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“Relax and embrace change – you’ll be fine”

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Matthijs Wouter Knol • Director, European Film Market


- BERLIN 2016: The director of the European Film Market, Matthijs Wouter Knol, talks to Cineuropa about the impacts of innovation

Matthijs Wouter Knol  • Director, European Film Market
(© Lia Darjes/Berlinale)

More than 8,500 participants from 73 countries registered for this year’s European Film Market in Berlin. Besides being an important place for buying and selling, the EFM is also quickly becoming a platform for innovation. According to EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol, the market should also play an active role in enabling the members of the industry to find new ideas during their time in Berlin.

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Cineuropa: Which segments of the EFM are currently growing the fastest?
Matthijs Wouter Knol:
We like to offer quite a broad range of things that are currently vibrant, very visible and dynamic. We are continuing with a few initiatives that were set up in 2015 and that have really taken off in the meantime, like the EFM Startups platform. This year, we have invited five start-ups from Berlin and five from the rest of Europe, which will present new tools, new apps and products that they have developed. We offer them a platform in the Martin-Gropius-Bau where they can have meetings. We are actively linking them to EFM visitors. We are bringing two industries together: lateral thinkers from the technology scene and the EFM’s international industry visitors who are open to innovation. We are organising these meetings in a new space at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, the EFM Pop Up Offices, where start-ups can book a space for one or two days. 

Are drama series still in demand?
We are continuing the Drama Series Days event that we have organised for the second time together with the Berlinale Co-Production Market and Berlinale Talents. The number of people registering for this platform has almost doubled this year. Last year, we premiered 11 series through market screenings at the EFM; this year, we have 18 series from different parts of the world. Serial formats are in demand because series have proven that they can find audiences. There is high-quality content that audiences can watch both on linear TV as well as online. It is an interesting industry that is partly overlapping with the film industry. Increasingly, film producers, but also talent, are switching between working on film projects and high-end series. This includes documentary series, which we have started to integrate into this year’s line-up.

Are there also new players at the EFM?
We have an increasing number of buyers specifically from the series industry visiting the Drama Series Days. Some of the buyers are just buying for SVoD platforms, such as Amazon or Netflix, or pay-TV channels like HBO. We have buyers from iTunes and other new market players where content can be watched per view by consumers. It seems that one year after starting this initiative, everybody who can be taken seriously in the TV or series industry has the Berlinale and the European Film Market on their radar.

How much is the EFM changing due to the developments in the industry?
The EFM has become one of the top three markets in the world over the last decade. Every year, we have a growing number of companies at the EFM. But apart from being a marketplace revolving around sales, distribution, financing and co-production, we think we have more to offer. The EFM is positioning itself as an innovation hub for the industry, where new trends, advanced technologies and digital developments are presented and brought together with key industry players, and this provides the industry with refreshing possibilities. In an industry that is quickly changing, versatility is essential for companies. I think the market is a place where we provide our customers with the latest market knowledge, the tools to change and the packages to help them adapt. A market where the industry feels as if bridges are being built. Too often, I feel fear is holding many people in the industry back from strong ideas that might seem disruptive at first glance, but which offer superb opportunities – to learn, at the very least. Too often, the attitude easily adopted is rather sceptical, instead of curious and open-minded. Michel Reilhac will give a keynote speech during the EFM Startups programme, called “Relax and Embrace Change – You’ll Be Fine”, which for me nails the exact approach that would make so much more sense. Let’s take brave next steps, not just talk and present each other with minor variations on the same concept. Implementing an innovation platform at the EFM and setting up an EFM Industry Accelerator programme for 2017 is a first step. Connecting to innovative talent from other industries is an important part of this programme. That way, questions such as “how do we develop new distribution models?” and “how do we react to new players like Amazon and Netflix?” become different questions – to find answers to those, we shouldn’t be defensive. We shouldn’t be waiting for something that is convincing enough to save the film industry; I think we should change the film industry ourselves. A market like the EFM, which is part of a dynamic and open-audience film festival like the Berlinale, and which takes place in the creative metropolis of Berlin, should play an active role in this. 

What kind of innovations are you talking about, specifically?
By innovation I mean recreating an industry that is ahead of its time, which surprises over and over again, and knows how audiences want to watch and consume high-quality content. An industry that is also able to influence that. Take virtual reality and immersive storytelling: it is obvious that this new medium offers great opportunities and challenges at the same time. Let’s focus on the people in the industry who dare to rethink their work, take risks and create innovations that contribute to VR content that will really resonate with a wide audience. To get a better idea of this, on Tuesday 16 February we will offer EFM visitors the opportunity to experience different formats of virtual reality in the EFM VR Cinema Lounge, in the Martin-Gropius-Bau.



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