According to the Nostradamus Report, it is time to listen to kids
by Marta Bałaga
- During the 8th annual seminar presented during the Göteborg Film Festival, Johanna Koljonen focused on Transforming Storytelling Together. And sea shanties
The annual Nostradamus Report – presented during the Göteborg Film Festival's Nordic Film Market – once again looked into the future of the screen industries through research and interviews with industry experts, including Alex Stolz (Future of Film), Ari Tolppanen (Aristo-Invest), Brian Newman (Sub-Genre), Elisa Alvares (Jacaranda Consultants), Filippa Wallestam (NENT Group), Mariana Acuña Acosta (Glassbox Technologies), Marike Muselaers (Lumiere Group), Executive Director at Eurimages Roberto Olla and Walter Iuzzolino of Eagle Eye Drama.
“Our interviewees were mentally thinking about the next crisis, because it will happen and the industry needs to be more resilient,” observed Johanna Koljonen, the author of the report. “We work with dreams, we talk about art and even 'industry' is an abstract term. But we are not just reflecting the world, we act in it, which became very tangible this year. And the world is acting on us.”
Admitting that the pandemic accelerated some changes faster than expected, especially regarding the way virtual production is bound to unlock creativity and opportunities (“five years from now, these methods and tools will be completely normalised,” she said), Koljonen also noted that theatrical exhibition will diminish as a market.
“Theatrical is not dying, it's changing. The films that will disappear from cinemas are the films that can't perform,” she said, adding that the so-called “dead window” after the premiere, when films are not available anywhere, will be a thing of the past. There will still be profit to be made in “bourgeois upmarket cinemas”, though. “There is a lot of excitement about alternative exhibition. Run the cinema as a different kind of venue, working specifically with a specific audience.”
Still, as she said, “the heart is the small screen”, with household SVOD spend predicted to grow. “It's unavoidably true. Film and TV are now the same industry.” With the theatrical space set to specialise and shrink, not every film will have a theatrical premiere. But the importance of the theatrical window is going to recede over time. “This means that the power of the historical gatekeepers, who have a lot of control over defining film, is diminishing. Small screen will be the financial heart of the industry, and quite possibly the artistic heart of it too. It is very difficult for me to accept, but we already see how the formats are blending at the edges.”
Anyone who isn’t actively innovating may find themselves sidelined, she explained, as professionals are moving outside of the traditional infrastructure, using accessible technologies and distribution platforms. “There is often a defeatist tone when talking about bigger players because of their incomparable economic muscle. But owners have different interests, and there are assets they need: content, originality, creativity. There are ways of negotiating.”
Staying flexible will be crucial however, with global opportunities expanding for European producers, and paying attention to younger audiences won't hurt. “When I imagine living in the Roaring Twenties, I imagine I am Zelda Fitzgerald. But in reality I would probably be in a corset and hat, judging young people and being dismissive of jazz,” said Koljonen before unleashing a world of sea shanty TikToks on her unsuspecting audience.
“Do you have TikTok on your phone, do you work with anyone who can explain why sea shanties appealed to two black students in their car in Texas and millions of young adults around the world? If not, do you at least know how to find out about this stuff online?” she asked. “When audiences, young in particular, do something that we consider to be wrong or annoying, we have to remember that we are the Victorians. They are inventing modernity. We would say: 'Young people are not interested in arthouse cinema, or in sea shanties.' Operating on the worst kind of data: no data at all. That's not a good strategy for creating relevance in the marketplace.”
In short, she said, we will redefine industry behaviour together because we have to, and we will shape business models together because we can. “The outcomes are going to be so much better if everyone is involved. We will work with these under-25s. Those who find it challenging, such as middle-aged ladies like me, we can sit and grumble together. And then we’ll go and listen to those kids.”
The Nostradamus Project is founded and run by the Göteborg Film Festival with support from and in collaboration with Lead partner Film i Väst, and with additional support from Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Västra Götalandsregionen, Creative Europe/MEDIA and Kulturakademin.
The full report can be downloaded here.
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