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“En tant que European Film Market, nous voulons rassembler tout le secteur”

Dossier industrie: Tendance du marché

Dennis Ruh • Directeur, European Film Market


Le directeur de l'EFM détaille pour nous l'impact de l'intelligence artificielle et les nouvelles tendances du marché

Dennis Ruh • Directeur, European Film Market
(© Angela Regenbrecht)

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

The European Film Market (EFM, 15-21 February) is the first market of the year to come after the strikes, which buyers will attend clutching their fresh annual budgets. This year, the Berlinale Series Market and the EFM Startups initiative are celebrating their tenth anniversary. For his last edition as EFM director, Dennis Ruh has centralised the event venues more around the Potsdamer Platz. He discusses this and more in our interview.

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Cineuropa: At this year’s EFM Industry Sessions, artificial intelligence (AI) will be a key topic. Where is the industry heading, and what kind of impact are these developments having on creative filmmaking?
Dennis Ruh:
AI will be a special focus at this year’s EFM Industry Sessions. AI will undoubtedly start to gain more and more traction in the various areas of the film value chain – from script development to practical issues of production and post-production, distribution and marketing. It has the potential to influence all aspects of filmmaking. It is not surprising that AI is one of the key talking points in the film and media business, and beyond. We therefore examine the topic from different perspectives, including interdisciplinary ones.

In the EFM Industry Sessions, we will explore how AI is changing the way we conceptualise films through worldbuilding, the experiences producers have had in their first encounters with AI, and how such tools can be used in practice. What impact do the rapid developments in AI have on film creation, and what will this mean for the role of human intelligence in the film ecosystem in the future? What skills do we need to develop in order to exploit the potential of collaboration between humans and machines?

How does AI affect creativity?
These questions need to be addressed and clarified, especially since AI raises issues in the ethical and creative fields. The potential of artificial intelligence is high, but the way to strike the right balance between human creativity and automation definitely needs to be taken into account. Filmmaking is a deeply creative process, and while some technical aspects can be more easily automated and can support filmmaking in a positive way, other aspects, such as overall artistic vision and emotional depth, are not that easily replaced and should not carelessly be done by an automated process. We want to shed light on all of these developments and take a more balanced and informative look at the current and predicted roles of AI.

What are the new challenges and trends that productions and sales agents are facing?
The landscape of the film and media industry has changed, and is constantly changing. This year, sales and theatrical distribution are also very much being influenced by last year’s strike in the USA and the resulting loss of 50% of production time. Forecasts predict a slight decline in the global box office, as big distribution companies have postponed the releases of some major productions until 2025, owing to the production delay that has occurred. But this also makes room in the release schedules for independently produced and non-US films. And it’s exactly these films that are widely sold at the EFM. This can have a positive effect on sales activities in Berlin.

Do you see any changes in acquisition practices?
Another recent trend in the sales business is that the selling window of films, related to their production status, is becoming narrower. There are fewer pre-sales activities. Buyers want to see first images and are increasingly interested in buying all rights, to generate revenue through all different forms of distribution and not rely on a single method of distribution.

The rise of digital technologies and streaming platforms has changed the market fundamentally. New, powerful competitors are present. Now, the aforementioned AI is another technological development that has entered the market, but it has taken a significant leap forward within the last couple of years and will probably shape the industry even more. AI is both a new challenge and a trend. It’s on us to set the course for it if we want it to head in the right direction. While it might be disruptive at first glance, and there are legitimate concerns, the shift can be enriching as well and could open up new opportunities and possibilities that have not been available before.

While the Berlinale Series festival programme won’t be continued any longer, the Berlinale Series Market is celebrating is tenth anniversary. What kind of role do series play ten years after the huge hype formed around them?
Serial content is hugely significant for the market. Ten years ago, when the European Film Market introduced a platform for high-quality drama series, there was certainly doubt as to whether serial TV content should be part of a film market. Streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon had only just begun their international expansion at the time, strong high-end serial productions from broadcasters or streamers were the big exception, and film actors were often more hesitant to sign up for TV or VoD productions.

Why is Italy this year’s “Country in Focus” at the EFM?
We will be able to shine a spotlight on the multi-faceted and outstanding Italian film industry – especially since Italy was already supposed to be the Country in Focus in 2021, but with the exceptional formats during the pandemic, the focus section was suspended. The Italian film and media industry is a permanent fixture at the EFM. In 2023, we had over 1,000 accredited participants from the country, as well as over 60 exhibiting Italian companies, and almost 80 films as market screenings. This places Italy in one of the leading positions. It provides an exciting, traditional, modern and diverse production and distribution landscape. There are a lot of opportunities for cooperation with Italian professionals, and we like to foster international collaboration through this programme.

The EFM offers a huge variety of training programmes for startups. How is the EFM changing in terms of demographic trends?
We are proud that the EFM Startups initiative is also celebrating its tenth anniversary. We can look back at a network that has grown to include 100 international young and innovative entrepreneurs showcasing an array of tools and services for the film and media industry. Many have won awards and honours worldwide. The initiative is a wonderful tool that, on the one hand, fosters and trains young creatives by giving them the platform to present their ideas and find partners, while on the other hand, it enriches our market participants with useful ideas, technologies and developments from the film industry and neighbouring sectors. This year, ten hand-picked startups from seven countries will once again present a diverse range of tools for producers in the fields of pre-production/development, production, marketing and distribution. Six of the ten startups are (co-)founded by women.

Regarding demographic trends, we, as the EFM, want to bring together the entire industry – the experienced professionals and the up-and-coming, younger generation alike. And not only from our core industry – the audiovisual content industry – but also professionals from other fields that can inspire with innovative ideas or technology.

This year’s EFM is your last edition as market director. What have the most important developments been at the EFM in the last few years, and what have your biggest accomplishments been?
Looking back, the last couple of years were probably the most unusual in the market’s history. When I started as EFM director, for the first time ever, the market took place in a virtual format. The two pandemic years were a challenge for everyone in the industry, the EFM included. A marketplace needs to be developed constantly. Meeting the demands of the industry is the core business of a successful international market like this. That’s why my approach was always to listen to our exhibitors and participants in order to learn about their needs. Looking at the dynamic and positive development of the market today, I think the past few years under my direction were very successful, despite the challenging pandemic-related, political and organisational circumstances. Together with my highly professional team, we stayed in close contact with the industry, met their needs and were able to create important momentum year by year.

What kind of mark do you leave behind at the EFM?
Under my direction, we launched a podcast series, merged the conference programmes of the former platform into the comprehensive joint EFM Industry Sessions, increased the accessibility of the marketplace and programmes for marginalised, underrepresented and disabled industry professionals, secured the financing of innovative development, diversity and inclusion projects like the expanded Toolbox programmes, and launched the Equity and Inclusion Pathways Seminar as an industry-wide consultation forum. We centralised all of the market activities at Potsdamer Platz, gained new venues, increased the physical and digital market infrastructure, and consolidated the market’s financing. And we supported, and still support, the Ukrainian film industry with different programmes, as well as independent Iranian and Belarusian film professionals.

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