Life In Berlin: Berlinale 2017 - The Talents Program Turns 15

Feb 15, 2017

Alongside the independent films, documentaries, and future blockbusters shown at the Berlinale, is the Talents Program. The mentoring platform brings together industry newcomers and established directors to foster creative dialog.

This year’s theme, "Courage: Against All Odds," explores risk-taking in filmmaking, with industry veterans like festival Jury President Paul Verhoeven and Jury member Maggie Gyllenhaal leading discussions. Talents, which turns 15 this year, invites 250 fresh faces from all aspects of filmmaking, as well as members of the public, to participate.

“My involvement with the Talent camp started in 2011 when I was here with a script that I was writing for a film called Petting Zoo which then premiered in Panorama in 2015.”

This is Berlin-based American director Micah Magee. After first screening at the Berlinale two years ago, her film Petting Zoo is nominated this year for the Best Debut award by the Association of German Film Critics.

Berlin-based American director Micah Magee with her husband and filmmaker Johan Carlsen.
Credit Courtesy of Micah Magee for NPR Berlin

"I decided to come back this year with my husband’s project that I’m producing because when I was here as a writer, I didn’t get much of a chance to meet other talents, and really participate in the program because I was so busy writing all the time," says Magee. "This time I’m hoping to meet people and find collaborators for this film we’re making this summer."

Magee and her husband Johan Carlsen, also a filmmaker, are shooting the film Death on the Streets in the US this summer. The European co-production is a road movie taking place from Indiana to Atlantic City, examining poverty throughout the US.

"I’m interested in seeing who out there I really connect with in sound, in light, in editing; if there might be anybody there who would connect with the project and want to work with us on it," Magee expresses. "And maybe, because this always happens, I’ll run into some other producers who might be good to work with either on this project or some project in the future."

As a second-time Talents attendee, Magee values the platform not just for access to Hollywood veterans and potential collaborators, but other global contemporary directors. She has made connections with like-minded filmmakers from Uganda, India, and elsewhere.

"It’s nice just because you keep in touch with people over, I think many, many years after; you have that resource - people you can call. And also people who you are kind of making the films for, in a way, because you want to impress them," Magee explains.

Magee has shown Petting Zoo and short films at several other festivals, but cites the Berlinale organizers’ efforts to take care of filmmakers - particularly younger ones - as unique; especially for such a large festival. The fifteen-year-old Berlinale Talents Program, predicated on opening the door to typically hard-to-access members of the film industry, is a central tenet of that effort.