was a clear sense of how strong the German/Central European market is for natural history.
- The German market has enough economic resources to drive production without needing UK or US funding.
- Public broadcasters in particular drive a robust ecosystem for producers and distributors, ensuring an outlet for their work remains always available.
- That means more freedom, and ultimately, more content on a faster timeline.
Niche European Fests Nurture an In-House Production Pipeline
- The highlight of the professional program is the pitch session. This year’s moderators Anne Olzman of Albatross and Annette Scheurich of Marco Polo Film selected eight projects for presentation.
- As many as 50 submissions competed for a pitch slot.
- Ranging from modest to premium, and originating as far away as Latvia and Iran, the pitches are aimed at broadcasters from Germany, Austria, and France in a bid to grab some interest and maybe even a deal.
- Some projects offered clear international appeal, but in talking with producers, the common goal is simply to get the projects made.
- In other words, Europe is not relying on a commission by Disney, Nat Geo, or Discovery” to develop their natural history catalog.
- In fact, the time it would take to pitch and green light a higher-budget project was seen by producers as a hindrance rather than a necessary part of the process.
- My two favorite projects were Planet Reed from Altayfilm from Germany and The Silent Hostage from Kultfilma out of Latvia.
- The former should easily find interest among the broadcasters.
- The Latvian entry is still in a very early stage of development, but we’re rooting heavily for it to find a home!”
Big thanks to Antje Spitzbarth, Festival Director and organizer extraordinaire.
Covering screening venues, managing a program agenda, juggling accommodations and transport, and more, Antje and her volunteer staff perform nothing short of a miracle to ensure the festival delivers for the films, the filmmakers, and the wildlife-loving audience that shows up every year for the last 17 years. Well done!
About Dan Salerno
Dan Salerno has been a key member of the leadership team for established and emerging networks, with an emphasis on strategic planning and content development. Most recently National Geographic’s Head of Programming, focusing on programming, development, and strategy, Dan’s career also includes BBC, Gospel, Fuse, and the original launch team at Discovery and its sister channels.