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CANNES 2018 Industry

“Partnering for Better Distribution” at the European Film Forum

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- CANNES 2018: Commissioner Mariya Gabriel kicked off the conference at the European Film Forum, which focused on the importance of collaboration in order to raise the profile of European productions

“Partnering for Better Distribution” at the European Film Forum
The participants in the event (© Creative Europe MEDIA)

“I want to thank you all for your passion, inspiration and creativity that we are all trying to foster,” said Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel at the beginning of the round-table discussion Partnering for Better Distribution, organised at Cannes by Creative Europe MEDIA as part of the European Film Forum. “I have confidence that our current choices will pay off. We want to make our society stronger and show that everybody will benefit from a better future.”

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Her optimistic view seemed to be shared by the participants: William Page, co-founder of FilmDooAnnemie Degryse, owner of LumièreJean-Christophe Simon, president of Europa International; and Jeanne Brunfaut, deputy director-general of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation’s Audiovisual and Multimedia General Service. They were all trying to figure out the best way to distribute European projects.

“We have to do it together in order to reach our goals. Many people are jealous of the European system,” said Simon, underlining the need for new strategies to ensure the visibility of projects facing fierce competition from Asia and the United States – which, the consensus seemed to be, should already start on the local level.

“One of the tasks for the film funds is to listen to the professionals. In Belgium, we meet them on a regular basis and think together about what works and what doesn’t. It’s easy to do because there aren’t that many of us. We talk to each other all the time, and sometimes it feels like we are having the same never-ending meeting, but we have to keep doing it: it keeps the system flexible,” added Brunfaut. “What we support is the content – we don’t care where it goes.”

“We all want to go for good content, and today, that no longer means a cinema or a TV movie. Thinking outside the box is the only thing we can do. Just because we did something last time and it worked, it doesn’t mean we should do it again,” said Degryse. But first, in order to reach more viewers, we need information. 

“I think data, first and foremost, is crucial. One of the reasons why Netflix is so successful is because it closely protects its data,” observed Page, whose FilmDoo is a UK-based video-on-demand platform specialising in independent cinema. “With the support of Creative Europe, we developed a technology that creates all the metadata for films, which encompasses everything from basic information like the cast, crew and director to nudity, swearing, violence and brands. It’s important because in order to recommend content, first you need data.” Still, sometimes it’s just not possible. 

“It works best if you are making Spider Man 3 because, before, there was Spider Man and Spider Man 2,” noted Simon. “But we are showing a film at the festival, [Ali Abbasi’s] Border [+see also:
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, which is a love story about trolls. And trust me – there is no data concerning love stories about trolls.” 

Although faced with rapid changes within the industry, the participants seemed to agree that first of all, the stories have to speak for themselves. “I think it’s necessary for us to have more data than we have. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be that important regarding the content. What we need to have is a diversified portfolio. We don’t want to support films just because we have seen that people love stories about trolls. We need to keep the richness of European cinema intact,” argued Brunfaut. 

That doesn’t entail saying no to co-productions, as they seem to be embraced more easily by international viewers. “Our cinema has nothing to do with American cinema, mostly because you could never say: ‘Oh, that’s European.’ A film can be Italian or Polish. It’s something we have to preserve, but co-productions do travel much better,” noted Brunfaut. “Nevertheless, the first criterion is always the quality of the project.” That, and its originality. “Amazon recommended a book to my friend once – a book he wrote himself,” joked Simon. “We all want to be surprised.”

The event was moderated by Marjorie Paillon.

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