The Young Directors Academy of Southeastern Europe, initiative of the Goethe Institute, in 2016 started the new innovative and intensive training program FIRST FILMS FIRST. The program has the goal to support youth film directors from Southeastern Europe in developing their first feature-length film. Author of the idea and a program director is the Belgrade director Stefan Arsenijevikj (debut film LOVE AND OTHER CRIMES), winner of about a dozen national and international festival awards.

The program consists of 4 modules, which run in a duration of 10 months, and the sessions focus only on 8 participants, all with the goal of securing a face-to-face approach, individually adjusting and changing the teaching to fit the specific needs of every participant.

The second module of the program, in partnership with the Manaki Brothers Festival and coordinated by Vanja Kovachevikj, as a four-day workshop, focuses on collective work of the director, the production designer and the cinematographer.

Vanja Kovachevikj is an editor, director and producer from Belgrade. She is an author of a few award-winning short and documentary films, and her first feature-length documentary film THE STAR IS BORN won many awards at the world festivals.

-At the second module of the program, which is held in Bitola, we take on the development of the visual concept of the film. We have the impression that the Manaki Brothers festival, whose focus is the film picture, is the true spot where we can hold a session of such a module, and the tutors we bring for this occasion are cinematographers and production designers, explains Kovachevikj.

This year, tutors at the workshop of FIRST FILMS FIRST in Bitola are the legendary cinematographer Christian Berger, constant DoP of the films of Michael Haneke and a Manaki Brothers laureate, and the production designer Christoph Kanter, also an associate in the films of the award-winning author Haneke.

-This year, we decided to pair up the tutors who worked together on films. Those are Berger, who is a common guest at the Manaki Brothers Festival, and the production designer Kanter. Aside from Berger and Kanter being the tutors of the workshop, they will also hold a masterclass, focusing on the collaboration of the production designer and the cinematographer with the director in a longer period of time and on multiple projects. The masterclass will be held on September 25 (Tuesday), at 11AM, in the Small Hall of the Center for Culture in Bitola, points out Kovachevikj.

Does this program provide pleasing results? Kovachevikj proudly expresses their great satisfaction.

-In the three years of duration of the FIRST FILMS FIRST program, two feature-length films have been shot. One of them, HER JOB, by the director Nikos Labot from Greece, was selected this year at the Toronto festival. The production is done for one more film, and six projects have received finances and should enter a production phase. We are actually quite pleased with the percent of success of this program and the feedback we get from the participants of the workshops is very good, concludes Kovachevikj.