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“It’s a whole brave new world”

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Hugo Rosak • Head of Film Industry Office, Karlovy Vary IFF


- Cineuropa talks to Hugo Rosak, the newly appointed head of the Film Industry Office at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

Hugo Rosak  • Head of Film Industry Office, Karlovy Vary IFF

The 2016 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) is launching special industry events where buyers, distributors, producers and festival programmers can discover outstanding new films in production. Among the accredited film-industry professionals are over 120 buyers and 80 sales companies. Hugo Rosak, head of the Film Industry Office, gives us an overview of the various industry initiatives.

Cineuropa: What kinds of measures is the Karlovy Vary Film Industry Office taking to bring films mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and the former Soviet Union to the attention of buyers?
Hugo Rosak:
Aside from the traditional East of the West competition, where 12 films from the region are being premiered (and where at least two-thirds still don’t have international sales agents), we are also striving to introduce projects that are in the making. Our Works in Progress @KVIFF presentation focuses specifically on this region, and out of 56 submitted projects, we have selected nine that are in post-production and are still looking for international sales agents.

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Which awards will be given out?
We are promoting the Czech Republic as a destination for production and post-production, and the winning package worth €100,000 includes €60,000 in visual post-production services, €30,000 in audio post-production and a €10,000 cash award – all from renowned studios in Prague (UPP, Soundsquare and Barrandov Studios). We are also launching the Eurimages Lab Project Award, which presents movies made outside the standard rules of filmmaking. We are finding that while all Eurimages countries are eligible to apply, three-quarters in the final selection are in fact from the East of the West region, competing for an award of €50,000.

How are the different distribution markets developing in Eastern Europe?
I guess the film markets in this part of the world are still heavily impacted by piracy. However, independent film still enjoys a faithful theatrical audience. Only in recent years are we actually seeing the developments of on-demand platforms that can compete with piracy by offering simple, user-friendly, accessible and inexpensive ways of getting to the films. With the Digital Single Market strategy, we also see better access for consumers. These are improvements, and they mean that a greater diversity of titles is available for distribution, compared to a couple of years ago, when the majority of independent films could only be seen at festivals.

What kind of role do a film festival and market play in the changing distribution landscape?
Things have got so much faster these days, and time is an issue for a film’s career with so much different content out there. Festivals still help to curate this content. If you look at some of the most in-demand and therefore successful films, one commonality they share is that the majority were awarded at one of the festivals. However, with such a fast pace, you need to show something even before a film premieres at a festival in order to plan a good distribution strategy. That’s why works in progress and lab platforms have become so instrumental in launching a film – deals are made before the films are even finished. The film market is then, of course, an extended arm of that. Festivals still definitely play a crucial role, especially for arthouse films.

What does the increase in on-demand distribution platforms mean for filmmakers?
They need to stand out because there is so much content out there, and quality is important, especially for foreign-language films. But that’s not where it ends. The key is to actually get to be on these platforms, to be selected by the gate-keepers and then to be aware of how they can promote themselves with such a short timescale available. And on top of that, it’s about how to protect their rights. It’s a whole brave new world, really complex and also confusing, because the on-demand platforms are also changing the game as we speak. So these days, it is extremely important to have a good strategy and in some ways also to embrace this, rather than oppose it. Understanding it is the key.

What kinds of initiatives and programmes will be introduced to the filmmakers?
We are working closely with Europa Distribution. This year, we will be looking at the role of film education and film literacy in the context of film distribution. Educating the audience is an equally important factor in helping a film to travel, as consumers are the ones deciding how they invest their precious time best. They won’t do that for the sake of something they don’t understand. Educating them beforehand makes distribution easier later on, although it is a long-term investment. Together with the TorinoFilmLab, which holds its alumni meeting at the KVIFF, we will also look at the challenges that comedy is facing, and how comedy can be helped to travel internationally when a sense of humour is so culture-specific.

What are the highlights of the industry programme?
I am particularly pleased that we will address the issues that European distributors are facing in the context of the changing game in this field. Ted Hope from Amazon Studios will share its take on this complex ecosystem, where theatrical distribution and on-demand platforms can in fact co-exist, and where crowd-sourced arthouse content is produced and delivered in ways that are still being noticed at festivals – all with a focus on quality. It will be a very inspiring talk, and I am so pleased that we can facilitate this at such a timely moment.


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