Emma O'hare
Advisor MEDIA - Creative Europe
e.ohare [at] dutchculture.nl

Creative Europe Projects: Sharelly Emanuelson & the IDFAcademy

Creative Europe Projects: Sharelly Emanuelson & the IDFAcademy

In 2018 the interdisciplinary artist participated in the IDFAcademy, a MEDIA-supported training course. In 2020 she won the Volkskrant Visual Art Public Prize.
By Emma O’Hare

The publication Creative Europe 2014 - 2020 contains an overview of the Dutch participation in the Creative Europe programme during this period. It not only presents the statistics but also explores the stories behind the projects that were supported. We interviewed Sharelly Emanuelson, film maker and interdisciplinary artist from Curaçao, for the publication. Sharelly participated in IDFAcademy in 2018, a MEDIA-supported training course that, each year during the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), gives international film talent the opportunity to meet renowned documentary professionals willing to share their knowledge. In 2020 she won the Volkskrant Visual Art Public Prize for her work En Mi Pais (In My Country).

Context of colonial history

“I graduated from the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht in 2010, in the field of audio-visual media and specialising in film directing and documentaries. I felt that this was not sufficient for what I wished to do, and so I went on to do the Master's programme in Artistic Research at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Thanks to this research-oriented programme I learned to view my own work in the wider context of colonial history and the associated literature and other perspectives.

This in-depth approach resulted in my starting to make more abstract works and installations, though I never turned my back on film. Every medium reaches a different target group, and I very much recognise the value of that. This multidisciplinary approach really comes together in my next project: it will result in a film, a book, and an audio-visual installation, and it combines all the ethnographical research I perform.”

It was at IDFAcademy that I truly came to understand, for the first time, how the European film industry is structured

“We haven’t been able to make or research or document much on the Caribbean islands over the past 30 years. Culture and education have suffered a lot under the funding cutbacks instigated by the government and by the kingdom relations. I am trying to revive the work of 30 years ago, following in the footsteps of Elis Juliana, who did research for many years as both an artist and an anthropologist.

I position myself as a Caribbean artist and I think the world has much to learn from the Caribbean region, since we were forced to create a new society from the melting pot of people that arrived here, on this small land area, without the economic prosperity enjoyed by Europe and the United States. I am increasingly able to formulate that perspective in my work.”


“In 2018 my films were screened in Rialto film theatre in Amsterdam as part of the Black Achievement Month, and I won the Black Achievement Spotlight Award. After that, I was invited to participate in the IDFAcademy.

It was at IDFAcademy that I truly came to understand, for the first time, how the European film industry is structured. During your study you learn how to make things, but not how the industry works. At first, I was overwhelmed by the extensive programme. It was like an overdose of opportunities, and I didn’t know where to start. It was helpful to see the ease with which people can talk about their work. I had much less experience with presenting and pitching my work.

For me, the keynote presentations with case studies was the most important element. That’s when I started to understand how funding structures and production process phases work in the industry. It all starts with understanding how the system works and what’s expected of you. The training course created the basis for that.”

Sharelly Emanuelson
Sharelly Emanuelson, deelnemer aan IDFAcademy
Richard Terborg
Contrast with the Caribbean region

“Things are different on the Caribbean islands: there we first start making, and then we see how we can distribute it. But the entire film industry infrastructure is not set up like that. You need to have a detailed plan before you start making something. We need more flexibility and more understanding of the fact that the context is different in the Caribbean. You can have someone give a video presentation, for example, or make budget and support available to help someone write a plan.

I would absolutely recommend the training course, and it has made me very curious about the other MEDIA training courses. Although I do feel a bit anxious about questions like: will I be eligible? How can I pay for it? It implies all sorts of expenses, while still lacking a clear earning model. Yet despite those obstacles, it’s still worth it. lf that’s your ambition, then grab your chance! The courses really feed you, so that your next film will be better and the process more strategic.

I’m very grateful for having had the opportunity to follow the course. There are lots of people out there who also deserve the opportunity but haven’t had it yet. Without the Black Achievement Month and the recognition I got for my work that way, I wouldn’t have had so many opportunities. It is important to sometimes bump into people who really want the best for you.”

The courses really feed you, so that your next film will be better and the process more strategic
Sharelly Emanuelson’s tips for participants in MEDIA training courses

•   Be sure to prepare well
•   Study the website and programme booklets carefully ahead of time
•   Be sure to carry flyers that you can hand out. Chances are you hand it to someone who then turns out to remember you or your project at the right time
•   Research in advance who the people are that you want to meet and grab the chance to meet them when you can
•   See if you can do the training course with a partner, for instance as a producer-director duo, because so much information is provided. You need to process it all and then communicate that to your crew. If there are two of you who learned the same, then it’s much easier to set goals

More info about Sharelly Emanuelson and IDFAcademy.

Are you interested in participating in the Creative Europe MEDIA programme? Please contact our advisor Emma O'Hare.

Read this article in Dutch

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