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Design by Rositsa Raleva


17th Berlinale Talents | 2019 

Maria Stanisheva 



Maria Stanisheva is a film director/producer and founder of ANIMADOCS - an independent production house that specializes in animation and documentary projects.


Hi Maria thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the Berlinale? 


Yes, getting ready for the packed program and the freezing weather in Berlin. Looking at the agenda I'm already feeling anxious knowing I can't possibly make it to all the good screenings, exciting events and meetings with filmmakers. 


Having screened at multiple festivals do you still get nerves before a major festival like this?

Each screening and public project pitch is different but presenting at the Berlinale Film Festival gives you a big shot at discussing your ideas with the top European producers and distributors. It is all about the story you want to tell and convincing people that it can turn into a meaningful film, so the pressure is definitely in the air. 


What does it mean for you to be part of the 17th edition of Berlinale Talents? 


This will be my third time attending Berlinale Talents. In 2010 I was invited as a guest, part of the incredible Robert Bosch Co-production Award training. In 2016, I was one of the actual talents and loved the experience and some of the people that I met and got to work with afterwards. As an alumnus of the program you can re-apply with a project and this year I was selected for the Short Film Station Lab, which will give me the opportunity not only to present but also to develop my project FINDING HOME further with some mentors' support. 


How important are opportunities like this for filmmakers? 

Networking events of this sort are career-changing. You get to meet like-minded people and if there are common themes and projects that excite you, you end up collaborating. Filmmaking is a team sport and meeting the right people can only happen face-to-face and this is why places like Berlinale Talents are so vital. 


Can you tell me a little bit about your work, what was it filmmaking that interested you so much?

I believe art can be a powerful tool for inspiring social change and combining animation and documentary film is one effective way to tackle difficult issues, which are otherwise too painful or even impossible to address and watch. Working on projects that use art to create social change and not just entertainment, is what attracted me towards filmmaking. 

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Design by Rositsa Raleva

What are some of the themes you explore in your work? 

I have a background in Social Studies and Political Science and have always been drawn to social topics such as Minority segregation; Racial and Religious Rights; Teen Education; Inclusion of people with disabilities; Women's Rights; Refugees; the Environment and Climate Change. 

"Start making films as soon as you can!"

What was the first film you were part of? 


The first film I produced was a short animated-documentary called Father which tells the story of five Bulgarians and the complicated relationships they have with their fathers. The film was a tri-lateral coproduction between Bulgaria, Croatia and Germany and was initiated by the first company I co-founded called Compote Collective


How did ANIMADOCS come about? 


ANIMADOCS came to life in 2016 after I graduated from the Documentary Filmmaking Program at the New York Film Academy. It is a small independent production house that specialises in animation, documentary and everything in-between. We create a diverse variety of media content: story-driven feature films, TV and online series, independent and commissioned shorts, installation art and more. 


As a director and producer do you ever find yourself getting too attached to your films?


"Killing your darlings" is an expression used in documentary editing where in order to make the story work you need to get rid of something you got truly attached to. This does happen a lot because unlike fiction where almost everything is decided upfront, in a documentary, the story and its characters can take you places and you need to stay open-minded and react to that. 


Since getting into filmmaking what have been some of the challenges you've faced? 

Being a tiny player in the filmmaking world and trying to stay independent by balancing commissioned and independent work can sometimes be very challenging. 


Design by Dim Yagodin

How important is the collaborative process in filmmaking? 

Filmmaking would be impossible without collaboration. At ANIMADOCS we collaborate with a network of directors, producers, cinematographers, designers, illustrators, animators, composers, editors, and writers based in diverse locations around the world, which allows us to stay flexible and relevant to each story we choose to work on. 

How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out? 

The essence of the topics that interest me, which all have to do with human rights and society, has not changed much but I've learned to be more flexible when working with documentary stories. Staying true to reality and not to your own pre-set view of it, makes documentary films truly amazing to watch and difficult to make. 

What are you currently working on? 

I am working on a project called FINDING HOME that will be pitched at Berlinale Talents. It is a cross-media animated-documentary that interprets climate-related refugee stories through short films and an interactive art installation. We have a stellar crew behind it: Art Director Rositsa Raleva, Co-producers Manon Messiant / Iliade Films (France) and Peter Todorov / EuroFilms (Bulgaria). Hopefully, we will have more to show and talk about in the very near feature. 

And finally, do you have any advice or tips for any thinking about getting into filmmaking? 

Start making films as soon as you can! Only making actual films will teach you "how to fail better" at this tricky business. "MISTAKES: How to Fail Better" is the focus of this year's Berlinale Talents, so come hear out some of the talks that are open to the public too! 

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