Melissa van der Schoor • Content manager, IFFR Unleashed
“Unleashed gives independent filmmakers a proactive way to find a new audience”
by Vassilis Economou
- We chatted to Melissa van der Schoor, content manager of IFFR Unleashed, about what the festival’s new streaming service has to offer
The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), known for its innovative distribution initiatives, such as IFFR Live, has just launched its new streaming platform IFFR Unleashed. We had a chance to talk to Melissa van der Schoor, distribution manager at IFFR and content manager of IFFR Unleashed, about the new platform, what it has to offer over other VoD providers, and the challenges that the future has in store.
Cineuropa: What exactly is IFFR Unleashed?
Melissa van der Schoor: IFFR Unleashed is our own streaming service that gives independent filmmakers who have previously participated in the IFFR over the past 47 years the opportunity to have their films streamed online. Through our branded platform, we are aiming to help the filmmakers to have much-needed online access to the audience without the technical limitations that other platforms may have, in terms of subtitles or format, for example.
How did you come up with this idea?
We’ve being trying to set up something like this for a long time now. Last year, during the festival, we ran a small experiment with a pilot version of Unleashed just for the duration of the IFFR. It worked quite well, and we received lots of audience insights. Since then, we’ve been developing this version of the platform that was launched just yesterday, and it is very much in line with the IFFR.
Are films the only product on offer?
It’s not only the films that we’ve been offering; we are also including all the bonus materials, like interviews with the filmmakers, master classes and all the recorded one-on-one talks with them, as extra content. Furthermore, our content is visible in terms of various different collections, so it’s not just chucking these films into one really large bucket.
What differentiates Unleashed from other platforms?
At the IFFR, we curate films within programmes, so this will be reflected in Unleashed. Apart from the collections by director or genre, the audience will have an extra tool to select a film according to their mood and use it as a filter. So, if you are in the mood for something more dramatic, then only this type of film will pop up. I think it is very important that the user be aware of all these filters we are applying, and that he or she is the one controlling them.
How many films are readily available?
We are kicking off with over 70 films, aiming to add new content each month. We are looking into the back catalogues of the IFFR, and that’s quite a lot of years to cover. It will be a mix of films that are not available on any other platform and some bigger titles. We are working closely with a few Dutch distributors to secure them for the Benelux. The rights holders will receive 50% of the income and will have the option to choose when and where the films will be released, with the possibility to extend the territories or the time period.
Where is IFFR Unleashed available?
IFFR Unleashed is available worldwide. During these first few months, we are focusing on the IFFR’s principal audience, which is in the Netherlands and Benelux, with the option to gradually extend to different markets. We will extend based on the input we will get from abroad, selecting some key territories. Currently, we are offering two charging schemes: in the Benelux, it is a subscription VoD model, with a monthly or a yearly fee; and for the rest of the world, it is only transactional VoD.
Will Unleashed also be partnered with IFFR Live?
We are doing a crossover between Live and Unleashed. Each of the six films, including the intro and the talk, are also available on Unleashed, so the audience can interact with the filmmaker even from home. That’s really exciting. We are still working with other platforms – Festival Scope and Filmin in Spain – but they only present the films. On Unleashed, we have this “event feeling” from IFFR Live. I think there is quite a lot of potential, and it’s been working flawlessly, so we are really happy.
Is there also anything new for IFFR Live this year?
We had a more thematic selection this year. All of the films are helmed by female directors (see the news), and this helps us to have this really unified body of works. We also included the world premiere of Nina [+see also:
film profile] by Polish director Olga Chajdas, which has already been well received. Finally, we’ve expanded onto a new continent, as Africa is now part of our network with a series of Live screenings in Harare, Zimbabwe.
We used to call the platform “Released”, but that felt more appropriate for organisations that allow people to release tigers into their natural environment! Instead, our Unleashed tiger gives independent filmmakers a more proactive and dynamic way to find a new audience.
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