Leena Pasanen YLE-bound after years as EDN director

After three years as the European Documentary Network's director, Leena Pasanen will soon return to Finnish pubcaster YLE when the new EDN director steps in. Before she leaves the member-based organization for doc film and TV professionals, Pasanen speaks of the past and future of media and doc-making with realscreen.
September 29, 2008

Leena Pasanen has spent the last three years as director of the European Documentary Network, which now has more than 1,000 members who work in doc film and TV, but will pass the torch to incoming director and experienced producer Line Sandsmark on November 1.

Nearing the end of her time at EDN, a group that hosts pitching sessions and workshops and provides consultation for its members, Pasanen is looking forward to heading back to Finnish pubcaster YLE. Although she’ll miss the traveling and people she met through EDN, Pasanen is excited about the new role awaiting her at YLE. Now that the channel is testing 360-degree commissioning, Pasanen will be executive producer on a new pilot project that involves designing and producing a package of factual, culture and drama programming that will appear on TV, radio and new media platforms. It’s a two-year project and the theme is built on following the changes in Finnish society.

‘This multi-platform programming really seems to be the future for television,’ says Pasanen. ‘There are still a lot of questions about what it means and how to do it successfully, but I’m really happy to be able to start working on this because I think in the near future this will be a reality for all of us and it will be interesting to figure out how to do it.’

While she’s pumped about the future, Pasanen is also keen to reflect on the past. Thinking back to her start at EDN in 2005, Pasanen recalls the popularity of personal stories in docs at the time, and believes they have given way to global issues. ‘We went from rather private things to global things, such as social and political stories, and in some ways here in Europe we’re missing stories of the realities in our own countries today.’ She hopes these missing stories are told more in the future. She’s also noticed that art and culture-focused docs have been a tough sell over the past couple of years.

Plus it now takes longer to get doc financing in several cases, since, as Pasanen points out, the money is in smaller fractions. ‘There might be more platforms, but it doesn’t mean there’s more money or it’s easier to get it. Some years ago there were more commissioning editors that could actually say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ at the table, but with larger coproductions nowadays it takes longer for these people to react.’ It often takes at least a year or even two to finance the project – plus it has to be better developed, says Pasanen. ‘You really have to have a very clear idea of what you are going to do and you can’t pitch anything without a good trailer or something visual to show how it will look.’

So while it’s become increasingly demanding to get a doc project running, Pasanen is please about the current buzz surrounding European producers. To help it get louder, Pasanen says EDN is working to find ways to take European producers to other continents to see what collaboration opportunities exist. Last year, for example, an EDN European delegation traveled to China.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.