Projeto Paradiso: Making a Difference for New Talent

In subscription terms, Brazil rates as the Netflix’s second-biggest market in the world, with a 2022 year-end estimate of 16.4 million subscribers, says Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson. “The market is huge and the talent outstanding,” agrees Fremantle’s Manuel Marti.

As Brazil shapes up as Latin America’s ground zero for streamer wars, where do you find new talent and how do you nurse it? Some answers are given by Brazil’s philanthropic org Projeto Paradiso.

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Launched in March 2019 by heiress Olga Rabinovich, it initially focused on new talent and project development, especially screenwriting, the industry’s direst need. Also, in this discipline, Projeto Paradiso’s limited finding could go furthest.

After Jair Bolsonaro took office as Brazilian president in 2019, export funding — for national cinema promotion agency Cinema do Brasil, for example — steadily wilted. In December 2019, Projeto Paradiso held an extraordinary board meeting. “We decided we had to jump in and not let this window close,” recalls PP executive director Joséphine Bourgois. Brasil no Mundo, the resulting program, will in 2023 offer support to titles selected in top categories at 25 festivals and markets, including the Berlinale.

Meanwhile, under Bolsonaro, National Audiovisual Fund (FSA) production financing slowed to a glacial pace. Projeto Paradiso couldn’t replace the FSA, which spent $1.1 billion in 2017, but it did create the $10,000 Paradiso WIP Awards for completion financing.

Projeto Paradiso maximizes impact, paying, to date, for 150 grant recipients to attend training facilities around the world.

“Public funding has overlooked training. This is where limited budget private-philanthropy can make a difference, rather than production finance where the state can make a difference and we could only scratch the surface,” Bourgois says.

Variety talked to Bourgois as it launched its first selection of 10 Brazilian Next Generation Talents, many Projeto Paradiso awardees.

Rather than create your own training programs – though you did launch an emergency São Paulo Forum, debating alternative funding mechanisms, in 2020 – you usually support young filmmakers’ attendance at established facilities especially outside Brazil. Why?

You are absolutely right: we are not a training program. From the start, we deemed that there is an immense added value in connecting Brazilians with existing elite programs abroad. One, because they have been around for ages and been validated by cohorts of trainees (think of EAVE, Torino etc. which have been doing this for years). Two, because we do not have the equivalent here (international professional training, workshops, Labs etc.). Three, because they provide the participants with an international network and exposition that are in and of itself of huge importance. Four, we cannot be a Fulbright supporting Masters programs, because the individual cost per student would be unaffordable.

In practical terms, how much support does that mean?  

We decided to fund more people in a variety of curated short-terms programs, with an average of $2,500 per fellowship, but sums ranging from $1.000 to $10.000. This way we can offer 30-40 training fellowships per year. Trainees come back more qualified, they have made connections that will help them in future works, and they have been validated by institutions which in turn makes their work more attractive to the local market here.

Which training initiatives did you send grant-winners last year? 

In 2022, our training support grant winners went to: EAVE Producers Workshop and EAVE Puentes, Ikusmira Berriak (SSIFF), Cité internationale des arts (Paris), Torino Film Lab, Cine Qua Non Lab (Mexico), TFL Next Comedy, Locarno (U30, Open Doors and Residency), Pop Up Film Residency, First Cut Lab+, Fundación Carolina (Spain), BAL-LAB Biarritz (França), Maestría en Escritura Creativa (EICTV, Cuba), Creative Producer Indaba (South Africa), Malaga Talents (Spain).

What does Variety’s Talents to Track Selection say about new or next generation talent in Brazil?

We need to embrace films by Black writers and directors in a country where there is still a huge disparity in access to production by Black talents. An Ancine´s 2017 survey stated that only 8% of directors in Brazil were Black and that NONE were Black woman). Also a new generation of younger professionals, women, and talents from outside of Rio/São Paulo, with the emergence of hubs like Filmes de Plastico in Minas Gerais, Gabriel Martins’ base. Variety’s list has talents from Bahia, Distrito Federal, Alagoas, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso etc.) This is where the market is going and where public policies have and will make all the difference.

What do you consider to be your main achievements after nearly four years?

Our main achievement is most definitely the building of a network of 150 talents (and growing by the minute!) where we feel we have added to their careers and given them access to knowledge and networks they did not have before. Also, we are proud to have more than 20 international partners who identify Brazil as a relevant player in the field and turn to us to find talent. We have increased the local knowledge about lesser-known international opportunities (training, festivals, markets, workshops, Labs, residencies) and the number of applicants from Brazil has grown tremendously in some cases.

Could you pick one example of terms talent you’ve supported?

Young Rio de Janeiro director Leonardo Martinelli received our support to take part in the first phase of the newly-created Locarno Residency. After making the cut amongst hundreds of projects from all over the world, he was among the 10 projects selected for the second phase during the Locarno Film Festival, in 2022. His project, “Neon Ghost,” an adaptation of his Locarno Golden Leopard-winning short film to his first feature) was one of the three projects then selected to continue to the third phase of the residency. According to him, he could not have taken part in both the residency were it not for our support.

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