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LOCARNO 2017 Industry

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Connect to Reality: what lies ahead for the future of Swiss cinema?

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- LOCARNO 2017: Industry Days at Locarno Film Festival was the first stage of the programme aimed at reflecting on the current health of Swiss cinema

Connect to Reality: what lies ahead for the future of Swiss cinema?
(l-r) Emmanuel Cuénod, Edouard Waintrop, Klaus Rasmussen and Christian Jungen during a Connect to Reality conference (© Locarno Festival)

Locarno Festival's Industry Days, directed by Nadia Dresti who is the vice artistic director of the festival and Industry Days manager (read the interview here) kicked off with the Connect to Reality programme and is due to continue its journey at the Zurich Film Festival on 2 October and the Geneva International Film Festival on 7 November. Nadia Dresti has worked with Emmanuel Cuénod, the director of the Geneva International Film Festival, and Karl Spoerri, the director of the Zurich Film Festival, in order to create a place where Swiss cinema professionals and international guests can discuss pertinent issues. There’s currently an urgency to define strategies for increasing the market share of local cinema within Swiss territories, which is currently only at 5%, and to improve its international allure, with a focus on festivals and cinemas in particular. So how do you make Swiss cinema attractive in your own country as well as abroad? What's the best way to get growing audiences into cinemas? These are some of the important questions raised during the first steps of the Connect to Reality programme.

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About 60 personalities from the Swiss cinema world, along with guests from around ten European countries, gathered at six tables to discuss issues relating to the distribution and visibility of Swiss cinema both in Switzerland and abroad.

The lecturers at Connect to Reality's first stage in Locarno included: Edouard Waintrop, Directors ' Fortnight at Cannes and director of Cinema du Grütli in Geneva, Klaus Rasmussen, who is responsible for sales and acquisitions for German company Global Screen, and Christian Jungen who is the head of the cultural section for NZZ am Sonntag and introduced his personal vision on how Swiss cinema can garner success abroad. The many professionals present in the room reacted strongly to this vision - or perhaps statistic - which was far from their perception of artistic practices and the goals they have already achieved. Among the numerous other guests who participated in the various workshops were directors of the Solothurn, Zurich, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Friborg and Hamburg festivals, European distributors, producers, international sellers  - The Match Factory, Doc & Film, Loco Films, Cinephil and Beta Cinema - as well as representatives from various institutions and film funds.

At the end of the 90-minute debate, the audience was welcomed back for a summary in which the six notetakers - one for each working group -  presented conclusions and proposed solutions. The audience was then given the opportunity to ask questions. It's difficult to summarise the strong points of this first Locarnese edition in just a few words, but what's certain is that the Connect to Reality project didn't leave anyone feeling indifferent.

The final reports coming from the various notetakers raised different issues: the importance of festivals in the film distribution circuit, the proposal to make media chronicles more flexible in order to allow professionals to better manage their distribution strategy, increasing time and money with regard to the development phase of a film, in order to ensure the quality of the script or even the importance of prior reflections, which audiences to attract, and distribution objectives.

The various participants also highlighted the idea that films should benefit from a business plan tailored to their broadcasting goals. Among the criteria that would help film circulation were the following: the quality of the script, the presence of strong artistic distribution, the director's fame, a willingness to work with promising talent and, as previously stated, being selected for an internationally famous film festival.

Many participants also claimed that, in their opinion, the Swiss film financing system is no longer well adapted to current needs. In this regard, it was proposed that the Federal Office of Culture collects more statistics about audiences in order to develop appropriate strategies, as well as maybe implementing test strategies.

Always with the audience in mind, issues regarding the importance of encouraging the creation of new strategies to attract younger audiences to cinemas were raised, as well as a lack of "new levers" for distribution.

Another important point concerned the image of Swiss cinema abroad, where it’s perhaps not considered to be adequately glamorous or attractive. Switzerland's exit from the MEDIA funding system has certainly not played in its favour. The documentary film, however, remains Swiss cinema's strong point and accounts for almost half of its revenue at a national level.

(Translated from Italian)

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