Greenhouse Fund – Notes from the Field

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POV executive director Simon KilmurryPOV Executive Director Simon Kilmurry has just returned from the Greenhouse Fund seminars in Izmir, Turkey.

The third year of the Greenhouse Fund seminars concluded last week in Izmir, Turkey. Greenhouse is a professional initiative devoted to the development of documentaries from across the Mediterranean region. It is funded by the European Union, and features a series of intensive training and mentoring seminars aimed at supporting the next generation of documentary filmmakers.

Greenhouse Fund

Ten projects in development from countries bordering the Mediterranean are matched up with mentors, experts and editors to develop their stories, hone their pitching skills and build a network of filmmaking peers. They meet three times through the year with ongoing support from mentors — this year’s experts included Han Robert Eisenhauer (ZDF) and filmmakers Lucinda Broadbent and John Appel — all under the expert guidance of Greenhouse managing director Sigal Yehuda. Read more about the mentors here.

The seminar ended with a pitching forum and one-on-one meetings with reps from broadcasters and festivals around the world — Jane Ray (BBC), Patricia Finnernan (Sundance Doc Fund), Claire Aguilar (ITVS) and Sonja Heinen (Berlinale) — and many more. Pitching forums can be pretty intimidating venues, especially when you are doing it for the first time and in English, which for all of these filmmakers is a second or third tongue. The panel was tough, but not quite as ruthless as other industry panels such as IDFA.

Filmmakers from Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Palestine and Turkey presented their films — the full list can be seen here. Standout projects for me included:

Voice of My Father, directed by Zeynel Doğan and produced by Melisa Őnel. The film, which won a $15,000 pitching award from ITVS, tells the story of Zeynel’s desire to connect with his late father through the audio letters his father had sent home when he was a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia. The intensely personal film is full of longing and mystery.

Voice of My Father filmmakers Zeynel Doğan and Melisa Őnel accept their ITVS award at the Greenhouse Fund seminars.

Borderline, by Shirli Nada Michalevicz and produced by Claudia Levine, is a funny and touching portrait of the Kafr Shaul Mental Health Center in Jerusalem, which treats Palestinians and Jews side by side.

Tulay German: The Black Box of the Plane Which Never CrashedTűlay German: The Black Box of the Plane Which Never Crashed, directed and produced by Didem Pekűn, explores the life and legacy of seminal Turkish singer and political activist Tűlay German. I had never heard her music until last week, and it’s been hard to stop listening to her deeply melancholic and emotional songs.

Look out for these films and the others at festivals in the next couple of years.

Simon Kilmurry
Simon Kilmurry
Simon served as chief operating officer of American Documentary for six years before assuming the role of executive director in Fall 2006. Since joining AmDoc in 1999, he has played a key role in helping to set strategic direction for the organization and implementing new initiatives, including the Diverse Voices Project, POV's co-production initiative in support of emerging filmmakers; POV's Borders, PBS' Webby Award-winning online series; and True Lives, a second-run series for independent documentaries on public television. In addition, he worked to secure pioneering partnerships with both Netflix and Docurama to expand the distribution opportunities for POV filmmakers and enhance branding for POV Previously, Simon was associate director at Teachers & Writers Collaborative, a nonprofit literary arts and education organization and publisher, where he is now a member of the board of directors. He has also served as a board member and treasurer for Elders Share the Arts and East Harlem Block Schools, and as an informal advisor and funding panel member for other organizations including the New York City Center for Arts Education, the Association for Independent Video and Filmmakers and New York State Council on the Arts. Simon attended the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Columbia University Business School's Institute for Not-for-Profit Management.