Dorina Oargă • Project manager, TIFF Unlimited
“We aim to have a portfolio that is as dynamic as possible”
by Ştefan Dobroiu
- At its 18th edition, the Transilvania IFF became even more audience-friendly thanks to the VoD service TIFF Unlimited; project manager Dorina Oargă told us about the platform’s plans for the future
There is a good chance that the film directors and producers invited to the Transilvania International Film Festival (31 May-9 June, Cluj-Napoca) will know Dorina Oargă best as the festival’s enthusiastic head of industry, but over the last year, she has also been in charge of TIFF Unlimited, the VoD platform launched on 6 June (see the news). Here is what she had to say about the long path leading up to the launch, the curatorial challenges of TIFF Unlimited and the audience target group that the platform may pay more attention to in the future.
Cineuropa: TIFF Unlimited is not the first VoD platform you have been involved with. How did your experience with Cinepub, which focused exclusively on Romanian films, help you to create a more efficient platform?
Dorina Oargă: Yes, I managed Cinepub together with its founder, Lucian Georgescu. It was a project I have always loved; it made me realise how much I appreciate VoD, a service that is always extremely dynamic, continuously expecting you to find solutions and be inventive. When I left Cinepub in 2016, I somewhat forgot these aspects, until Tudor Giurgiu [the founder and current president of the Transilvania IFF] mentioned, maybe one year ago, that it would be cool to attach a VoD platform to the festival.
Soon after, I saw an advertisement for the EUROVOD workshop in Venice, and after I attended that and found out more about all of the challenges that European VoD platforms have to face, my immediate thought was, “We can do it!” We applied for a grant from the Romanian National Film Center, and after winning, there was no turning back! We had our moments when we were not exactly convinced that the platform would be a success, because the technical issues were quite complicated. After working for months with a software company, we realised that we had to change direction, and then we reached out to Vimeo and their OTT services. We also found a local partner, PitechPlus, and they helped us investigate various possibilities regarding the infrastructure.
What was the most difficult aspect of creating TIFF Unlimited? Getting the rights for the films? Advertising the platform?
At first, it was the technical part, as it was very complicated. The Vimeo template is quite easy to use, but it has its limitations – for example, implementing the payment solutions. This is one of the platform’s main issues, which is quite obvious from the customers’ feedback, and we still need to find a solution to make it simpler and more intuitive. As you mentioned the rights owners, that aspect went quite smoothly actually, as everyone was eagerly waiting for this kind of platform.
Currently, we show films that have previously been distributed in Romania by Transilvania Film, Independenţa Film and Bad Unicorn. VoD is an excellent way for distributors to show their films to a new audience. As for movies without local distributors, we got the rights directly from the international sales agents. It’s good exposure for them, too, as those titles won’t be shown in Romania in any other format. Given their positive reaction, we are currently in negotiations for long-term partnerships for future titles and past titles.
You advertised the fact that the portfolio of titles would be updated twice a month. Does that mean that certain films will be replaced, or do you plan to expand the list of titles ad infinitum?
Some films will disappear from the platform and others will be included. Together with Mihai Chirilov (artistic director of the Transilvania IFF), we plan to curate the platform as attentively as possible, and introduce various programmes and film packages – for example, retrospectives or country focuses. In its 18-year history, the festival has had so many programmes that we can play with. We have the rights to the films for one year, and we can show each movie for two or three months, so a film can be re-included in the portfolio, most probably as part of a new package of titles. We don’t plan to greatly increase the number of titles available at a given moment, because having too wide a range of choices can make choosing a certain title more difficult, discouraging the users. We aim to have a portfolio that is as dynamic as possible. Of course, the users will be informed when a certain film is going to be removed from the platform.
What are your expectations regarding the number of subscribers in the future, and what are you doing to increase the platform’s popularity?
We made an effort to launch the platform during the festival so that it would get the greatest exposure possible. We will continue to promote TIFF Unlimited over the summer, using the festival’s satellite events, meaning the smaller-scale editions in Bucharest, Sibiu, Oradea, Kishinev (we also plan to make the platform available in Moldova) and Alba-Iulia, plus all of the cities visited by the TIFF Caravan. We also plan to cross-promote with other big cultural events in Romania. As for our expectations, we hope to reach 2,000 one-year subscriptions by the end of 2019. We started the pre-sales on 31 May, and the feedback was excellent; we have now exceeded 500 subscriptions, and the emails keep coming.
Besides new films and new curatorial packages, how do you see the future of TIFF Unlimited? Are you thinking about any particular new avenue that the platform could explore in the future?
We have thought about EducaTIFF [the festival’s sidebar that screens films for students of various ages and encourages them to talk about the experience] and approaching schools in order to develop film literacy, but all of the plans in this area are only tentative right now. In any case, the festival has always prospected for new ways to reach the younger audience, and I am sure that we can develop a very cool film education project as part of EducaTIFF. The official statistics say that 78% of Romanian households are connected to the internet, so a platform like TIFF Unlimited could compensate for the lack of cinemas in Romania.
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