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From Dave’s Desk

November 2015

Portrait of Dave Watterson.Dave Watterson - elected president September 2015

Minutes after the 2015 General Assembly, the new committee started work.

My in-tray is full of emails in French, German and English. The diary is filling up rapidly. Programme leaflets, festival flyers and tourist brochures for UNICA host towns spill across my desk. Phone and Skype calls abound. Jan and I added French conversation classes to our German ones. Committee colleagues are working hard …

And I love it.

UNICA Congress 2015

St. Petersburg was an impressive, beautiful background for our annual congress in 2015. Majestic buildings sparkled in the sunlight. In the darkness of Kino Rodina an enormous screen glowed brightly, first-class sound filled the comfortable hall and our films were seen at their best.

Russian friends were attentive hosts. The lobby display of pictures from past UNICAs was fascinating. Local cafes provided good food at reasonable prices, but the formal UNICA Congress meals were disappointing. Three times we visited one restaurant with decent food but space so limited, that serving took a long time. On our main excursion to The Peterhof Palace we ate twice in the same marquee with an indifferent menu. That was in complete contrast to the splendor of the palace and its grounds. The excursions were otherwise impressive, especially a half-day tour by boat of the canals and river, which make the city so light and airy.

Administrative delays and visa problems made getting translators almost impossible. Delia Vagner shouldered most of the work magnificently, aided by local volunteer, Tatiana Pashkova, and occasional helpers. She worked mainly between English and German. Other volunteers kindly whispered translations into French, but I apologise to Francophone visitors, who often felt left out.

The film programmes were good and the jury worked hard. An emergency sent Wolfgang Allin home, so UNICA Vice-President, Jeanne Glass, took his place on the jury. The jury chose Hungary’s programme as the most interesting one. Koreans held a short tea-ceremony in one pause. Everyone went home with super photographs of the week – see the official ones here.

Herr und Frau Fondeur in St. Petersburg.
Mr. & Mrs. Fondeur in St. Petersburg

Committee Refreshed

President Georges Fondeur, General-Secretary Jan Essing and Adviser Alois Urbanek retired as planned. Adviser and Jury Moderator Rolf Leuenberger also unexpectedly retired. All of them have contributed so much to UNICA, that they thoroughly deserved the long applause they received.

[See General Assembly Report here.]

[Find out about the committee here.]

The election to the committee brought in many new faces. A Statute amendment allows two vice-presidents, so the officers are now: Dave Watterson (GBR) - president, Jeanne Glass (FRA) and Bernhard Lindner (DEU) - vice-presidents, Georg Schoerner (AUT) - secretary-general and Thomas Kraeuchi (CHE) - treasurer.

The advisers are Tatyana Alahverdzhieva (BGR), Zeljko Balog (HRV), Mitze Chapovski (MKD), Wolfgang Freier (DEU), Pavel Leski (POL),Rolf Mandolesi (ITA), Franka Stas (NLD).

For the first time we have people from Bulgaria and Macedonia on the committee.

Fred Graber (CHE) stays as Friends of UNICA organiser, but plans to retire next year. Wolfgang Freier (DEU) continues to handle Patronage. Serge Michel (FRA) remains our contact with IFTC/CICT and UNESCO. Our translator is Claire Auda (DEU), who plans to return in 2016 when her son will have passed his first birthday.

Your refreshed and invigorated committee welcome ideas and suggestions, so do contact us (president@unica-web.com ).

The UNICA committee work is a mix of philosophy and practical detail. We plan evolution not revolution, but you will see changes. Many ideas for publicity, for supporting our member federations and for bringing more people to our Congresses are under discussion. Watch this space! An immediate aim is to share the fun of the UNICA Congress with lots more film enthusiasts.

UNICA Congress 2016

Bring your friends! Those who love film will be in seventh heaven. Those not totally devoted to movies can have a relaxing break, join the social events – including the UNICA Ball – as well as watching some of the films.

UNICA Congress is not only for the heads of federations or club presidents. Nonsense! It is for everyone who enjoys short movies.

Are you excited about going to Romania in 2016? You should be. The town of Suceava is so supportive that its mayor attended our last two Congresses. The town’s new airport and the new theatre, which will be our venue, are now open. The recommended hotel has completed a major refit. Only the historic centre of the town, the beautiful monasteries, country inns and charming scenery of the area are unchanged and retain their old-world charm. Nor will the food and drink disappoint. Romanians eat heartily and well.

Check out the UNICA2016 website 

Join us in Suceava – from Friday 19th August to Friday 26th August.

Changes to the UNICA Competition & Jeunesse

Franka Stas and Mitze Chapovski have done a lot of work on the Jeunesse scene.

Franka Stas and Mitze Chapovski.

After hearing their proposals the committee is revising our competition and workshops.
All future UNICA host federations are very strongly encouraged to organise a special programme for young authors.

We will recommend to the General Assembly that:
the UNICA competition is split into three categories:
1.    Films by JEUNESSE (authors up to and including age 19.)
2.    Films by YOUNG PEOPLE (authors in any type of full-time education from age 20 up to and including age 25.)

3.    Non-commercial films. That is films:
•    made for the joy of filmmaking
•    made for non-commercial purposes
•    not subject to any prior sales, residual or rental agreements
•    not sponsored by any commercial organisation
The category for Young Professionals is closed.

Awards for (1) and (2) will be Gold, Silver and Bronze Diplomas. In each category one gold medal or special trophy will be given for "best of category"

Awards for (3) medals and diplomas as usual.
The “Jeunesse programme" is renamed "YOUNG UNICA (workshops)", which will be open to anyone up to and including the age of 25, who has a film in their national programme. UNICA pays half the cost of a Congress Card for one eligible participant (up to and including age 25) per country. If someone under 19 attends without a parent or guardian present, their federation must obtain permission from the parent or guardian and nominate one of their delegation to serve in loco parentis.


UNICA’s approach to young authors has been uncoordinated. As we see it:

(a)    Encouraging film making in schools for under 19s, raises the standard from 6-second reportage clips of pets, skateboard stunts and selfies into properly designed and edited films. Few of those pupils will become serious authors. They may join our clubs in future after settling into a career and raising a family. They are the potential audiences at future UNICA Congresses.

(b)    Those who continue to make films during their years as a student at college or university will often make fine films now, and are much more likely to become dedicated authors, whether as amateurs or professionals. Some will go into the film and TV industry. The others are the people who will lead our clubs, federations and the UNICA in the future.

(c)    Since the arrival of digital video, it has been impossible to draw a clear line between people who are “amateur” and people who are “professional”. (How many people in our clubs make money with wedding films?) The difference in technical quality between “the industry” and “us” is much, much smaller. So we decided to make the distinction in terms of each film rather than each author.

If Spielberg or Martel or Jeunet or Manchevski or Holland or Herzog get bored at work, and make a movie for the sheer satisfaction of doing so, with no intention of being paid … would their films be eligible to take part in our festival? Yes! The chances of older directors doing this are slim. Here our friends, the “young professionals”, are more likely to join in.

Work, work, work

As your new president I am astonished at the sheer quantity of work done behind the scenes in the past by Messrs Fondeur and Essing. UNICA owes them a great deal. Georg Schoerner and I will try to build on their work. The new team intend to support and develop our great hobby worldwide.

My concern now is the world movement, but it delighted me that my first weeks as President included attending a 60th anniversary celebration for Staines Club in Britain and sending special greetings to Club des Auteurs et Filmmakers vidéastes de Luxembourg on their 70th.

Portrait of Wolfgang Freier.Their president is a certain Georges Fondeur, who was presented with a special medal on my behalf by Wolfgang Freier. At its heart UNICA is about remarkable people.

Dave Watterson. UNICA President
(written November 2015, published February 2016)