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Matthijs Wouter Knol • Director, European Film Market

“We want to be a platform where new plans get going”


- Cineuropa caught up with Matthijs Wouter Knol, the head of Berlin’s EFM, to chat about the innovations at this year’s market

Matthijs Wouter Knol  • Director, European Film Market
(© EFM/Doreen Reichenbach)

With more than 9,000 participants from 66 countries, there is a growing demand for a spot at the Berlinale’s European Film Market. While the buying and selling of films remains the key business area at the EFM, the brand-new innovation platform EFM Horizon presents new developments and technologies that are having an influence on the film industry. By creating niche markets within the EFM, head Matthijs Wouter Knol aims to make it easier for visitors to navigate the marketplace and adapt the EFM to an industry event that is helping to shape the future. 

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Cineuropa: How do you handle the growing demand for space at the EFM?
Matthijs Wouter Knol: The EFM is attracting more and more interesting visitors – ranging from people booking stands to new partners who see the market as the perfect starting point for new film-related businesses. Due to the fact that the Martin-Gropius-Bau is a beloved part of the market, where many companies and institutions want to have their stands, we decided to offer new spaces within the Gropius Park, attached to the Martin-Gropius-Bau. We are using the Gropius Park for a few new locations, such as the Gropius Park Pavilion, which is hosting a VR pop-up cinema this year. Another new venue is the Berlinale Africa Hub. Much like last year, the EFM Lighthouse highlights the films for sale at the EFM by showing trailers. The Lighthouse is a visual gateway towards the Martin-Gropius-Bau; it offers a great deal of visibility to our customers.

How much does the EFM reflect the changes in the film industry?
The EFM is a place to buy and sell films, first and foremost, but it has also become a place to discover and get a feeling of the changes in the business of film, the trends in new distribution, sales and marketing models, the new opportunities to reach audiences, and the formats that offer new horizons. That’s why, together with Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick (read the interview), we’ve developed the EFM Horizon innovation platform, which I see as a real expansion of the EFM. Audi got on board from the beginning as a partner on EFM Horizon and actively supports the events. 

What kinds of events will be presented at the new EFM Horizon platform?
One of our successful initiatives, EFM Startups, is continuing and has become part of the innovation platform. As in previous years, we will introduce ten cutting-edge, Berlin-based and European start-ups that have developed interesting products, apps or strategies that could easily benefit the industry. Together with the team behind the successful VR NOW Con event, we will host a networking event focusing on bringing together pioneers from the fast-growing VR industry with film producers and financiers present at the EFM.

Furthermore, in cooperation with the International Games Week Berlin, a game screening session in a classic cinema setting has been organised to give exhibitors a feeling of how audiences play games, and how compatible this is with the cinema as a place to meet and enjoy content together. We will enable all of the visitors to play a game on the cinema screen together and experience how a cinema works differently, and this will attract different visitors who might potentially also be new customers for film screenings. 

How important is the innovation platform linked to the film market?
EFM Horizon is a new part of what the EFM has to offer. The innovation we present always has a link to film and the visitors we welcome at the market. As a film market, we traditionally provide a strong infrastructure for people to gather and bring new films. But there is more we can, and should, do: the world around us is changing at an impressive pace, and existing production, distribution and sales models are being challenged. At the EFM, we not only want to demonstrate whether there are new ways of improving existing models, but we also want to help our visitors to form an opinion, meet the right key players and encourage them to shape the future of the industry, instead of letting others dictate what the future will be.

EFM Horizon connects, shapes ideas and makes them relevant to our visitors. We are creating an innovation platform where people can talk and introduce each other to new ideas that have great potential. We want to organise ourselves, look beyond what might be possible at first sight, and actively connect with pioneers and visionaries from the music, publishing, automotive, games and other entertainment industries that have managed to digitise and find new audiences, while maintaining high-quality standards. We want to be a platform where new plans get going, and where searching is a good thing. 

How do you see the future development of the EFM?
First of all, “EFM” stands for European Film Market. Film will remain our focus. But film and the people working in the film industry have diversified, and as a market, we follow that development. Over the past few years, niche markets have started popping up within the EFM, such as the Drama Series Day and a very strong documentary programme. These niche markets make it easier for industry professionals to find their peers and focus on a specific part of the business for a few days, in a specific place. 

Last but not least, it is great to have closer ties to the Co-Production Market and Berlinale Talents. The EFM really benefits from its proximity to both events and the constant flow of talent and strong film projects being nurtured and financed parallel to the market every year.

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