Talent X: Developing the Developer

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Rossa Mullin, Film In Cork recently received a bursary to attend Talent X: Developing the Developer in Amsterdam. Read more about Rossa’s experience.

“I was recently funded by Screen Training Ireland’s international bursary scheme to attend Talent X: Developing the Developer in Amsterdam from March 15th-18th. Talent X brought together approximately 30 representatives of Film Funds and Talent Labs from across the EU and beyond who are working to support the development of feature film talent.

The program is led by Creative England in partnership with the Irish Film Board, the Netherlands Film Funds and the Danish Film Institute, with support from Creative Europe. Through the Irish Film Board, I was selected to be one of the 30 delegates to go to Amsterdam and take part in this intensive program.

The sessions began with a relaxed drinks reception the night of arrival to allow participants from a wide mix of countries (as far afield as New Zealand and South Africa) to meet and get to know each other in an informal setting.


The facilitator for the three days, Petter Braathen, made it clear from the start that each of us would be challenged to get out of our comfort zone and talk openly and honestly about our work.

In the morning sessions it was reassuring to hear so many people discussing similar issues around talent development (not enough resources!) and to hear a number of the producers explore the challenging realities of keeping their companies going whilst deferring fees, reducing budgets, and all the other measures needed to get projects over the line.

In the afternoon there was a fascinating panel discussion of the Danish prison film “R” (2010), with the producer, director and executive from the Danish Film Fund who 100% financed the project all present. It was really interesting to see how the relationships of producer & directors worked as a team, but also how the funder was a very real player on the team to get this project made. The importance of a team (as a minimum, a producer and director) was emphasized again and again with regards to talent development.


Day two began with a close examination of the role of the Producer in Development. A panel of three producers at various stages of their careers discussed their views of the role of the producer in developing a project and their relationship with Film Funds.

The importance of close relationships between the producer and director & writer came through very clearly here. As well as discussing how they work with various talents, the subject of how to keep their companies going during the long development cycles was discussed. This came up several times across the three days and the consensus seemed to be that slate development funding was the optimal way for independent companies to have the space and time to really work with talent and help them develop organically. And for the talent of the producer to develop also.

In the afternoon, Teresa McGrane of the Irish Film Board introduced the session on “Developing the Talent Triangle [producer/writer/director] and made reference to the fact that recent Irish Oscar nominees Lenny Abrahamson and Ed Guiney made their first short film together, 3 JOES, 25 years ago.

This was followed by two case studies comparing and contrasting two different microbudget models for “hothousing” first time feature talent: the Venice Biennale College-Cinema model and the Flanders Audiovisual Fund “Wildcards” model.

The former is quite structured and for all the limitations imposed and quality control measures in place it does guarantee the film a premiere at the Venice Film Festival which is quite a start to both the film’s life and the director’s journey subsequently. The scheme is budgeted at €150k. http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/collegecinema/

The “Wildcards” model offers less production funding (up to €80k) but essentially leaves the director free to do as they please once they have been selected, i.e. there is no editorial interference or ‘quality control’. The young director who was the most recent recipient was there and spoke passionately about how empowering and encouraging it was for her to get the funding (as well as moral support when needed) and then the freedom to realize her vision.

In the evening, we left the hotel and took a ferry to a restaurant in an industrial estate: very boutique and interesting. This was a good opportunity to chat to people outside the context of the workshop and I actually made a number of contacts on the walk there and in the random seating arrangements which are very encouraging for our plans in 2017. On a lighter note, it was vital not to miss the ferry back at 9.30pm as it was the last and you’d be stuck there til morning otherwise!


This was, like the other days, a time when Petter the facilitator pushed us all out of our comfort zones and challenged us to think more creatively and laterally. We did an exercise that involved splitting the group into roughly two groups of 15 lined up about a metre apart facing each other. We then had to throw an apple to each other in a random order but the trick was we then had to repeat it in the correct sequence or start again!

He kept telling us we could do it faster if we got creative. The first ‘competitive’ attempt our group made took 14 seconds to complete. By the end we had it down to 1.5 seconds much to our own amazement. It really illustrated the importance of teamwork and the ability to communicate creative ideas quickly and with clarity.

We also did an exercise to look at what we really – on a deep personal level – value in our own work. This was quite hard and took a bit of time for reflection. I felt that the more we could open up and be very honest the more rewarding this exercise became. It gave me an insight into what I’m really trying to focus on and what are the things, even on some kind of unconscious level, that I value most professionally.


The principal learning I came away with was that there are many schemes, workshops, training programs for helping to develop the talent of writers, directors and producers but there is no escaping the fact that the process itself of making/developing work is probably the most effective.

In the context of first features, this illustrates how unhelpful the whole “first feature” pressure is, especially for directors, i.e. it must be a hit or you’re done for. What utterly unrealistic expectations and pressure this creates for everyone involved – but most obviously the director. How are these talents supposed to develop if they have to be “perfect” first time out?

I would definitely recommend anyone interested in exploring best ways to help nurture and develop talent to look into attending TALENT X next year, especially with a programme that is curated specifically for people who want to get an overview and inspiration from what is happening in this space across Europe and even further afield.”