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Meet Sandra Lipski of Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival & The Festival Key

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandra Lipski.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am the founder and director of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival (EMIFF) and founder of The Festival Key, a consulting agency focused on personalized result-driven Film Festival strategies for filmmakers and innovative solutions for growing Film Festivals.

I was born in Berlin, Germany where I enjoyed an idyllic childhood by the great lakes in the northern part of the city. At age ten, my family moved to the beautiful Mediterranean island of Palma de Mallorca in the south of Spain. I quickly fell in love with this new place I now call home and I am grateful to it for instilling in me the affection and appreciation for diverse cultures and languages. Growing up in this multicultural environment greatly influenced who I am today and how I like to collaborate with people.

EMIFF is now in its 9th year (23rd-29th of October, 2020). With a clear mission statement; BRIDGING CULTURES – BRIDGING PEOPLE, it is recognized 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.

People often ask me; ‘what inspired you to start your own film festival?” To be honest, it took a couple of breakdowns and many detours to finally find a way to make it happen and then evolve it into what it is today; a 7-day festival, screening over one hundred films in eight different categories focusing on emerging filmmakers with a unique voice.

During my last years of high school in Mallorca, I spend half of it in school and the other half on set. At 16, I slipped into a lead role in a TV series called “Mallorca, Search for Paradise”. This was my first peek into acting and the world of filmmaking – I instantly loved it and wanted more. Graduation and the end of the series came all at once and I was free to move on. My dream was to study acting in New York City and the following fall, I began my first semester at the Lee Strasberg & Film Theatre Institute in Manhattan, NY. I kept hearing about Los Angeles and how it was ‘the place to be’ for acting. I booked a two – week ‘On Camera workshop’ complete with a showcase in front of agents looking for new actors – I got lucky and got signed. Two weeks later, I packed my bags in NY and moved to Hollywood. It all sounds so easy and ideal now, but looking back it wasn’t easy. The hardest part was moving further and further away from my family. My remedy was work. I worked crazy hard, auditioning, shooting TV shows, indie films, and even smaller roles in Blockbusters like Spiderman 3 and Borat. When I found myself getting typecast over and over again, I went back to Film school (The Los Angeles Film School) to study Producing and Directing. I started to write my own stories and began making short films around 2009. Back then, the Film Festival world was small and manageable; I quickly became a recurring festival guest at many film festivals in Los Angeles and around Southern California. Then I became very homesick. My idea was to submit my latest short film to the Mallorca Film Festival to then come home with a purpose and show (off) my latest creation.

I was shocked when I found out that Mallorca did not have a film festival. I immediately met up with my local childhood friend Pau in Mallorca; he was now an international businessman dealing with finances and numbers all day. I asked him to help me set up a film festival and we did. A year later in October 2012, we launched the first edition of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival. I am the founder & director, creative director and head of programming and Pau oversees the budget, grants applications, and manages overall operations.

After the initial edition, my main focus became to travel to as many film festivals as possible, all around the world (big and small). I frequent the Berlinale, Sundance, Munich Filmfest, Newport Beach Film Festival, Santa Barbara Film Festival and Tribeca. I recently participated as a guest speaker on panels at Slamdance, Mammoth Lakes Film Festival and as a jury member at the Los Angeles Music Video festival, SEEFest, Cinema Without Borders Festival in Hollywood. I am obsessed about gathering inspiration, watching, learning, and applying those newfound ideas back in Mallorca.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting a film festival from scratch and keeping it going every year has been the hardest thing I have done in my life. It is interesting though how with the biggest hardship and struggles also comes the greatest success and fulfillment – one cannot exist without the other. The beginning of a new idea or business is always exciting because you feel like everything is possible. That initial energy when all is fresh and new is the best. Soon after that, reality kicks in and you realize what you’ve done! Created a Film Festival! What? Why? How? In the first three years, I had no support from the government or city. I was alone, knocking on every door to pull favors, ask for volunteers, and somehow find a way to pull it all off. I guess my belief in the film festival was always greater than any rejection or “No” I got along the way. Whenever someone turned my idea down I said, “thank you for your time” and moved on to the next possible sponsor, partner, or collaborator.

This was an exhausting tactic but back then, I didn’t know any better. The positive outcome from all this was that at the end of the first three years everyone in Mallorca knew about the film festival and after a couple more years of successful festival editions, those contacts who weren’t so sure in the beginning come knocking back on my door asking to be involved. Just like in every business you have to show a track record and take your time to build trust with your partners, once that initial alliance is established anything is possible. Over the next few years, I learned more about building long-lasting relationships and how to keep my collaborators and myself happy.

Please tell us about Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival & The Festival Key.
Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival is the hub for networking. It brings together the brightest local and international minds in cinema in Mallorca’s friendly, buzzing, and culturally rich city of Palma. The program is curated to showcase a provocative mix of new feature films, short films, documentaries, music videos, and films for kids, experimental films, animation shorts, and Virtual Reality projects.

With competitive screenings unfolding at the most striking island locations, It is an ideal place for indie filmmakers to meet with industry professionals at the festival’s Producers Club, Pitch Forum and many workshops, with the opportunity to win prizes worth up to 15,000 € across the 13 categories of the festival program.

EMIFF is proud to have been one of Moviemaker’s “TOP 50 Film Festivals Worth The Entry fee” three years in a row, as well as appearing continuously on the 100 Best Reviewed Film Festival list on Freeway, ranking in the top 1.5% of more than 8,000 film festivals and creative markets around the world. The festival regularly attracts A-list talent including festival honoree actors Ana de Armas, Danny DeVito, Mads Mikkelsen, Emma Suarez and award winning directors such as Asif Kapadia (AMY), Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) and Guy Nattiv (Skin).

Last year (2019) after our 8th edition, I finally felt some accomplishment. Until then, I was never satisfied or able to enjoy what we have created. It is something I have struggled with for many years. I was looking for a way to share my knowledge with more filmmakers worldwide. I want to help them improve their Film Festival experience from the beginning (Submissions, festival budget, marketing, social media strategy, etc.) to the end (communication with festival teams, pitching to press, networking tips at film festivals, etc.) – That is how The Festival Key was born; A consulting agency focused on personalized result-driven Film Festival strategies for filmmakers and innovative solutions for growing Film Festivals. I am extremely passionate about my new venture and I love to see my clients (filmmakers & Film Festivals) create major results and improve their entire film festival reality.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
The reason EMIFF has reached its 9th edition and will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year is thanks to my team’s consistency, endless patience, and heroic approach to continuously take massive action to make it happen. I also shoutout my hubby for keeping me sane throughout it all! I learned not to be afraid to make mistakes; they are truly the best teacher. I learned to ‘let go’ and rest when necessary, and last but not least, I learned to have the courage to accept change. Change is always scary, but it is also the only way to truly grow.

I live in Hollywood with my DP husband Rainer Lipski, daughter Alma Lucy and dog Maya.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Bettina Neumann, Silvia Acedo

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