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The second edition of the Locarno Residency – supported by Swiss Life – is now in full swing. Having been selected by a jury of industry experts in August, the three participating filmmakers have, together with their expert tutors, been intensely workshopping their first full-length feature projects at the picturesque 15th century Venetian venue Palazzo Trevisan degli Ulivi, made available by the Consulate General of Switzerland in Milano
Under the high ceilings of the Palazzo’s grand hall, the three young filmmakers – Coline Confort, Eliza Scanlen and Ana Elena Tejera – met with a diverse and friendly Venice audience of all ages to show their previous short films in the context of the Locarno Residency program. Behind the scenes things were running at a different calibre. The trio’s participation in a devoted series of encounters with the three industry experts joining them as their tutors was an enriching insight into the nuts and bolts of conceiving, developing, and shaping a feature film project.
One session led by Anna Ciennik – a familiar face at Locarno due to her longstanding cooperation with Open Doors – focused on the writing process, drawing from her considerable depth of experience in international pre-production labs. Together, they broke down the concrete steps of script development: from the research phase to the writing of a synopsis, treatment, and first draft. Faced with such diverse projects, Ciennik also spoke about how and when to involve first a co-writer and then, later, a producer who is attached to the project.
From the production side, the three filmmakers received expert guidance from Stefan Ivančić, a member of the Locarno Film Festival’s Selection Committee whose films have screened at festivals like Cannes, Rotterdam, FIDMarseille, and San Sebastián. Finally, the trio had a chance to compare notes with Tizian Büchi - whose debut film L'Ilôt won the Grand Prix in the international competition at Visions du Réel in 2022 - about how directorial intentions determine the writing of a film.
As the filmmakers presented their short works to an enthusiastic audience in Venice, such heady concepts as these swirled in their heads. Confort, the Swiss participant, presented her Impériale (2022), while Scanlen, from Australia, showed her 2023 work How Can I Help You. As Tejera, the participant from Panama, showed A Love Song in Spanish (2021) to the warm and receptive Italian audience, a representative of the Panamanian consulate in Venice was among those applauding in the audience. That suggested something of the significance of this cohort of rising stars in contemporary cinema from around the world gathering in Venice to work on their projects together. The session was moderated by a key representative of the Locarno Film Festival: Daniela Persico, curator of the Locarno Residency and member of the Festival Selection Committee.
“I feel very privileged by the precious time and place that the Locarno Residency offers me to write my first feature film”, says Coline Confort. “It is also a space that allows me to question not only my project but the possibilities of making films in the future, especially at a time when we are witnessing the escalation of violence in Gaza. Ceasefire now.”
After returning to Panama, Ana Elena Tejera reflected on the “introspective and personal process of creative development”, preferring not to speak too much about such a delicate connection, but adding that “the residency has been a moment to connect with that vulnerable thing: to be with something that is being born, with its own narratives and its own logic - the birth of a story.”
“The Locarno Residency has been a valuable opportunity to develop my first feature film with the guidance of our tutors, in the beautiful city of Venice,” adds Eliza Scanlen. “I’m aware of the immense privilege we have as artists, with time, space and safety to create, meanwhile tens of thousands of innocent civilians are being killed in the Israeli government’s war in Gaza. I call for a ceasefire, and a future where Palestinians, Israelis and all people are equal and free.”
After Venice, the three filmmakers will spend several weeks in spring at the serene Eranos Foundation, just outside of Locarno, where the trio will receive further feedback from their tutors and continue to work on the new version of their projects. They will present their final projects at #Locarno77, which will also be the backdrop for the crowning announcement of the program: the winner of 5,000 Swiss francs awarded for this second edition of the Locarno Residency.