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Venice 2022 – Venice Production Bridge

Industry Report: New Media

At the Venice Production Bridge, French experts discuss XR distribution strategies

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VENICE 2022: During the talk, it emerged that marketing strategies are playing a much bigger role than in the past, affecting the whole creative process

At the Venice Production Bridge, French experts discuss XR distribution strategies
l-r: Mathieu Gayet, Danielle Giroux, Marie Blondiaux and Voyelle Acker during the discussion

On 2 September, Venice Production Bridge’s Spazio Incontri Immersivo hosted a panel discussion titled “How to Think XR Distribution Strategies From an Early Stage: French Experts’ Perspectives”, moderated by Mathieu Gayet, of XR Must, and organised by Unifrance as part of Venice Immersive’s “France in Focus” initiative. The event saw the participation of Marie Blondiaux (founder of and producer at Red Corner), Voyelle Acker (co-founder of and producer at Small Creative) and Danielle Giroux (XR distributor at Astrea).

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After the introduction, Gayet gave the floor to Acker, who explained how her company found out that “there was a lack of exchanges and discussions about many challenges, including distribution. […] Therefore, with five other big studios, we created a collective called French Immersive Studios.” In detail, the collective offers a comprehensive set of services deployable on a large scale, and provides French artistic, technical and business expertise across the entirety of the immersive field. It also offers a “one-stop shop” for the French International Tax Rebate. Notably, in France, international immersive productions budgeted at above €250,000 can claim up to 30% in tax rebates, whilst those that are budgeted at over €2 million can claim a tax rebate of up to 40%.

During the festival, Small Creative presented two projects: a 210-minute VR game about fishing, co-produced with Switzerland’s RTS, and Isabelle Andreani’s XR experience WOWL, co-produced with Luxembourgish partners.

Blondiaux admitted that her group is still searching for “the right ways to distribute AR and VR works, and experimental games” by trying to follow “a non-profit distribution model” and addressing the video-gaming market in particular. She disclosed that Red Corner is currently working on two projects: a three-hour game titled Fight Back (now in production), and another game aimed at PC and console users, presently in pre-production.

Giroux explained how her team of five has been distributing immersive content for one year now, handling a catalogue of 70 projects. Their focus is on both online and in-person distribution. She pointed out how this type of distribution requires extensive “online community engagement” alongside “360-degree marketing strategies”. They work particularly with spaces already equipped to distribute the experiences and manage a wide range of activities, including international licensing and subscription-based services.

Next, Acker stressed how, even more so than distribution concerns, one must think about exploitation issues. “The more you produce, the more time you spend on ‘engineering’ exploitation strategies,” she said, adding that this risks overshadowing the financial, artistic and technical priorities. “Our jobs have changed a lot, and they will change even more. We have to deal with that; everything is a little bit more complicated and schizophrenic,” she concluded. Therefore, Acker argued, finding the right partners handling this type of work is of crucial importance.

Later, Blondiaux highlighted how, over the last ten years, the team’s priorities have shifted from working on the content, learning how to use the engine and co-operating together efficiently with a “market-free” approach, to a focus that requires them to “calibrate projects” for more precisely defined market segments, wherein research and development must be planned even more carefully.

Giroux added that educating audiences is one of the key distribution activities in this phase, as viewers are excited but need to gain an awareness of this new tech’s potential. Speaking about physical distribution, Giroux revealed that the network of exhibitors was built up thanks to the pre-existing connections of the founders of Atlas V (Astrea’s parent company); it has also developed across Asia and North America, and comprises both “permanent” and “liminal” partners. The former usually need to receive new content on a regular basis and work with Astrea on a subscription-based model.

In the last part of the panel, the experts tackled other topics, such as technical barriers, diversity, social-media creators and the management of online ecosystems.

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