email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on reddit pin on Pinterest

CPH:DOX 2020 CPH:DOX Industry

Despite the lockdown, it’s “business as unusual” at CPH:FORUM


- The industry part of CPH:DOX opened with an online discussion providing an overview of COVID-19’s impact on the documentary film industry

Despite the lockdown, it’s “business as unusual” at CPH:FORUM

Forced to respond to the pandemic mere days before its opening, CPH:DOX has since successfully launched online, providing its audience with a chance to see films and debates, but also maintaining some industry activities – a much-needed development, as it turned out, and one that brought out many smiles. “I have missed my international family, and here you are!” observed Axel Arnö, commissioning editor at SVT. “We felt an obligation to figure out a solution to keep the promise we have made to filmmakers and the industry,” explained Tereza Simikova, head of CPH:FORUM. “That’s how we built an online festival – in a week!”

(The article continues below - Commercial information)
series serie

The first-ever digital CPH:FORUM started with a discussion, followed by networking in the virtual meeting rooms. “‘Business as unusual’ has been the tagline for our industry activities, and every year, we wonder if we can justify it. This year, it’s more pertinent than ever,” said Katrine Kiilgaard, deputy director and head of industry and training. “These are unprecedented times: we are experiencing some of the gravest steps against our civil liberties since World War II. But Edward Snowden pinned it down for me [during the live talk]: temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies. We need to see more tests being done at other events to critically assess the pros and cons before we more on.”

Six industry experts weighed in on the problems faced by the industry during the lockdown, starting with Lucia Recalde, head of unit for the Creative Europe - MEDIA programme. “It shows how resilient and innovative the European documentary sector is,” she commented, clearly appreciative of the new platform. “The European Commission is doing everything it can to provide an urgent and coordinated response in order to mitigate the impact. To reduce the economic implications, a package of ‘exceptional measures’ was set up on 13 March.” Moreover, work is being done to grant extensions to help out the projects on hold or to submit applications. “We are doing everything we can to fight the crisis and its impact on the audiovisual sectors.”

“Fortunately, we can still talk to each other,” observed Gianluca De Angelis, legal representative of the Italian Documentary Association. “The situation [in Italy] is not good, leading to the paralysis of the documentary sector.” Indeed, there, more than 100 productions have been suspended, more than 700 professionals are out of work, and 1,500 working days have been lost. “Our government replied with an allocation of €130 million for the whole sector, and we asked our national broadcaster to speed up the process of building Rai Doc. But now, we feel the need to talk internationally, as it’s not just our system that’s at risk. Without a European network, nothing can be done.”

Maëlle Guenegues, festivals and acquisitions manager at CAT&Docs, commented on the situation for a “lost generation of films”, as Simikova put it. “Filmmakers are obsessed with the ‘physical’ premiere, and there is no answer to this. We can only count on the solidarity of the industry. It’s a word I have seen used a lot, and I hope it’s not just going to be a hashtag on Facebook,” she said. “There are always winners and losers in times of crisis, but we need to make sure that emerging voices are seen and are able to make a living. There is a need to centralise all of the actions as we are taking steps on our own, not realising that they can be damaging. I feel like we are creating an audience that won’t even know it’s possible to pay to see somebody’s work!”

Axel Arnö added: “As a public broadcaster, we are vital for society, which means that we are concentrating on news and current affairs. A lot of other production has stalled,” he explained. “Most of us are still in a reactive mode, rather than a proactive one, but there is a spike in ratings, with the daily viewing figures up by 14% in Europe. Something we did, and it was an interesting experiment, was that we decided to fill the void left by live sports with documentaries. People flocked to the docs!” he said, stressing the importance of being creative. “As broadcasters, we can do digital documentary festivals. There are so many things that we can and will do.”

Finally, Signe Byrge Sørensen, a producer from Final Cut for Real, talked on behalf of “the most vulnerable element of the food chain”: individual filmmakers. “In the documentary community, we often say, as a joke, that reality is stranger than fiction, and indeed it is right now. And it’s not a joke. We are used to a certain amount of uncertainty, but this is more than most of us have seen before,” she noted. “Like Axel said, there is a lot we can still do, and so much of our work can happen from our laptop at home. But there is another thing we need to think about: how we can look after each other. We need to keep in touch, and events like this are important.”

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

Privacy Policy