Born in Berlin, raised and educated in Palma at the BIC, trained in New York and Los Angeles, where she is now based and runs a production company with her husband who is a cinematographer, Sandra Seeling Lipski is currently back "home" in Majorca and getting ready to inaugurate the seventh Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival (EMIFF) on 25 October.
Sandra and her family moved to Majorca when she was nine. She graduated from the BIC when she was 18 and headed to New York to study acting. She received an AA in dramatic arts from the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York City in 2004 and, after two years, she completed her third year at the LA Film School, studying film directing and producing.
"My thesis was an award-winning short biographical film called My Mother, and I had to obviously market it myself and that is how I came into contact with the world, the monster, of film festivals. I entered over ten independent festivals and realised that it was a whole new world. I really got into the idea of festivals and I realised that film and making movies is a common international language."
She then decided to base herself in Los Angeles and landed a number of roles in key TV series and films such as CSI NY and Borat. Then, on a visit back to Majorca in 2011, she was sitting down with an old friend, Pau Vich, now the commercial director of the festival, and they decided that they had to do something like a film festival here on the island.
"It’s the perfect location, so many people were and are wanting to film here. There were a few festivals which came and went but there was no main annual international event, and we just decided to throw ourselves into it and go for it. To be honest, I had been to festivals, entered and won festivals, but when it came to organising one I had absolutely no idea. I spoke to some of my contacts in LA and festivals organisers I had met to gain an insight, and after a lot of hard work and knocking on doors, most of which were shut in our faces, we held our first festival at the end of October in 2012. We decided to call the festival Evolution because we wanted to evolve as a festival and also act as a platform for independent, budding and up-and-coming filmmakers, script writers and directors from all over the world to evolve with us.
"It was hard to begin with. We were driven, we had a passion, but sadly initially few people on the island shared the same feelings. They didn’t really get what we were trying to do. Like I said, there were other festivals but they did not stand the test of time. But now, on the back of us, there are others which are doing well and we all collaborate together. We have a community going here on the island which has brought festival directors, film makers, producers, writers and people involved in the audio visual industry of all nationalities together.
"What we also wanted to do with this festival was to bring and screen cool and groundbreaking films, feature and shorts, documentaries and music videos that people would not normally see. We wanted to use Evolution as a platform to comment on current affairs and the world we live in. For example, over the years we’ve had great documentaries about plastic pollution in our seas and we have another this year made by a local film producer about plastic pollution in our waters here in the Mediterranean.
"All of the films are in English with Spanish subtitles and those which are not in English have English subtitles. English is the common language of the festival, of all major festivals. And this year we have 104 ‘projects’ being screened from 23 countries, Back in January, when the festival opens for submissions, we had over 1,000 entries and I, as the festival director, watched every single entry, although this year I had some help with regard to the documentary class. We obviously have high standards, the audiences have come to expect that, and sometimes you know within just a few minutes that a film is not going to work. On the other hand, you always find a rough diamond and that’s really exciting for us and the festival.
"This year, some of the very best producers, filmmakers, writers, critics and professionals from the global industry are going to be taking part either sitting on panels, giving workshops and talks and all will be available to attendees interested in the industry. Our motto is ‘Bridging Cultures - Bridging People’ and that message has not only been heard around the world, more importantly it has finally been heard here.
"I think it was in 2016 when Danny DeVito came to receive the Evolution Vision Award that the local authorities finally got what we were doing and since then they have been really supportive. We now have the backing of the Majorcan Tourism Foundation, the Council of Majorca, the Balearic government and Palma town hall, not to mention a host of sponsors.
"So we have evolved, we’ve finally broken down the barriers because people have seen and understood what we are doing and realise just how important the festival is for the island. It gives Majorca great promotion and also brings people from across the world to the city who may otherwise never come here and will perhaps return to make a movie here.
"Majorca is an ideal location to make films, we have seen that over recent years, and more big productions are coming to the island. The talent in the audiovisual industry here is of a very high standard and there are some great production and facilitation companies, plus we’re just a few hours from most capital cities in Western Europe and moving around the island is so easy. You can be shooting in the mountains, in the snow during the morning, and on the beach or around vibrant Palma in the afternoon."
This year there is more of a Spanish feel to the festival with the award-winning Spanish actress Marisa Paredes and muse of Pedro Almodovar being presented with the Evolution Honorary Award. The Evolution Vision Award goes to the legendary Danish actor and Majorcan home owner Mads Mikkelsen and the Evolution Icon Award 2018 will be presented to Oscar nominee Melissa Leo.
For more information visit www.evolutionfilmfestival.com