From a student´s idea to an international event

2003 was the year when the short film festival named IN THE PALACE took place for the first time. Since then, the festival became popular and unique to Bulgaria. This year, the 14th edition of the festival is happening in 4 Bulgarian cities with the main event in Balchik. The festival evolved from a student´s idea to the largest short film festival in Bulgaria and a prestigious event for not just the domestic public.

“When I was a student of film, I created a movie at the university. It got attention in Macedonia and my movie was supposed to be shown in one festival there in the competitive program. I was happy, untill the moment I got to know that I wasn´t allowed to go there. The rights of the movie belonged to the academy where I created it and the dean of the school went there instead of me.  I was very dissapointed. So that is why I decided at first to organize a film festival especially and only for students and it happened,” says the creator of the In the Palace festival, Tsanko Vasilev.

In the beginning, there were a lot of obstacles and long preparations were needed. The decision of when to organize the festival was easy. It should take place during the holidays, so people would be able to come and be part of it.

The more complicated decision was where to organize the event. It was supposed to be held in a smaller city to activate culture where it was declining, but also in a city with a developed infrastructure and a nice environment. After all, Velingrad, a city close to Sofia with mineral water springs, became the place where the first edition of the IN THE PALACE International Short Film Festival was born.

From it´s first edition, the festival was unique, for in Bulgaria there was no similar event. The idea from the very beginning was not just to show movies but also to provide the place for the audience to meet the authors. The idea which was developed was to offer a fusion of films, music, educational programs and industry meetings. From it´s first year, the festival was international, especially with film makers from other Balkan countries being invited. More recently the festival has been presenting short films from all over the world.

In the first year, just film makers, jury and trainers were a part of the festival. After the first edition, a documentary with the Bulgarian National Television about the festival was shot and it gained the necessary publicity.  The Bulgarian ministry of culture proposed to move the festival to the Black Sea town of Balchik.

The second year of the festival was held in Balchik and it´s gardens. During its first few years, the festival was already succesful and after it´s 4th edition it changed from being an event for students to a public festival. The popularity of the festival was growing and after it´s 10th edition it spread to more cities, being held simultaniously in Balchik and Varna. This year, it has taken place in four cities already – Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Varna and Balchik.

In spite of each year of the festival being different, there is always a similar structure. And the main purpose of the festival remains the same – bringing emotions and fun, making people “live through” the festival.

In the last years, the festival has developed and has a more stable structure. Movies made by students and professionals are awarded in two main categories – the international and national competitions. The audience can see four kinds of short films showing at the screenings – fiction, documentary, animation and experimental, all under 27 minutes in length.

The whole event is supported by governmental and local help. Municipalities are helping not just with finance but also with logistics and promotion etc. On the top of that, every year there are a lot of volunteers coming from all over Europe to help with the organization and to be part of this international event.