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Matthijs Wouter Knol • Director, European Film Market

“Content is king, independent of technologies, platforms, new players or financing options”


- Matthijs Wouter Knol offers Cineuropa a broad overview of what is changing at this year’s EFM and the hot topics for the industry

Matthijs Wouter Knol   • Director, European Film Market
(© Doreen Reichenbach)

With the fifth edition of the European Film Market (EFM) helmed by Matthijs Wouter Knol just around the corner (7-15 February), he offers Cineuropa a broad overview of what is changing this year and the hot topics for the industry.

Cineuropa: What are the major changes that you have seen in the industry over the last few years?
Matthijs Wouter Knol
: The technological transformations of the past decade are still ongoing and are having a huge impact on the film business. These changes are currently shaping the future of our industry and have an effect on all players in the value chain – writers, producers, actors, investors, financiers, sales people, buyers, broadcasters and streaming platforms. The arrival of the latter group on the market is shaking up the existing structures both in distribution and in production, especially when questions are raised around whether a feature film is “real” if it is produced and shown by them. Besides that, there have also been structural and thematic developments, such as the long-overdue topics of diversity and inclusion that have finally started to be discussed and are being acted upon.

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Will these progressive markets like EFM Horizon and Drama Series Days force the traditional film marketplaces to adapt or evolve? Are they a threat?
We should not adapt or evolve – we are already adapting and evolving, because the changes to the marketplace are happening right now. There are new players, new business models and new industry sectors coming into play. Consequently, we do not have any other choice but to rethink the traditional models. But – and this is an important but – the core business of the EFM will always be film and related audiovisual content. Content is king, independent of technologies, platforms, new players, financing options or what have you. To answer your question: no, I do not think these changes are a threat; they are a challenge that has to be dealt with and an opportunity to unveil new possibilities. Over the past five years, the EFM has been able to equip itself in order to be the flexible market that it is today.

As you mentioned, diversity and inclusion are now being discussed; why is it important for a market to focus on these social aspects?
For us, it is not just a social aspect. In several studies and publications by partner organisations, such as McKinsey and the USC Annenberg Institute, diversity and inclusion are important factors to reckon with when it comes to business success. From the very beginning, the EFM started including these elements in its Diversity programme, underlining the economic value. It’s a proven fact that diverse teams make companies flourish, and that inclusive stories make a significant difference at the box office. Not stressing that within a market context would be looking away from the changes that are happening right in front of our eyes. It would also be ignoring the growing relevance of a group that the industry has not acknowledged enough in past decades. The EFM and the Berlinale have put this on their agendas since summer 2017, and have been able to become a leading voice when it comes to policy making and empowerment. Today, diversity and inclusion permeate all initiatives of the market, from EFM Horizon to a series of events within the “Norway in Focus” programme with the Norwegian Film Institute, as well as the EFM Producers Hub, the Berlinale Africa Hub and the DocSalon (see the news).

What is your experience of Norway being the third “Country in Focus” at the EFM?
It has been a very good experience. After Mexico and Canada, we are now looking forward to welcoming Norwegian creatives to this year’s market. With around 70 participating countries at the EFM each year, one might think there is already enough cultural variety and presence. But focusing specifically on one country offers the unique opportunity to learn more about their national film industry and to connect with their players, as every country has its own strengths and specific characteristics. I am very excited about this year’s plentiful activities that have been put together in collaboration with the Norwegian Film Institute.

How close is your collaboration with the Berlinale Co-Production Market and Berlinale Talents?
Very close indeed. This collaboration is an important key that offers industry professionals an all-round package. Berlinale Talents gives us the opportunity to discover emerging film professionals and give them access to the film business, while the Berlinale Co-Production Market, a carefully curated platform rich in new, high-quality projects, is an important partner for us when it comes to providing producers with an effective market. Plus, it is a source of knowledge regarding their role in the near future and the kind of projects they are, and will be, working on.

Why did you decide to restrict visitors’ access over the first weekend of the EFM?
We are very grateful for the interest in and demand for exhibition space at the EFM. With the increase in visitor numbers, we were forced to adapt the admission policy for safety reasons, as the number of people allowed in the historic Gropius Bau is limited. During the last few months, the EFM team has been working very hard to ensure that all market visitors will nevertheless have smooth and easy access to the building. It is crucial that these new regulations don’t affect the business activities of our clients, and we value our long-standing relationship with each of them. The team also informed our exhibitors about the change and assisted them in finding appropriate solutions where necessary.

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