By Lidia Damatto
Lidia Damatto studied in Brazil (FAAP), the US (UCLA) and Germany (DFFB), and was also selected to Berlinale Talents and Locarno Industry Academy. She has worked in TV production, film development, film festival programming and currently serves as a manager of sales and acquisitions for FiGa Films.
2020 started as any other year for sales agents, with a promisingly busy Berlinale. Being completely immersed in a film festival, one has little time for news about the world, reading only industry trades and paying attention only to the buzz around certain films. The virus seemed scary but also far away, and the only concerns during the European Film Market were the lack of Chinese participants and the loss of business with a major territory in the film trade. So we carried on as normal, spending entire days in meetings with strangers at the closed off Martin Gropius Bau, attending packed film screenings and going to parties crowded with people hailing from all corners of the world. Looking back, this now seems like the scene in a horror film where the characters unknowingly come close to great danger; but we didn’t know any better and the film business is, in great part, a social one.
For the past five years, I’ve hopped on countless planes to go to different festivals and markets, sometimes only spending a couple of days in these far-off locations. I’ve done this oblivious to the impacts this action had on the environment and on my health. One particular year I remember being in Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Mexico City and Lima, all within the same week. That trip ended with a visit to the hospital to cure a massive sinus infection due to several hours of plane air-conditioning and, most importantly, lack of self-care.
But traveling had become more than my job, it was my lifestyle. I prided myself on knowing how to flawlessly roll my clothes in order to pack a perfect carry-on, on how to efficiently organize liquids and electronics in order to go through airport security smoothly, on how to quickly scan passengers going through customs in order to pick the fastest line… Traveling for work was turning me into a character in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air.
In December 2019 I was concerned about how to balance my personal life in a new town I had just moved to, and the ever-growing number of work trips scheduled for the new year. But then, in the first week of March 2020, three trips were cancelled within a matter of days and soon more and more started to fall through.
Over the past months of confinement, I’ve been to Denmark, New York, Berlin, Sheffield, Cannes and Montevideo, all without leaving my home. These trips haven’t been easy. I’m better at dealing with TAP, LATAM or Air France than with Zoom, Skype or Google Meet. The personal element is missing when meeting a new partner through a video call, and not over lunch in the French Riviera. There are audio delays, frozen images, lost connections… And I don’t think this is the best solution for film markets, but there must be a compromise to all the flying around.
When cities were forced to come to a complete standstill back in March, we as a society began to question this constant need to be on the move. And when people were forced to remain inside, we as individuals had no option but to look inside ourselves and to care for ourselves and for one another. It’s now clear that things can’t go back to normal. Normal is what brought this pandemic, normal is what is killing this planet. Months ago, when cinemas closed down and film festivals were cancelled, this still ongoing crisis looked like a turning point for the industry. Now, after 100-plus days of social distancing, it’s evident that the pandemic is accelerating changes that were due to happen sooner or later. My lifestyle has to change, this industry has to change.
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