MEDIA Desk Germany explores “Visions of a Creative Europe”
- The online conference offered a cultural round trip across Europe, and discussed how film and media will shape our future society
On the occasion of the German EU Council presidency, MEDIA Desk Germany hosted an online conference entitled “Visions of a Creative Europe” on 16 September, where filmmakers, industry representatives and politicians discussed how film and media will shape our future society in Europe. The event was hosted and moderated by AC Coppens. In order to bolster the distribution of high-quality films, series and games across national borders, Monika Grütters, Minister of State for Culture and the Media in Germany, is taking a stand to provide the Creative Europe programme and the MEDIA Desks with an appropriate financial framework.
The media industry is facing many challenges, but the programme offers myriad opportunities for strengthening and developing European film and enhancing its power to change society. “By pooling our efforts, and with political support from my ministry and elsewhere, we will strengthen and preserve European film as the mirror of a dynamic and diverse society,” Grütters stated. The competition between the major streaming platforms and independent providers, the problem of fragmented audiences, the challenge of new business models and technical innovations: these are all issues that have been concerning the industry for some time. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought a lot of forced stoppage, at times also acted as a catalyst for innovation. The fields of production, distribution, festivals and cinemas had to rethink their strategies and act swiftly.”
With the new “Cinemas as Innovation Hubs for Local Communities” funding line, for example, the programme supports pilot projects intended to facilitate new forms of cinema experience and to promote the networking of exhibitors, but this also applies to platform operators and cultural institutions in regions which are a considerable distance from big cities. The “Fortress of Sibenik” cultural institute in Croatia already benefits from the European network of cinemas and cultural institutions. “In Sibenik, we didn’t have a cinema any more from 2010 onwards,” pointed out Gorana Barišić Bačelić, head of the institute. But thanks to the EU support, an old cinema is due to be renovated so that films and cultural events can be hosted there.
“Culture is not a soft factor, but the basis of our democracy,” stressed Sabine Verheyen, Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education at the European Parliament, who requested a doubling of the Creative Europe programme budget, to €2.8 billion, for the next seven years. “Culture represents 4.2% of the GDP in Europe; it is also a strong economic factor. About seven million people work in the cultural and creative sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has tipped the European cultural and creative sector into an unprecedented crisis,” Verheyen highlighted. “We need to tailor support for these sectors and help them to access that aid. I think that is also a problem that we have seen over the past few months. There was some support, but it was not tailor-made for the cultural and creative sectors, so they could not access these support schemes.”
The MEDIA programme has been successful because it was able to adapt to new market developments. “That is exactly what we plan to do in the future,” underlined Lucía Recalde Langarica, head of Creative Europe MEDIA. The aim is to promote collaboration between the countries across the whole value chain and to include innovation across the entire programme. “We also need to instil flexibility because the pandemic has shown that the industry is changing incredibly quickly.” A new approach being taken by the MEDIA programme is to focus on sustainability in the audiovisual sector. Projects that are aimed at media literacy, quality journalism, and activities in support of media freedom and pluralism will also be fostered. Another aim is to expand cinema support to theatres in smaller villages. “Cinemas are the only cultural hub in many villages, and they play a tremendously important role in creating this social fabric. We would like to extend our support to the network of cinemas beyond metropolitan cities and reach out to smaller cities across Europe.”
In a crisis, the power structures become stabilised, but hidden strengths also come to light. “Pre-existing trends, things that were already in progress, have accelerated,” said Johanna Koljonen, author of the Göteborg Film Festival’s Nostradamus report. “We have seen a lot of movement in the media timeline in the past six months. This was going to happen anyway, but without the coronavirus, it might have taken two or three years.” A positive effect of the crisis is that writers have had more time to work on their scripts. But the biggest challenge that the film industry has to face now is, in her opinion, the increasing political success of populists, which leads to the stronger polarisation of society and will also result in cutbacks in the cultural sector. Another macro trend is climate change, which will require huge investments at the expense of the cultural and creative sector. “Due to more extreme weather and its effects, production costs for films are going to rise. At least three of the world’s biggest film production centres are located in very warm regions,” summed up Koljonen. “As we speak, California is literally on fire.”
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