1999, 25th IFC, Amsterdam -info

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web site: http://www.netcetera.nl/ifc/ifc1999.html


International Feature Conference
25th International Feature Conference
Amsterdam, 19 – 23 April 1999


The NOS is hosting the 25th International Feature Conference in Amsterdam. As the IFC follows the third Boundless Sound Festival Amsterdam will truly be ‘radio feature-city’ for a week.
The IFC will be in ‘De Rode Hoed’ a quiet monumental 17th century conference-centre on one of the most beautiful canals.

The conference centre ‘De Rode Hoed’ itself is a large monumental church that is mostly used for debates, Radio and Television shows and other cultural happenings. There are three breakout rooms for working sessions, an office, a bar, lots of space and during the Conference the whole building will be at our disposal.

Broadcasting organisations and independent radioproducers from all over the world were invited to select two feature makers to attend the 25th IFC in April. Over 60 participants from 19 different countries are now registrated to take part in the conference.
As always the aim of the International Feature Conference is to have a good rigorous discussion about radio production with delegates bringing examples of work. All delegates have to be active features makers.
Established members of the Conference sometimes send two delegates, an experienced feature maker and a feature maker at an earlier stage of his/her career. We think it’s good to get this mix of skills, experience and imagination.

Most of the time will be spent on listening sessions and discussions in small groups (a maximum of about 20 persons). There will be 25 of these listening sessions.
A feature or documentary of one the participants will be played in it’s original form and language. While listening participants can read a transcription and translation of the program.

e-mail:
During the conferenceweek, from Sundayafternoon till Friday, e-mails can be send to:
ifc991@nos.nl ifc992@nos.nl (no longer funtional)

Quotes:

‘Documentary needs the crazy, who come with star sparkling eyes, and say: I have an idea!’
Alfred Treiber (1985), Austria

”The Feature’, ist das “weite Feld zwischen Nachricht und Drama” (Alfred Andersch); die kunstvolle Montage von Wort, Musik und Ton zu einem dokumentarischen Gesamtwerk; ein lustvolles Spiel, das mit der Phantasie, den Emotionen und dem Intellekt der Zuhšrer rechnet; Kino im Kopf, Die Welt im Radio’
Sender Freies Berlin

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Programme

Quotes:
‘Feature ist Feature. Da können Sie alles’
Axel Eggebrecht (Featuremacher in der Nachkriegszeit in Hamburg)

“Never let truth interfere with a good story”
VRT’s Bob De Groof, probably quoing someone else

Sunday 18th April
Start of the 25th International Feature Conference
De Rode Hoed, Keizersgracht 102, Amsterdam

18.00 : Meeting EBUproject-group, groupleaders, Dutch organization
18.30 : Meeting with the four Ake Blomstrom grants (AB)
19.30 : Openings reception
live on the internet and FM-radio Amsterdam

Opening speeches by:
– Hans van Beers, Board of Directors NOS
– Edwin Brys, manager EBU Features and Documentaries Project Group Radio
– Damien Chalaud, head of Specialized Programming Radio Department EBU

Monday 19th April
09.00 – 10.30 Three feature producers invited to introduce the theme:
‘approaches to reality’
– Bosse Lindquist (Sweden)
– Kaye Mortley (France)
– David Isay (USA)
live on the internet and FM-radio

11.00 – 12.00 A Man With Latitude (Great Britain)
12.00 – 13.00 Mobile and Accessible (Norway)

13.00 – 14.30 Photo session of the group & lunch

14.30 – 15.30 The Sunshine Hotel (USA)
15.30 – 16.30 London on film (France)
16.30 – 17.30 The year 1984 in the Hannover Street (Germany AB)

18.30 – Reception at the mayor’s house in Amsterdam

Tuesday 20th April
09.00 – 10.00 Family Portrait (Ireland)
10.00 – 11.00 Her father, the sea, her fear….. / The Wedding Dress(Canada)
11.00 – 12.00 A Better World (Poland AB)

12.00 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.30 Ida and Adam (Hungary)
14.30 – 15.30 Auschwitz (Switzerland)
15.30 – 16.30 Feind hört mit. The BVD files of my father (the Netherlands)

17.00 – 19.00 Masterclass “ the live Documentary” by Willem de Ridder,
“radio anarchist”
live on the internet and FM-radio

Wednesday 21st April
09.00 – 10.00 ….and Years of Holidays without Love (Slovak Republik)
10.00 – 11.00 Didde comes home (Denmark)
11.00 – 12.00 On guard (Czech Republic)
12.00 – 13.00 The stolen Stradivarius (Germany)

Afternoon free
Boat trip & evening dinner offered by NOS

Thursday 22nd April
09.00 – 10.00 The next morning you’ve got a headache (Croatia AB)
10.00 – 11.00 The Mistress (Austria)
11.00 – 12.00 Winter Tales (Australia) & The Path (Australia)

12.00 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.30 Heidiland?! (Finland)
14.30 – 15.30 A Classmate of Pinochet’s (Sweden)
15.30 – 16.30 Mucho Corazon (Newfoundland)

17.00 – 18:00 The work of Radio Atelier as Multi Media Strategy (Finland)

18.00 – 20.00 Masterclass by Bertine Minco, project manager Boundless Sound Festival and Kaye Morley (France): new developments on the festival and the conference
live on the internet and FM-radio

Friday 23rd April
09.00 – 10.00 Born Through Dancing (Poland)
10.00 – 11.00 Carved in marl (the Netherlands AB)
11.00 – 12.00 Photos (Belgium)

12.00 – 13.30 Farewell lunch

____________________________________________

Title: After 24 comes 25, after which 26 begins
Time: all
Author: Vincent van Merwijk
Sound: not yet
Organization: NOS
Country: Netherlands

Short description of the programme:
In an attic room a town’s mayor (social democrat) is preparing to deliver a speech. He tries on his friendly smile. A few canals off, engineers are busy soldering links between sound and vision and a programmer is putting the finishing touches to his website. Bread rolls are spread, volume levels checked, suppliers of refreshments drive off and are replaced by others, a logo is touched up. Like a radio transmitter, tension hangs in the air.
A man in red spectacles audibly cycles his lungs out, past wood and heath, from Bussum to Amsterdam. Only Bertine sleeps.
In Amsterdam an international group of featurists are meeting for a five-day gathering in a seventeenth-century church on one of the canals.
The crossbar is set high: everything can, must be improved. Can be done differently.

The atmosphere generated over the first few days of the gathering is what you might call typical Amsterdam: relaxed, maybe slightly anarchistic.
How deceptive appearances can be!
Behind the atmosphere of relaxation and anarchism lurks a world of strict rules and laws, a world too in which plots forged between larger-than-life personalities sometimes develop in secret, sometimes in the open. Long working days (25 productions from 19 countries are discussed and analysed in sessions during which the utmost is demanded of the skills and empathy of 62 participants) soon take their toll.
Doggedly maintained façades crumble.

A sunny Wednesday afternoon. The group departs for a boat trip through the canals of Amsterdam. Although on the surface the afternoon appears to offer no more than enjoyment and relaxation, the trip still turns into a confrontation with life in a metropolis at the end of a millennium. For the first time the group hears (‘on your right..’) that the church into which they had retired was once a clandestine church for oppressed believers. It is then, and only then, that the trip reveals itself as a metaphor of the world in which the group lives and works, a world in which threats to ideals lurk round almost every corner. Some members of the group become thoroughly confused, a process catalysed when a visit to one of the city’s more unusual restaurants gets out of hand…

The story has an open end: nothing is certain. The man in glasses is at home surfing the Net, relaxing. The mayor has more interesting matters on his mind.
Bertine is wide awake.
In a hall, new standpoints are adopted, new façades erected, new truths promulgated, new idealism nourished. There have always been threats and there will always be threats. So it was, so it is, and so it shall ever be.
Every end is a new beginning.

____________________________________________

The genesis of the
International Feature Conference

Peter Leonhard Braun

 

The international radio documentary was a pretty bland concoction up until the mid-1960s. Although most radio countries made documentaries, some producing innovative and interesting results, no-one knew anything about each other. The people involved were not acquainted with each other. It was a state of isolation, like standing on a cliff at night, seeing the lights of distant ships or beacons, but having no way of contacting them.
When I first went to the Prix Italia in 1966 to listen to the radio-documentary competition entries, I was the only person in the room.

This ice-age of international radio documentary was also characterised by a rigidity of forms and antiquated technical equipment. Radio documentary was primarily a studio-recorded litany recited by narrators, a narrative dramaturgy in a journalistic or literary style, related to the reportage or the essay. Its main role was always to convey infor-mation. The tingling, exciting potential of radio as a medium was either unknown or ignored. Radio documentary was something akin to a talking head which lacked practically everything below it: a chest, a belly, of course – and especially genitals.

The first three “beacons” with which I began cross-border collaboration were flashing in the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland. Their names were Bob Uschi, chef de cuisine of radio documentary for NOS Hilversum, who, aided by three researchers, served a brilliant half-hour gourmet documentary every week; Lajos Lorand, who was developing inves-tigative radiophonics in Budapest; and Witold Zadrowski, the great reporter with the omnidirectional microphone, who crafted perfect original-sound documentaries despite the limitations of mono. The French were equally pioneering in the art of radio documentary; Zagreb also ought to be mentioned, along with Copenhagen and the experimenting BBC. Change was in the air, and it was emerging in different places simultaneously.

The radical breakthrough for innovation, however, came with stereophonics. This was the time of Berlin, the second half of the 1960s. We learned how to write using acoustic sequences rather than language. We started to forget the typewriter, using the new tools of documentary production instead. We wrote with the microphone, the tape recorder, the scissors and the sound mixer. The exciting thing was that we were able to leave our studios and desks and go out into the open, liberating radio documentary from its traditional and technical fetters. Suddenly, we were no longer tied to an office devoted to writing; the whole world belonged to us.

The portable tape recorder allowed us to give up our sedentary existence and become nomads and hunters once more …. with the microphone as our weapon.

My God, what a feeling of liberation! We no longer wrote about a subject, we recorded it ourselves. We were acoustic cameras, shooting our sound material in the wild, then combining it into productions. We called these documentary works “acoustic films”.

Noises and sounds were no longer simply accessories, extras or illustrations of a theme or plot, they became the theme itself. They were no longer playing a supporting role, they had taken over the lead. By contrast, the written and spoken word declined in importance, ultimately disappearing completely from later productions during this development. Voices, too, were no longer feigned studio voices reading scripts, they were living people speaking with their own authenticity and originality – i.e. live recording. It was the real world, not a simulated one.

What was new and difficult for us at that time was learning to write with our ears and for ears, to design or rather compose. In other words, you no longer wrote down clever, informative or pretty things; from now on you dived into your original sound and exploited its potential to compose rational and emotional processes, creating a sentient organism of communication. Just as a composer thinks, guides and feels with his notes, so we could sing our living song from the score of our documentary. A song so alive that it could reach out beyond the loudspeakers to the listeners.

This technical and dramaturgical revolution also revolutionised the international radio documentary. In the early 1970s, there were already a number of groundbreaking productions, so that everyone could hear the profound changes in the genre.
Its aesthetics, its pretensions, its self-image and value system had changed beyond recognition.It was reminiscent of the development from the stagecoach to the rocket.

The Big Bang in international radio documentary came in 1974. The paths of three radio people crossed for the first time at a festival in Ohrid, Macedonia: Ake Blomström from Sweden, the Belgian Andries Poppe and myself. We were like three radio atoms, destined for each other both personally and professionally, converging resolutely on one another. We elected to make it our joint vocation to build and develop the radio documentary on an international level. For radio, it turned out to be a decision of historic significance.

In 1974 Berlin was already a focal point of radio documentary. SFB’s Feature Department had been attracting increasing international attention from radio colleagues, due to its novel acoustic ideas on the production of informative radio – and because of the many prizes it had won. This is illustrated by the long list of information visits to Berlin in 1974: BBC London, YLR Helsinki, CBC Toronto, MR Budapest, BRT Brussels, SR Stockholm, RDRS Basle, JRT Zagreb, DR Copenhagen.

However, this early network of the SFB Feature Department had a crucial weakness: it consisted exclusively of bilateral relations, i.e. SFB Feature (P.L. Braun/Klaus Lindemann) only had relations with one other foreign partner station at any one time. There were no contacts between the partners themselves. In 1975, therefore, Blomström, Braun and Poppe decided to convene the first International Feature Conference. It was to be a mega-step in development, pursuing the modernisation and the qualitative progress of radio documentaries not only from the centre in Berlin, but from a whole number of centres.

The very preparations for this first International Feature Conference (Berlin, 23-27 June 1975) were daring and challenging. The organisers did not seek approval from the EBU, the body responsible for international radio conferences, not wishing to risk being forced to set up a committee with equal representation for friend and foe that would then convene and run the conference. On the contrary, this conference convened itself.
It was its own creation.

The second gamble consisted in the total disregard of hierarchies in broadcasting organisations when issuing invitations. People were invited because of their talent and their desire for innovation, not because of their position.

In order to comprehend the need for such unusual steps, it is necessary to appreciate the following:

  1. Radio documentary was not a profession in its own right. Only very few broadcasting organisations even had a documentary department (with its own staff, its own budget, regular programme slots and fixed production times). Documentary was often organised as the poor man in radio drama departments, while more often than not it was a vagrant genre with no organisational affiliation.
  2. Most documentaries expressed traditional formulas, and production and management staff were also correspondingly traditional.
  3. In order to invite documentary makers from both Western and Eastern broadcasting organisations to sit around the same table, it was necessary to circumvent their umbrella organisations (OIRT in the East, EBU in the West), and the political obstacles of their approval procedures.


It all succeeded, and the first International Feature Conference was staged. It was not an expression of the political will of a Western or Eastern umbrella organisation, nor even the result of collaboration between the radio stations Blomström, Braun and Poppe worked for (SR, SFB, BRT respectively). It was something much smaller and much more personal. In essence, it consisted of little more than the professional handshake between Ake, Andries and Leo. It consisted of the idea of acoustic emancipation for the radio documentary, and the vision of cross-border collaboration, bonds of friendship and sticking together. That’s the way it was, that’s how it happened, that’s how it all began.
With the holding of this first conference, the new world of the international radio documentary had been created.

It was a very small world to begin with, numbering only 16 participants from 14 countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Yugoslavia, Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA . Yet even this first conference brought together protagonists of radio documentary like Zvonimir Bajsic (Zagreb) or RenÈ Farabet (Paris), who were later to go down in the annals of the genre’s history, or people like Karl Schmidt (earplay USA), Knud Ebbesen (Copenhagen), Michael Littleton (Dublin) and Alfred Treiber (Vienna), who were later to enjoy successful managerial careers. It was altogether an inspired, lively gypsy community, none of them high-ranking but many of them important. For many of them, a trick had to be used to bring them to Berlin as official representatives of their radio station.
This trick was a strictly personal invitation which included defrayal of their hotel and other expenses for their stay in Berlin. This meant that they were independent of their bosses and prevented the latter from replacing them around the table at the Berlin conference. Each delegate received DM 32 per day in expenses and DM 35 per night for the hotel. Including entertainment expenses and the scheduled events, the entire conference cost precisely DM†7,537.68. A small price for the launch of a New World.

This first conference had three tasks:

  1. To review the situation of the radio documentary in the participating broadcasting organisations, i.e. staffing, finance, technical facilities, and how the radio documentary was incorporated into the organisational structure of the stations.Conclusion: virtually no staff, little money, frequently no access to professional studios, outdated recording equipment and, with a few exceptions, a low or even non-existent organisational status.
  2. To review the prevailing ideas on documentary production with demonstrations of one typical and one unusual documentary respectively from each participating broadcasting organisation. Conclusion: much traditional trash, some radiophonic gold, and four diamonds worthy of export.
  3. To investigate opportunities for collaboration: How could we give each other mutual editorial, financial and technical support, in order to produce an increasing number of high-quality radio documentaries?


Results:
The first International Feature Conference led to the energetic ascent of a neglected programme genre. In Belgium, Austria and Hungary it resulted in the establishment of new feature departments. Imports and exports of documentary diamonds began.
The era of international co-production was underway.

The conference ended with a unanimous decision that the conference should be held every year, with the next one to take place again in Berlin.

And then we sang the radio documentary Internationale:
“Wacht auf, Verdammte dieser Erde” (“Awake O Damned of this Earth”)
Everyone knew that better times awaited the radio documentary.
We would make sure of that ourselves.

____________________________________________

The best documentaries have this in common:

they are about human short-comings,
about the chasm between dreams and deeds,
about people who want to but cannot.
They are, therefore, about something that is
unfinished, unfulfilled, incomplete.

They are about the melancholy of the impossible or the prohibited,
but they are also about the enjoyment
and the pleasure of every step in the right direction,
or of challenging or flirting with what we call fate.

The good documentary balances on the knife-edge of life.

Here, the documentary maker is all ears.

Big ears.
New ears.
Warm ears.

Edwin Brys

____________________________________________

LINKS to participating organisations

Quote:
What if everyone of us listeners carries a kind of map inside of them – a map of sounds.
It’s ephemeral, mysterious, lots of uncharted territory, but every once in a while, the clouds part and we feel we’ve discovered something. Strangely, as soon as we’ve named this new realm, it loses some of its magic’
Jim Metzner, Pulse of the Planet

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