A Brief History of BrLab
While putting together this brief history, we were surprised at the realization that in BrLab’s first four editions there have been over 100 professionals qualified and selected by the program to take part in the lab’s full activities. From the 63 projects that participated in the first five editions there are 14 countries represented (Argentine, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, México, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay) and over 10 Brazilian states (Amazonas, Bahia, Ceará, Minas Gerais, Paraíba, Paraná, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo), plus our Federal District.
After only five years of existence, BrLab counts 9 completed and commercially released feature films, 4 projects in post-production and 20 projects at their final financing stages, with shooting dates estimated for between 2015 and 2017. In sum, at least 32 films that took part in BrLab will be completed in between 2017 and 2018.
Each year, participating projects are selected though a public open call for professionals from all Latin American countries (and, since 2014, also from the Iberian Peninsula) who are working on their audiovisual project’s development. A mixed selection committee is annually put together with audiovisual specialists from different areas in Brazil and abroad. Along the last five years, we have received over a thousand project applications from 21 countries (Argentine, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Porto Rico, Portugal, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela) and 14 Brazilian states (AM, BA, CE, ES, GO, MG, PA, PB, PE, PR, RJ, RS, SC e SP), plus the Federal District.
BrLab is a pioneer event in Brazil, both for constituting a platform for the integrated development of audiovisual projects, particularly in feature-film format (perhaps today the format that finds most difficulties during the commercialization “bottleneck”, specially in the Brazilian market) and for representing a fundamental strategy for the development of the audiovisual sector in the country – in special at a time when no one was even paying attention to the importance of integrating Brazil with Latin America and, evidently, with other international markets.
Since 2011, a year when there was still little discussion in Brazil about the need to internationalize the audiovisual market or about professional training initiatives for the sector, as well as about the real reasons for promoting international or regional co-productions, BrLab has been held independently and at the cost of many efforts. In a time when, instead of looking for an effective and potential partner in Latin America – after all, all of us Latin-Americans suffer the result of similar century-old economic systems which have taken their toll – filmmakers looked at Europe and other “developed” countries, BrLab chose to bring light to our continent’s production in a nearly anachronistic manner, which could perhaps even be considered “reversed” by a few institutions (including potential sponsors).
It could be no different in 2015, especially in the light of all the adversities Brazil is facing both politically and economically. However, if in our first editions the idea of an international event for the development of Brazilian and Latin American feature film projects (and, since 2014, also from the Iberian Peninsula) perhaps made little sense for a few, this year, when we celebrate our fifth anniversary, ANCINE – Brazil’s National Film Agency – has opened a pioneer investment fund model that profoundly dialogues with our mission.
It’s a brand new initiative in the entire history of Brazilian cinema, specifically aimed at integrating national filmmaking with film productions from Latin America – the root of the project we started in 2011 and of many directives that could have seemed “insane” five years ago and which are today known as “economic strategies” or even “international policies” and “development policies”. We do, nonetheless, hope for this shift to represent an improvement in our project’s structure, for it has not been easy to keep it standing with no sacrifice to quality for five uninterrupted years.
In May 2015, ANCINE announced in partnership with 19 Latin-American countries an investment fund for the development and production of feature films from the entire Latin-American region. The announcement came together with an open call – Prodecine 06/2015 – Latin American Co-Production, part of the Brasil de Todas as Telas program, allocating R$ 5 million in investments from Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual funds towards co-productions between Brazil and Latin American countries. This line of investment was published at ANCINE’s website (and announced in an event at Cannes) as a mode of continuous flow – meaning it remains open for applicants as long as there are resources available – and will invest in projects on which the Brazilian production companies detain minority participation.
Were it not for so many fundraising challenges, this would have been the year for BrLab to widen its scope in order toinclude a larger number of national and international market agents with potential interest in establishing co-productions, partnerships, acquisitions and representations, a task we hereby announce for 2016. And, in order to complete such a natural and necessary step – especially for local audiovisual production – we hope to count on everyone’s collaboration. In this sense, we must highlight the partnership with Spcine, which has been indispensable for this project’s continuity, on account of its inspiring policies and management, which believes that São Paulo can continue to cradle this initiative. We strongly trust in its potential as a cultural center and are proud to be a part of it and share it with our guests.
São Paulo’s vocation towards promoting audiovisual networking events (just as many other expressive cultural centers, such as Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Salvador, Recife, Manaus, Brasília among others, which still wait for initiatives of similar scope) is so gigantic that there are no reasonable excuses for letting a project such as this one slide by.
BrLab was conceived to bring together, develop and build a platform in constant interaction with whatever is best and positive, without ever superimposing itself. We want to dialogue with creative solutions in order to gain recognition as a civil society enterprise in partnership with consonant audiovisual public policies instead of as an isolated initiative that gets lost and mixed up among many others.
We hope to continue our work, to keep improving and following the market’s transformations, despite the surprisingly everlasting annual battle to secure sufficient sponsorship towards training and networking programs such as this one, not only of nation-wide scope but also international and inter-continental. Still, in face of our current challenges, we must emphatically give thanks to all the institutions that participate in BrLab on several spheres and to the collaborating institutions, tutors, professionals, participants and friends from all over the world who believe and contribute to consolidating and continuing on with this initiative.