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CANNES 2017 Industry

Exploring how to better promote and distribute European films around the world at Cannes

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- CANNES 2017: At the round-table organised by the EFADs and the European Commission, the focus was on finding solutions to improve the export, promotion and distribution of European films worldwide

Exploring how to better promote and distribute European films around the world at Cannes
(© CNC)

Is Europe a production giant or an “export dwarf”? That was one of the first questions asked at the round-table discussion held on 21 May, during the Cannes Film Festival. According to Martin Kanzler, of the European Audiovisual Observatory, it’s actually… a bit of both. While the number of European film exports has grown from around 400 to 600 movies per year, only one in five European flicks gets exported outside Europe. And that’s not to mention that as far as admissions go, he said, the USA is still “in a league of its own. In comparison to these numbers, everyone else is a dwarf. But among the dwarves, Europe at least seems to be the biggest one,” added Kanzler.

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Popular European releases can be divided into three groups: big-budget action-thrillers, animated family films, and high-profile arthouse dramas – preferably co-productions shot in English with an international cast and based on familiar content. But as director general of the CNC Christophe Tardieu was quick to stress, the fight for European cinema goes way beyond simple financial motives. “It is not just about a bigger and better presence at the international markets. Cultural diversity is a priority for us, especially when dominant players such as Netflix want to impose their own rules and force their cultural imperialism on the rest of the world,” he added, referring to the controversial addition to this year’s main competition on the Côte d’Azur.

As the participants (including, among others, Lucía RecaldeEuropean CommissionDaniela ElstnerDoc & Film International and Europa InternationalRichard LorberKino LorberChristian BrauerAG Kino and Europa CinemasDaniel Melamed, New Cinema Israel and Europa DistributionCatherine Trautmann and Roberto OllaEurimages; and Loïc WongInstitut Français) shared their own experiences, most seemed to agree on one thing: change cannot be stopped. This is also why, as stressed by Martin Schweighofer (president of European Film Promotion), it’s crucial to encourage younger people to discover European films – films they simply do not watch. “This discussion could have happened last year – we are always talking about the same things, and it’s really boring,” he admitted rather bluntly. “We need to discover who these kids are and why they don’t go to the cinema. That really is the essential thing: how do we communicate with the YouTube generation? We need to pick their brains and see why they want to see something, how they watch it, and whether or not they pay for it. So we can meet again next year and have the same discussion, or we can finally address these things.”

While covering everything from festival exposure to using national funds and EU programmes, the participants seemed to arrive at a similar conclusion: in order to reach out to the new audiences, Europe has to present a united front. “We need to develop a strong market share for our cinema, and in order to do that, I have three suggestions,” said Loïc Wong. “We need a network of European audiovisual attachés – and teamwork, because we don’t work together sometimes. I also think we have a problem with commercial material, which is necessary for online promotion,” he added.

Catherine Trautmann, president of Eurimages, echoed that sentiment. “We need an organisation which would be able to promote the trademarks of European cinema, and European cinema as a trademark. We need to reaffirm that European films are global – even if they are in different languages.”

One thing is sure: when it comes to European films, the search for effective solutions in an overcrowded and ever-evolving market is likely to continue. But if the discussion was any indication at all, it’s not going to be a struggle that has to be faced alone. 

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