Visions du Réel discusses the film industry during these times of Covid-19
- Online markets, new resources for development and co-productions and the question of how to ensure continuity and cash flows for European producers all formed the basis of discussions in Nyon
The crisis generated by the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated various processes which were already in the offing at different levels of the sector: this was the idea uniting all those who participated in the online panel discussion “Industry Talk #2 – The Film Industry in Corona-Times”, which was held on 28 April as part of the Visions du Réel Festival.
Stating their agreement on this point were the markets, represented by Jérôme Paillard, executive director of Cannes’ Marché du Film, and Marit van den Elshout, helming IFFR PRO - the industry section of the Rotterdam Film Festival - who both stressed the fact that certain professionals were already expressing a desire to reduce travel towards markets and film festivals around the world, a decision closely linked to environmental sustainability, for example. “Perhaps this pandemic will encourage those in the industry to only attend markets on the other side of the world every other year, alternating physical attendance with online participation”.
Besides this, there’s also the possibility of “attending a market which was previously inaccessible to you for the very first time because you were physically unable to take part in it” – adds Paillard, who goes on to explain that this first online edition of the Marché will be something of an experiment: “we will screen films at the same time in different countries, irrespective of time zones”, and it will also provide them with “the gift of ubiquity”, thanks to parallel sections such as Cannes Docs, for example, which will be scheduled at the same time as Sunny Side of the Doc, “whom we’re working with so as to ensure some form of coordination, so that people can be in Cannes and in La Rochelle at the same time”. On the animation front, too, negotiations are underway with the Annecy Film Festival to organise an “Annecy goes to Cannes” section, which will unspool alongside the speed meetings which are also animation focused.
Border closures make it particularly difficult to think about co-productions which, for some countries, are more or less the only viable option for producing films capable of competing on the market. “It’s important to keep co-production contacts alive and well and, above all, we need to encourage younger producers, for whom a physical presence and the surrounding environment are particularly important” – states Laurent Steiert from the film department of Swizerland’s Federal Office of Culture – “and, of course, national funds will need to show greater flexibility in terms of the artistic and technical demands they place on co-productions”.
Clearly, production will slow down significantly and this is the reason why “many national funds are pouring resources from production into development”, observes Roberto Olla, executive director of Eurimages. The European Council programme supporting international co-productions didn’t have time to panic, given that its support system is based on a decisional process involving forty-one member states. As Olla explains: “we had a deadline of 16 April which we met. We then introduced a written procedure, which new projects will now have to follow once they’ve been assessed in Strasburg and discussed via video conference”.
The name of the game? Ensuring a minimum of continuity and cash flow for European producers, “those who were already on set and had to halt filming and to whom we’ve allocated the first instalment of funding thanks to a ‘force majeure’ provision in our agreement. In order to do this, we completed the dematerialisation process which we’d already been working on and which now allows us to make payments and sign contracts digitally”. Then there’s the question of the funding tranche which would have been paid after the film’s release in the various co-producing countries, another case covered by the force majeure clause: “we will also pay this last instalment, both to those who decided to delay their film’s release to a later date, as well as to those who chose to release their films on VOD platforms”.
Another important element of this credit facilitation strategy is the reduction of payment instalments from three to two: “this action was also on the agenda; now the board has approved it, and this seems to be a good sign for the industry: we will pay 70% of the support due on the first day of shooting, and this, I believe, will provide producers with a healthy amount of breathing space”.
Finally, Olla spoke about some other measures he intends to put to the Eurimages board, derived from two suggestions put forward by the European Producers Club: “the first involves extending the time period ahead of filming over which our support is valid: at present, it lasts one year and I will ask for this to become two. The second, which is more challenging but important nonetheless, is the request to reduce the percentage of secured finance that is required in each territory before applying for Eurimages funding, which at present stands at 50%. This measure would concern higher budget films; that is, those relying on various sources of funding, such as a broadcaster or a distributer (films which don’t benefit from public funding, as often happens with arthouse films). I’m taking about budgets of at least 750,000 euros, for which, at this particular point in time, it’s difficult for broadcasters to achieve 50% (at least while casting sessions aren’t an option), or for distributers to be prepared to offer a minimum guarantee. In these conditions, it’s difficult to think about securing 50% of a film’s funding. There’s a risk it will result in a vicious circle and, for this reason, I want to bring this proposal to the board’s attention, as well as the suggestion to reduce the level of technical and artistic cooperation demanded of co-productions”.
In terms of finished products, meanwhile, and more specifically in relation to series or documentaries, there’s huge demand on the part of broadcasters who could find themselves short of products in a few months’ time, points out Heino Deckert, Managing Director of German firm Deckert Distribution, a production, distribution and international sales outfit which offers one small piece of advice: “Don’t send us any more movies made by filmmakers home alone during Coronavirus. I’ve already been sent a dozen or so, and to be honest, I’ve also proposed one of my own to an Italian TV network who rejected it because they’d already had enough!”
The complete video of the conference is available here.
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