The digital opportunity at the Sunny Side of the Doc
- A conference entitled "Storytelling reality: the digital opportunity" was held in La Rochelle by several independent producers' organisations
Traditional players, new game: in the end, many of the panels scheduled on day two of Sunny Side of the Doc No. 29 (25 to 28 June) were dedicated to a reflection hinging on this very practical dichotomy that the industry needs to address, starting with the conference entitled "Storytelling reality: the digital opportunity," organised by several French independent producers' organisations (SPI, USPA, PXN, SPECT, SPFA) – while in the Agora, another panel was debating on whether blue chip culture was "dead or alive."
The participants, who had previously discussed digital creation in relation to new formats and new screens at a forum held in France, back in April, started by expressing concern for the lack of means provided by broadcasters in their budgets, despite younger audiences' clear loss of interest for linear programming and the traditional TV screen. This insufficiency is matched by public support (national and regional), which is not strong enough, by far, to respond to the "need to think beyond linear and screen," as described by Alexandre Hallier (La Générale de Production). Flexibility in financing is also crucial, the panellists agreed, as the already vast typology of contents made for linear broadcasting falls largely behind the ungraspable plurality of a digital sphere, which Laurent Duret (Bachibouzouk) considers a "never-ending mutant." In fact, VR always necessitates other sources of financing, he added.A whole new culture clearly has to emerge. Not that everything should be erased: pre-financing is a good system, for instance (dropping it would in fact probably crush everything, besides making the lives of the creators much more difficult), but the system needs to be reinvented, and fed appropriately.
The fact that interactive creation is always "the poor cousin" of linear production also has to do with the fact that the job of producing content is mostly left to broadcasters, as Chloé Jarry (VR, AR & New Media producer at Camera Lucida) pointed out, when cultural institutions should also get involved in producing as well as delivering content. Indeed, for lack of other sources, the public, especially younger audiences, does most of its browsing for content on YouTube, which also means that the offer accessible to them is mainly centred on video. For Jarry, as creation remains, more than ever, of social and economic interest, it falls on the public sector, starting with education, to identify and develop new ways of bringing knowledge to (young) audiences, and to create places for digital discovery (labs, studios, etc. – which is something YouTube already does, for that matter), where creative, interactive content could be enjoyed by people who might not have the means to consume it at home.
One last important theme in the discussion was transparency of data and access to the algorithms used by all platforms as part of a "digital social contract" which would force them to share the secret they are so reluctant to attend panels and forums to talk about, says Théo Laboulandine (producer at Melocoton Films). It is indeed difficult to adapt without information on how it works.Broadcasters are advancing slowly, but they are trying, and the DataGueule experience, instigated by France Télévisions and co-created by panellist Henri Poulain (StoryCircus), is a good example of that, and an encouraging one too.