Due to the pandemic, the first session of Kids Kino.Lab co-organised with JEF was held online. Although we couldn’t met in Belgium we managed to keep the Lab spirit alive.

The programme of the first session of Kids Kino.Lab was divided into two parts. During first two weeks (18-29 January) we didn’t waste time and went straight into intense brainstorming  – from individual sessions with tutors to group discussions with fellow screenwriters.

On the day one, two of our tutors – Philip LaZebnik and Armin Prediger had given their masterclasses on 8-sequence structure – film analysis and How to write a series story? This introductory day ended up with a workshop How to give feedback by all the tutors. After this nice introduction we could easily move to the next day and start work focused on script development.

12 groups from Belgium, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Poland, Austria, France and Latvia started their journey to develop their scripts. We would love to get to know each other sitting in a nice space in Belgium, instead we gathered on Zoom – but we must say that even if it’s sometimes  difficult to break the first ice in a new environment, we felt that it wasn’t a case here. Maybe it’s because we are so used to communicating online? Or maybe we have a great participants who know their goals and want to take the most from this course?

As we mentioned earlier the partner of the first session was JEF. That is the reason that we have a line-up filled up with a great selection of Belgian film professionals, masterclasses and case studies.

Our participants have a chance to learn more about co-producing with Belgium from Karla Puttemans, Head Content at Flanders Audiovisual Fund – VAF, Katrien Maes, the Film Commissioner at Screen Flanders, Film Commission & Economic Fund and Delphine Dumon, the producer at Beast Animation & Lunanime.

Then we dive even deeper into the Belgium film industry. During our speed dating meetings, participants of the workshop were introduced to different segments of the Belgian film industry. Besides a line-up of leading Belgian production companies, they had a chance to pitch their project to a distributor, an impact manager and various industry representatives. Among the invited guests there were: Bregt Van Wijnendaele (distributor, JEF), Mathias Sourbron (producer, Hakuna), Felix Vanginderhuysen (senior consultant), Bo De Group – Menuetto Films (producer), Benny Salaets (Studio 100), Tine Van Dycke (impact manager), Xavier Rombaut (producer, Polar Bear), Riema Reybrouck (PR agency post bill), Bart Van Langendonck (Savage), Gert Hermans (JEF / ECFA), Britt Raes (Association of Animation Directors) and Annemie Degryse (producer, Lunanime).

We cannot not mention the panel called “Discovering the audience’s needs”with the representatives of leading TV channels and/or sales agencies Els Kuiper, buyer of children’s films & programmes at VPRO TV and senior acquisitions executive at NPO, the Dutch public broadcaster; Solveig Langeland, sales agent from Sola Media, Hannes Coudenys & Vincent Schroeven from Hurae communication office. During that panel followed by the breakout room discussion we tackled important questions: How do you estimate the preferences of young audiences? What are the buyers’ different perspectives and visions, and are they compatible with each other? And have those preferences changed over recent years?

Social activities along with developing the scripts and production basics were always very important in our daily schedule. Let’s be honest organising a social events when we can’t meet in one room (and we are not even in one country) is a challenging one. But with a help of our partner JEF and Sien Vanmaele we must say that our cooking class and hang out together was a success! It was really nice to spend this time together, cooking and chatting.

Following week brought us more social activities thanks to the JEF taking place at that time. JEF also indulged participants in the real festival experience with a “build your own festival box” which physically brought the festival into their own homes ….

But it was not all what was waiting for our participants during the first session.

First we want to mention the case study of “Luis and the Aliens” by Emely Christians, Managing Director and Producer at Ulysses Filmproduktion. This stereoscopic 3D animated feature is a story of 12-year-old Luis who makes friends with three awkward little aliens who crash their little Spaceship nearby Luis house. In return for Luis’ help, they try to save Luis from boarding school – and a tumultuous adventure takes its course.

The first week finished off with a masterclass by Rob LaZebnik’s session “The secrets behind writing The Simpsons”.  Rob LaZebnik, Co-Executive Producer of The Simpsons for seventeen seasons, discussed the process of writing and producing the show, including story breaking, script writing, working in the writers’ room, and how the entire animation process worked, both before and during the last year.

Full with more positive energy we are ready to work on the scripts and meet again on Zoom during our first session in March.