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Cinekid Professionals Conference 2015: The future is now!


- More than 20 speakers took part in the one-day conference for the children’s media industry at Cinekid for Professionals 2015

Cinekid Professionals Conference 2015: The future is now!
An image from the Cinekid Professionals Conference 2015

The Westergas Theater in Amsterdam brought together dozens of people from the world of children’s media during the second day of the Cinekid for Professionals 2015 industry programme (20-23 October). It was the venue chosen to hold this edition’s Professionals Conference, which, as announced months before, revolved around the topic “The Future is Now!”. The long-awaited event, which included several small lectures given by various experts and researchers, turned out to be a highly enlightening gathering focused on the great opportunities of new media in promoting children's growth and education.

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As stressed by the organisers themselves, the children’s media industry is changing so quickly that, even though it is impossible to predict the future, it is still possible to analyse its recent progression and take a critical look at the new directions that the sector has been heading in. “And most importantly, we can get to know the audience – media-savvy children who always seem to be one step ahead.” From the possibilities of virtual reality to overcoming gender issues, and from new platforms and narratives to children’s empowerment over various media, the Professionals Conference offered several points of view and approaches to the central issue, resulting in a set of practical tools that may help the professionals in attendance to better understand the gigantic shift that their industry is undergoing.

First to speak was Nienke Poelsma, head of the Cinekid for Professionals team, who was in charge of giving the welcome speech on behalf of her organisation. After explaining this year’s theme, which aims to “provide the ammunition” to help professionals from the industry to “remain robust, well-informed and competitive”, she introduced the speakers and the moderator of the conference. This year, the position was entrusted to Warren Buckleitner, founding editor of Children's Technology Review and a long-time collaborator with the Cinekid Festival; he did a remarkable job of keeping the gathering on schedule and interviewing most of the guests. Below is a summary of the participants and the issues addressed at the conference.

In the session entitled “In the Mind of the Modern-day Child”, Gary Pope, co-founder of Kids Industries, opened the actual meeting with a speech focused on the factors that influence a child’s development (namely biology, culture and society). According to Pope, the most important thing is to allow children to explore and play by themselves, as that is their way of learning how to be grown-ups. He also claimed that children should always be self-driven when playing, instead of receiving external inputs (technically known as extrinsic motivation).

In “Don’t Forget the Girls”, head of research at The Pineapple Lounge Pete Maginn brought the issue of gender into the conference by presenting the results of the firm’s study on “the representation of women in media”. The Little Miss Understood report is a summary of a new generation of girls who want brands to treat them according to their own preferences. Maginn summarised the common features found in these girls over a series of intense interviews, providing several strategies that should be useful in engaging and empowering this specific audience.

The first panel of the day, “Storytelling Across Platforms – the Do’s and the Don’ts”, was made up of Ida Brinck-Lund (a consultant for LEGO’s Future Lab), Caitlin Burns (business strategist for Disney and Nickelodeon), Julien Fabre (licensing manager at Ankama) and Jason Tammemägi (creative director at Mooshku). The topic under discussion was the best way of attracting young audiences into new transmedia narratives and cross-platform stories. All four speakers agreed that the most important factor was being able to test and learn from the children’s feedback, and being flexible enough to rethink their strategy whenever necessary. “The key is an early engagement with the audience,” as Burns explained.

Switching the focus to “The Future of the Industry”, Nico Frank, senior reporter at C21 Media, then interviewed Stacey Matthias on stage. As the founder of Insight Kids, a research and strategy group looking for innovative and impactful experiences for children, Matthias analysed the different trends that are currently having an impact on the children of tomorrow (from the new tools available to their changing position in the market). Frank also asked her to comment on gender problems, media literacy and parental influence.

Monique Ruinen, feature-film consultant at the Netherlands Film Fund, and a former Cinekid organiser, talked about the future of the Dutch industry. After giving an interesting summary of the history and evolution of Dutch cinema, she stressed the incredible growth of projects aimed at families and children over the last decade, expressing her interest in offering multiple advantages and opportunities to international co-productions with the Netherlands.

After lunch, the programme treated attendees to the most practical session of the conference. David Kleeman (SVP of global trends at Dubit) and Nicoletta Iacobacci (former head of strategy and future media at the European Broadcasting Union) blasted most of the myths about virtual reality (VR). Both talked about their research on VR, particularly on its evolution and current features, but also gave the audience the opportunity to experience this technology for themselves, through the use of cardboard glasses.

In “Keeping up with Global Trends”, Christophe Erbes (international children’s media consultant), Vicky Schroderus (acquisition executive for YLE) and Nadine Bernard (coordinator of external productions at Ketnet) were the three speakers comprising the second panel of the meeting, which focused on the new trends in broadcasting media content for kids, and the imminent challenges for the industry. They all gave an overview of their personal projects and companies, but also commented on the shared situation of such platforms in the media environment.

After another short break, it was time for Robbie Douek (managing director at Maker Studios) and Adam Clarke (Minecraft artist) to offer some overwhelming data regarding the video consumption habits of the Millennial generation, in “Current Trends: YouTube as Future TV”. Both discussed the new platforms and players that, in recent years, have become a media reference for a whole generation. Above all, they referred to prominent video bloggers and YouTube stars possessing huge power and influence over millions of youngsters.

The last round of speeches was mainly given by various artists and designers, whose projects are being shown in the Cinekid MediaLab this year; they focused on the technological imaginary and new-media predictions. Professor Imar de Vries gave a small lecture on “New Media Archaeology”, while Emily Gobeille, Theo Watson and Owen Harris presented their installations at the festival. Paulien Dresscher, head of new media at Cinekid and curator of the MediaLab, gave the day’s closing speech, followed by a visit to the Lab itself. 


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