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Finally: How Papaya Young Directors 2021 Celebrated Filmmaking Talent in Real Life

Production Company
Warsaw, Poland
The organisers talk about what went into bringing people together to bring the international directing competition to life in Poland this year
Festivals are happening again. After over a year of restrictions for many, it’s once again possible to bring thousands of people together to celebrate the best things in life, like creativity.
That’s just what happened last month at the Papaya Young Directors gala, where 2,500 guests got together for a live event at Poland’s Sowinski Park, watching the films and celebrating the filmmakers’ efforts (which were impressive - check out our interview with Grand Prix winner Marcin Kluczykowski here). The event's slogan was 'Finally Gala', and we can only imagine how many of the guests felt to have waited so long for an experience like this.
LBB’s Matt Cooper spoke to Kasia Siewko, project lead at Papaya Films and Eja Trzcińska, head of Papaya Young Directors, to hear more about PYD2021.


LBB> Remind us why you do the Papaya Young Directors event? How does it differ from others?

Kasia> Papaya Young Directors is an educational platform and international contest for emerging filmmakers and content creators. It was established in 2014 by the Papaya Films production company aiming to help young talents in getting their foot in the door. Seven years after the launch, the competition has grown into a well-known project. Each edition ends with a big finale, an industry event that gathers thousands of guests. We have just wrapped the eighth edition, discovering great talents, and awarding pieces they made this year. 
What differentiates us from other contests is that we don’t showcase already-made films, but only those produced within the Papaya Young Directors competition. The current edition had four categories: Branded Stories (commercials), Music Stories (music videos), Vertical Branded Stories (vertical commercials), Vertical Women’s Stories (vertical content made for NGOs supporting women) as well as a great selection of brands: Durex, Samsung, BMW, IKEA amongst others. 
The rules are simple, contestants read the briefs provided by our partners to write a treatment in response to the brief of their choice. This year we received over 1600 of them! Best scripts are chosen by the jury and their authors become semi-finalists. They need to pitch their ideas and present a shooting board, after that finalists are chosen. They get a budget and our support in order to shoot a film in less than two months. The best pieces are awarded during the festival’s gala.

LBB> Who judged the event this year and where do the jury come from?

Kasia> Due to the number of treatments we get each year, and the numbers are still increasing, we need to gather a proper group of people who will be able to evaluate these ideas. At Papaya Young Directors we value different opinions and influences, that’s why we decided to focus not only on filmmakers and creative agencies representatives, but also on creativity in its entirety. We invited illustrators, influencers, animators, journalists and people of many talents to read the scripts and judge the films at the end. It was a group of more than 120 people, so the final decisions were very democratic. Agnieszka Holland (director and European Film Academy president), Allan Starski (set designer and Oscar winner), Martin Ruhe (DOP, ASC member), Linda Codega (Shots), Dave Mygind (Havas London), John Scully (The New York Times) were involved in the judging process. We are more than happy to have talents of such recognition on board and we are thankful that they shared their time with us. 

LBB> Were there any trends you spotted in this year’s work? Anything super interesting? Or different in style to previous years?

Kasia> 31 films have been made this year, each category has its highlights. Music videos directors are much more interested in telling expressive, intriguing, and sometimes dark stories. The genre of music doesn't determine the tone of the story. Marcin Kluczykowski PYD2021 Grand Prix winner did it perfectly, proving that an electronic remix with an addictive beat can be illustrated by a story in a morgue and still be entertaining. 
The Vertical Women’s Stories category has its debut this year. We created it along with Facebook, as the result of observation that young talents are deeply interested in telling socially-engaged stories. Amongst five films made in the category, two were animations. Sometimes it is more demanding and tedious work to make an animated film, even a short one, in six weeks. A winning piece animated and directed by Czech-based Bara Halirova is a proof of determination, hard work and execution of a great idea, which immediately captivated the jury. 
The Branded Stories category has shown us a variety of young talents’ different perspectives due to the number (18!) of films in it. 
Picture-wise, we can see that young filmmakers are eager to shoot on film for a more authentic, nostalgic world. Pop culture inspirations are easily found in young directors’ pieces. The winning one - ‘Bedtime Stories’ for Durex (directed by Jiri Horensky) uses a spinning camera referring to “Euphoria”. ‘The One’ for BMW (directed by Milda Baginskaite) feels more like a short romantic genre film rather than a standard commercial. ‘The Remix’ for McDonald’s is a funny little musical shot on NY streets. There are many super interesting insights that have become well executed videos. All of them are available to watch on the Papaya Young Directors website

LBB> Congratulations on actually putting on a live event. How many people attended and from where?

Eja> Thank you, organising an event with an audience in these pandemic times was a big challenge.

This year we invited finalists and guests from several countries. Some of them managed to make it, unfortunately a large group from the UK could not make it due to restrictions. For them we specially prepared a live stream at Curzon Aldgate in London. We had about 2,500 guests attending a live event at Sowinski Park, 1,000 people watched live streams at the partner-venues all over Poland, as well as in Prague and London. We gathered over 20,000 viewers who watched the gala from their homes. 

LBB> How was it logistically? Tell us about some of the challenges, you are the first award that we have seen to put on an event.

Eja> The last Papaya Young Directors’ final was a multi-day event with a separate film screening, two days of meetings with finalists and finally the gala.
We prepared such an event for about four months. It was difficult in March in the pandemic era and related unknowns to determine the final assumptions of the event and its size. 
We had to change the original scenario - we wanted members of our international jury to present prizes to the winners. Unfortunately, we had to change this idea.
As far as security is concerned - last year we were one of the first in Poland to practice at the eighth edition gala, so we were prepared.

LBB> It must have been amazing to party and celebrate with a crowd. Did it feel good for the local industry? Were people thankful?

Eja> The slogan of the campaign we prepared for this event was ‘Finally Gala’ in which we included the joy of finally being able to see each other.
Our finals are a celebration of fun, youth, a celebration of creativity but also great networking. Our audience is the creative and film industry, media, brands, creative agencies and media houses.
All these people could see each other live and talk for the first time after such a long break and online meetings.
We made sure we had a great musical surprise, a quality-produced gala, good food and drinks and a nice venue to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible at our final.

LBB> Were there any super interesting winners this year you would like to tell us about?

Kasia> I’ve already mentioned a couple of names that stood behind these brilliant pieces created this year, but it’s worth checking out all the films made this year. What we notice with each edition is that we gather finalists with totally different backgrounds and levels of experience. The Papaya Young Directors competition is very egalitarian in terms of giving a chance to both debutants and more experienced filmmakers. At the first stage we value the idea, nothing else. 

LBB>Having cracked an event in this ‘odd time’ , are there any thoughts/plans you have for next year’s event?

Eja> We hope to be back in a position to organise large cultural gatherings for good.
We not only have thoughts and plans, but we are already putting them into practice.
Next year we want to invite you to a large, international festival of creativity with many educational and artistic activities.
See you next summer!

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