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Sten-Kristian Saluveer: Creativity alone does not win Oscars

Anna Hints'
Anna Hints' "Smoke Sauna Sisterhood" ("Savvusanna sõsarad"). Source: Press photos

The winner of many awards, including the best documentary award at the European Film Awards, "Smoke Sauna Sisterhood," did not make it to the Oscars shortlist. Sten-Kristian Saluveer, a media and technology expert and producer, said that creativity alone is not sufficient to win Oscars.

Although "Smoke Sauna Sisterhood" (Estonian: "Savvusanna sõsarad") did not make the Oscar shortlist, Saluveer said that winning best documentary at the European Film Awards was an Olympic achievement. "It's really extraordinary. Although the European Film Academy is not as influential as the Oscars, it is the ultimate achievement in the film world and in Europe," he said.

"It shows that the movie is exceptional and I think people all over the world need something for the soul that is real and genuine and somehow touches them. I think this movie touched the academy audience, the critics and maybe the international community. This movie shows a certain nakedness and authenticity that maybe still exists in our culture but has started to be lost elsewhere," he said.

To win an Oscar you need more than just a good film, Saluveer said. "The Oscar marketing budget for a major studio documentary is about $50 million to get it on that pedestal. It's a very big industry that launches these films," he said, but added that the fact that Estonian filmmakers have received so much foreign media coverage is another Olympic victory.

Saluveer said that in terms of originality, Estonian cinema as a whole is sound; rather, the problem lies in the broader systemic context. "We need sales agents, people who have experience in dealing with these major platforms, to advocate for the screening of our films. We need PR people who can handle international distribution, marketers and other relevant professionals. A high level of creativity alone is not enough," he said.

"There has never been enough money allocated to Estonian cinema and the educational system that supports it. We can only float on water if we have the right people and skills to sustain this creativity. We could stop pouring concrete and start investing in people's skills to produce Oscar-winning films," Saluveer said.

Sten-Kristian Saluveer is a media and technology expert, producer, strategist, and entrepreneur based in Europe and Japan. He has pioneered co-productions with South Korea and Estonia, created the first genre film festival (HOFF) in Estonia, co-developed the future strategy for European Film and Media, established media innovation hub (Storytek) and served as strategist in residence for the Estonian government.

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Editor: Rasmus Kuningas, Kristina Kersa

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