Something very exciting is going to be happening next month in Palma when the curtain goes up for the eighth Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival, and organiser Sandra Seeling Lipski will tomorrow (Monday) be announcing the Oscar-winner who is going to be the guest of honour this year.
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 eighth Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival (EMIFF) on 23 October.
Sandra is now a mother; she watched some 800 films and documentaries of the 1,000 plus entered for this year’s festival while getting to grips with motherhood, not to mention organising the festival). 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. 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,. 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."
And Sandra has certainly achieved that. The mission message for the festival is "Bridging Cultures, Bridging People" and this year, eight years of hard work have really paid off. With the support of the Mallorca Film Commission, a delegation of Chinese filmmakers and producers will be participating in the festival which runs from October 23 to 29, with the main base being Cine Ciutat where films will be screened simultaneously in two different cinemas.
Plus there will be industry workshops, one held by leading British casting director Lucinda Syson, and another new development is the Scene machine which is an intensive acting, directing and shooting workshop experience. It involves two days of acting rehearsals, two days producing and shooting, two days to edit then a festival screening. And another new and extremely important breakthrough for the festival this year is that the winner, courtesy of MN Studios in Palma, will receive a 5,000 euro voucher plus full access to the enormous studio complex for 12 months and all of the equipment.
Sandra explained that what this means is that the festival will be able, more than ever, to put something back into the Majorcan audiovisual industry because the winner will be committed to filming here on the island.
"We’ve taken on a London-based international PR agency and they are getting the word out across the globe. This year we decided to take the festival up another level, considering the great feedback we’ve had over the years and the wonderful support of the Film Commission and the local authorities. They have finally got the message and have seen what we are doing for the island.
"Last year, 4,000 people from all over the world came to the festival and there are still places left on some of the workshops; all people have to do is consult the website. As always, there are festival passes or the public can pay per screening, not to mention the free coffee and chat sessions with film makers, producers etc. at Rialto Living.
"It really is very exciting this year and the festival is now, according to MovieMaker Magazine (the leading industry publication in the United States), one of the top 50 festivals in the world. EMIFF is also now recognised as one of the fastest-growing film festivals in Europe, using international film to shape a creative community, allowing independent filmmakers to feel inspired, to network and thrive in this idyllic Mediterranean island paradise - the ‘Mediterranean Sundance’!
"As a location, Majorca is perfect for a film festival. It’s right in the heart of Europe and has a global reputation as a luxury destination. But over the past eight years, the festival has evolved into a melting pot for filmmakers, producers, directors, actors, writers, anyone involved in the industry. People come from all over the world to meet, talk, network and watch new productions, be they feature films, shorts, music videos or documentaries.
"This year we have some amazing documentaries. One is about the life of the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who designed the Sydney Opera House and had two properties on the island. Another, shot by a Majorcan on his iPhone, is about the floods which hit Sant Llorenç last year; it is a real heart wrencher of a production.
"We have another, which is going to open the Raindance Film Festival in London. It's called Krow’s TRANSformation, which is a true story and chronicles the three-year journey of Krow, a Vancouver-based male model, through his transition from "female" teen model into his true authentic self. It is a truly amazing piece of work and story and will hopefully help to open people’s eyes and increase the public’s awareness and understanding of the transgender issue.
"From what I’ve seen, I get the feeling that, if there is a thread through the documentaries, it is integration. I’m not talking about immigration, I’m talking more about social, cultural and family integration. So there’s going to be a lot going on, and what is great is that it helps to stimulate the local film industry and brings out all the great international freelancers who now live on the island. And it’s great fun."
For more information visit www.evolutionfilmfestival.com