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Berlinale 2021 - EFM

Industry Report: Market Trends

What future for the European audiovisual industry? The EFM presents a dedicated discussion about the challenges facing the sector


BERLINALE 2021: The panel, entitled “Perspectives for the Future of the Audiovisual Industry in Europe”, explored the disruption caused by the pandemic within the sector as well as upcoming challenges

What future for the European audiovisual industry? The EFM presents a dedicated discussion about the challenges facing the sector
The panel participants

The online panel “Perspectives for the Future of the Audiovisual Industry in Europe” was held during the European Film Market on 2 March. Last year, the Berlinale was the last great physical event held before the outbreak really began to reach Europe, and nobody could have imagined the disruption that the health crisis would cause at all levels.

What are the sector's challenges ahead? What changes will the pandemic bring in the short and long run? Who would have thought that cinemas would be closed for such a long period, or that productions themselves would be halted? These are some of the questions tackled by the speakers attending the event, opened by the welcome speeches of moderator AC Coppens and MEP, Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament Sabine Verheyen.

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A discussion between EFM director Dennis Ruh and Head of the European Commission's Unit Audiovisual Industry and Media Support Programmes Lucia Recalde followed. Ruh pointed out the major difficulties of planning this virtual edition of the EFM, after the initial idea to make a hybrid event had to be abandoned. Recalde highlighted the significant increase in Creative Europe's budget for the period 2021-2027 and explained that two of the programme’s main points of focus will be sustainability and the green transformation of the sector, and the promotion of inclusion and diversity. “There will be no revolution in our action, but there'll certainly be an evolution to make the programme fit the challenges brought on by the pandemic,” she added.

Next, AC Coppens introduced the participants of the second discussion, namely Karin Anell, Head of Commercial Business & International Affairs at Wildside; Rikke Ennis, CEO of REinvent Studios; Danielle Giroux, Head of Distribution and Publishing at Atlas V; Christof Papousek, CFO at Constantin Film & Cineplexx group; and Jaume Ripoll, co-founder and Head of Content at Filmin. In the first round of contributions, the speakers highlighted the obvious effects of the pandemic on their businesses and on film production, such as increased costs to implement health regulations on sets, rewrites of scenes to avoid crowds or to choose safer locations, as well as other forced changes of plan. Speaking about the specific field of immersive filmmaking, Giroux interestingly explained that their studio's “very indie mindset” was helpful for coping with the crisis and shift to an international co-production model, using third parties for certain types of services and sharing equities on the projects. The staff were already used to communicating digitally, but pitching and attending markets still remains one of the major challenges.

Meanwhile, Ennis highlighted that the crisis is proving that some remote work is possible, especially in terms of post-production, as certain tools allow directors and editors to cooperate without being together in the same room. She also added that the developments coming from this forced transformation might make the European market more flexible and competitive.

Ripoll said that consumption of VoD content on Filmin has roughly doubled over the last 12 months, and even old titles that had limited to no releases gained significant traction. He also touched upon the problem of content production overload, which should be accompanied by proper qualitative growth. Talking about the same topic, Papousek added: “People are confused by the huge offering. For each production, you need to make people aware of each of them. We need financing models linked with advertising and sales strategies for each production and for each release platform. Besides, cinemas need strong promotional support for their comeback.” Anell praised Italy's increased tax credit (now set at 40%), which is proving to be successful and boosted production, as the country has a considerable number of active sets.

Speaking about the 3-7 years prospects for the exhibition sector, Papousek sees a positive future for theatres, as he argues that the physical experience will remain irreplaceable. He also reminded that cinemas are among the safest places, even during this period of pandemic. Ripoll believes that major Hollywood studios will actually decide the future of windows and expressed concerns about sharing subscribers data with bigger competitors. Anell, meanwhile, predicted that cinemas would become places for sharing culture and entertainment, hosting not just film screenings but also other types of events, such as football games or opera. Ennis agreed with Anell and added: “Despite the consolidation of platforms, local players will survive, and virtual reality will explode. Audiences will have much more decision power and perhaps even participate more actively in financing.” Giroux concluded that the future will see strong collaborations between cinemas and VR to offer an increasingly diverse audience a real “expanded experience.”

The event was rounded off by a Q&A session and Recalde's closing remarks.

You can watch a recording of the discussion here.

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