ON THE BLOG: TIFF 2019: four talking points from the European Film Forum

The latest edition of the European Film Forum took place at the 18th Transilvania International Film Festival in Cluj-Napoca on Friday 7 June.

The event sought to discuss the profound changes rippling through the value chain of production, from scriptwriting to production and post-production. Speakers consisted of experts in production, marketing, exhbition and digital technology opening up about the challenges and opportunities their sector faces as a result of the digital revolution.

The aim of the European Film Forum (EFF) is to develop a strategic policy agenda in response to these challenges, set up as the result of a proposal by the European Commission in its 2014 Communication on “European Film in the Digital Era”. 

We breakdown the key talking points from the event.

The changing content landscape. New players, new rules?

Raymond van der Kaaj, a producer at independent outfit Revolver Amsterdam, expressed concern over how the big streaming players, as well as brands, were dictating the current landscape. With data becoming more and more decisive, van der Kaaj posited the question: how can producers maintain their independent spirit and privilege creative collaboration when there is pressure to shorten development time and deliver content in shorter time frames?

Romanian producer Anamaria Antoci, from the company Tangaj Production felt that these challenges could be overcome by injecting more money into the development sphere and investing more in discovering or designing an audience from early stage.

Making technology more accessible

Antoine Simkin, president of ACE producers, spoke about how we need to reconsider visual effects and think of it in a way that “has nothing to do with dragons” but instead as a way of making arthouse cinema more cost effective.

Along these lines, technologist Jean-Colas Prunier, Founder, CEO and Product Architect of PocketStudio, spoke about how investment in education is key so that the next generation have access to learn about evolving gadgetry and software. PocketStudio is designed to allow filmmakers to easily create, play and stream 3D animation sequences in real-time using real-time collaborative editing, a unified workflow and other real-time technologies, such as augmented reality. Prunier noted that it “provides tools to directors so they can frame and communicate their vision and better understand what their film is going to look like before it's made.”

PocketStudio was also presented at the infiniTIFF Summit during the festival, which provides an opportunity for knowledge exchange and interdisciplinary networking in the context of virtual production. The summit asks such questions as how can virtual production make the filmmaking process more cost-efficient and meaningful? How will a radically redesigned production process impact the stories told on large and small screens? How can agile local networks be created to cater to the needs of international audiovisual projects? How can the workforce continuously adapt to rapidly changing demands, methods, and tools? And how can different business sectors like film, games, and technology collaborate in new and efficient ways?

Similarly, Raymond van der Kaaj remarked that innovation isn’t necessarily just about technology, but instead around “business models, working methods and changing the way we think creatively. How do we incentivise risk-taking? Because currently it’s not rewarded.”

Marketing needs to become more urgent and integrated

One of the big topics of the day, to which speakers kept returning was how marketing needed to be much more considered throughout the entire filmmaking process and as early as the film's development. Joanna Solecka, Head of Alphapanda in Warsaw and a marketing and social media expert stated that "marketing training needs to be made available for directors and producers, but also targeted at film schools and the next generation." 

Solecka predicted that there will be a growing market for social media professionals and content producers that are embedded within a film's production. In response to this, Tudor Giurgiu, President of the Transilvania International Film Festival cited an article written by digital distribution guru Jon Reiss in ScreenDaily almost 10 years ago that claimed productions should source and recruit PMDs (producers of marketing & distribution) whose role it would be to manage audience outreach and supervise the creation of deliverables.

Solecka also remarked that "visual assets will continue to become more important in promoting a film."

One audience member felt that part of the challenge was a perception that marketing belongs solely in the terrain of sales agents and distributors, and that marketing expertise would need to be redistributed across the value chain. Solecka felt that public funding should be channelled into this area to support this transition.

Education should become a priority

In discussing how to cultivate the next generation of audiences and European cinema lovers, Jan Naszewski, the CEO of Warsaw-based boutique sales company New Europe Film Sales, stated quite categorically that education has to come before innovation. "Cinematic and cultural education is the key to growing the audiences and audiovisual professionals of the future." As much as keeping cinemas alive and selling tickets is a short-term priority, thinking ahead to the future, many speakers agreed that equipping young people with the access and language to engage with cinema was vital to its survival. 

The panel discussions and insights can be watched in their entirety below.

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