Dan Clifton • Chairman, Federation of European Film Directors (FERA)
"There's a growing need for directors to be more engaged in the whole life cycle of their films"
- Cineuropa met up with Dan Clifton, chairman of the Federation of European Film Directors, to talk about current relations between the creative side and the rest of the industry
The Federation of European Film Directors (FERA), the organisation that represents film directors in the industry, has recently been at the centre of an important issue: in an ever-changing system, how can directors have more control over and awareness of what they have created? Established in 1980, the federation stands behind directors as the primary creators of audiovisual works, whilst committing to safeguarding their economic rights once the work is lost in the industry whirlwind, in the hands of festival programmers, sales agents, distributors, exhibitors and so on. The FERA is present at some of the most important film festivals and events to address the issues surrounding this situation. Recently, Tallinn’s Black Nights Film Festival hosted a panel entitled “Directors and the Changing World of Distribution: Time to Take Charge?” where directors Laila Pakalnina (Dawn [+see also:
film profile]), Franz Müller (Happy Hour [+see also:
film profile]) and Christina Rosendahl (The Idealist [+see also:
film profile]) shared their own experiences and opinions. Moderating the panel, FERA chairman Dan Clifton met up with us to discuss these timely topics.
Cineuropa: Industry is key for film, but directors are its principal source. How can they get more involved in it?
Dan Clifton: At the moment, there is an imbalance in the value chain, where the creative investment of directors is not being properly rewarded. That is holding back not only creativity, but the growth of the audiovisual industries more generally: to grow the audiovisual sector, you need to reward creativity and build sustainable careers for authors. So in terms of getting more involved, a starting point is seeing this imbalance redressed.
What are the main problems right now in the path from creation to promotion of films?
It's the familiar problems of investment and distribution - added to that an extremely competitive environment with the aggressive growth of VoD. Another cloud on the horizon are the Commission's proposals on territoriality - you have to applaud the sentiment, and as directors, we are excited about the opportunities for our works to be seen more widely, but it seems a crazy way to go about it. We look forward to seeing the concrete proposals when they are published.
What are FERA's activities to try to solve these problems?
At the moment, we are actively involved with our author partners (ECSA, EFJ, EWC and FSE) in ensuring that the Commission's DSM proposals address the issue of fair remuneration and contracts for directors and other authors (you can read FERA/FSE's paper Author's Remuneration: A Problem at the Heart of Copyright here). We are pleased that Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip recognises that fair remuneration for authors must be addressed in the Digital Single Market proposals. More broadly, we are now engaged in mobilising our members in their own countries to put pressure on their governments and MEPs to ensure this key plank of reform is addressed.
Recently, a new figure has appeared: that of the directors who also produce and distribute their own films. Is this a desired evolution?
I don't think there's anything particularly new about directors working across several roles - after all, we want our works to be made and seen. However, as the digital market grows, we think there's a growing need for directors to be more engaged in the whole life cycle of their films - they are well placed to champion their works and promote them to audiences. So I don't think it's about replacing the traditional roles of producer/distributor, but rather seeing those roles evolve into new partnerships in which all the players in the value chain can collaborate to ensure a film's success.
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