LOCARNO – From 2010, the Locarno Fest’s ramp-up in industry activities has synched with the major trends forging the international independent industry.
It has caught Latin America’s dramatic movie industry build, launching pix-in-post section Carte Blanche, launched 2011, focusing on Colombia, Mexico, Chile, now Brazil.
Inaugurated 2012, StepIn, an analysis and brainstorming event, focused in 2013 on Russia, a then burgeoning if volatile market, at least for more mainstream indie fare.
In Locarno’s biggest new industry initiative in 2014, however, the Swiss fest is launching an Industry Academy. It takes one large bull by the horns: Potential new paradigms for an arthouse industry whose old models seem increasingly either broken, or at least significantly challenged.
Overseen by industry consultant Sophie Bourdon (pictured), chief executive at the Paris-based ACE, over 2000-11, and coordinated by ex-Memento Films International’s Marion Klotz, Locarno will welcome nine young film professionals.
The speakers line-up is impressive: TrustNordisk’s Susan Wendt, also head of European sales agent network Europa International; Directors’ Fortnight selection committee member Anne Delseth; AFI associate director of programming Lane Kneedler; and Michael de Schaetzen at Belgium’s O’Brother Distribution, distributor of “Amour” and Joachim Lafosse’s upcoming “White Knights.”
Others are Maximiliano Cruz at Interior 13, an adventurous producer-distributor and fest-programmer in the challenging Mexican market; Mary Nazary, whose made a go of Moscow’s top arthouse, Pioner Cinema; Yves Moser at go-ahead Swiss exhibitor Cinerive; Pierre-Alexandre Labelle at Under the Milky Way, maybe Europe’s most advanced Internet content aggregator; and Nicholas Kaiser at France’s Memento Films International, which in a decade has grown from more classic arthouse beginnings, expanding into U.S. indie fare, challenging arthouse and now genre.
Drawn from six European countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. – participants will attend project presentations at Open Doors, focusing this year on movies from sub-Saharan South Africa, plus Locarno Step-In panels and work-group discussions.
Originated by Locarno’s head of international, Nadia Dresti, and Bourdon, the Industry Academy sets out to encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs.
Like other new Locarno Summer Academy programs – a Filmmakers Academy, attended by 25 young directors, sourced worldwide; a Critics Academy, for 10 budding film reviewers/journalists – the Industry Academy is also boutique, practical, and aims at taking constant advantage of the Locarno Festival.
That comes with the territory. “Locarno has always discovered new talent, new directors: That our hallmark,” said Stefano Knuchel, head of the Locarno Summer Academy, citing proudly Paraguay’s Marcelo Martinessi,
2013 Academy alum who went on to be selected for Cannes’ Cinefondation Residence.
The Industry Academy attempts to fill a gap in film training. Many universities, film schools develop new modules. Most sales agents, distributors, exhibitors have had to learn on the job, said Bourdon.
It comes as established art film distribution models are increasingly questioned.
The problem is not the volume of sales, but pricing points on all but top titles as TV and DVD sales plummet even at Euro pubcasters, local industries build, the number of titles hitting the market skyrockets and younger audiences opt in to other forms of entertainment – U.S. TV series, for instance – and distribution.
Statistics are eloquent. In 2013, while B.O. gross continued to power up over much of Asia – not only China (up 27.5%) but South Korea (+ 6.5%), Hong Kong (+4.2%) and Taiwan (+6%) – and Latin America, led by Mexico (+11.4%), Brazil (+6.9%) and Argentina (+36.6%), in Western Europe, the heartland of arthouse sales, it declined in four of its “big five” markets, down 1.5% in the U.K., 5.5% in France, 1% in Germany and 16.3% in Spain, per IHS Technology.
Prices paid for U.S. rights, including a theatrical bow, can now be below $10,000.
“On its own, theatrical distribution isn’t enough these days since people don’t go to see films so often,” said Dresti.
Ancillary sales come less and less to the rescue. In France, once Europe’s most avid arthouse buyer, DVD sales have plummeted in the last five years.
“As digital distribution becomes stronger, the gap with old-fashioned ways of distributing film can only become bigger,” Dresti argued.
“This doesn’t mean cinemas will die. But we have to face the reality, sit down and discuss,” she added.
A new generation of industry execs might not only learn at Locarno. They also might have something to teach.
“My generation normally discusses industry issues with the same generation. But the way 25-year-olds see cinema is different to what we’re used to,” Dresti said.
Bourdon agreed: “With the industry changing so fast, it’s vital to have the take of a new generation.”
Locarno may be an ideal place for discussions. Newcomers are often surprised by the large industry presence.
1,067 industry pros have signed up this year for Industry Days, up 18% from 2013’s 904, At 234 buyers, between sales agents and foreign distributors, are broadly stable.
But business is not as frenzied as at Cannes or even Berlin, allowing time for discussion.
Knuchler argued: “One of Locarno’s strongest points is that, though it’s quite a big festival, it allows time for interacting with people. We really work on incorporating what’s going on in the festival. I don’t like ‘experts.’ I want people who have experience.”
“We want to bridge the two generations, be practical, concrete, very interactive,” Bourdon said.
“All the professionals who are coming are going to talk about what is changing as a distributor, as an exhibitor, as a sales agent, as a festival programmer, what they see as their main challenges today.”
She added: “The broad conclusion of Step-In last year was that we need to be more creative, to dedicate more time to our future, because time flies. Time is against us.”
The first advance in conquering any problem, however, is to recognize it exists in the first place.
67th LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL, AUGUST 6-16, 2014
INDUSTRY EVENTS: A SELECTION
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6
2 pm Open Doors Screenings kick off with “Heritage Africa,” from Ghana’s Kwaw Ansa. They run throughout the festival.
9:00 pm Bowing with a bang: Notching up $80 million Stateside, and counting, Luc Besson’s Scarlett Johansson-action thriller “Lucy” opens the 67th Locarno Film Festival, with Besson and Melanie Griffith in tow. Jean-Pierre Leaud receives a Locarno Career Achievement Leopard
THURSDAY, AUGUST 7
5:00 pm Conversation with Melanie Griffith and Rachel McDonald
FRIDAY, AUGUST 8
Q & A with Armin Mueller-Stahl, who receives the Lifetime Achievement Award-Parmigiani.
9:30 pm Mia Farrow receives fest’s Leopard Club Award.
Afterwards, Bosnian Jasmila Zbanic’s “Love Island” bows at Locarno, the first of seven Piazza Grande world premieres. Others: “A Hitman’s Solitude Before the Shot,” from Mischa Boder; “Hin und weg,” by Christain Zubert, also from Germany; “Mary’s Story,” from France’s Jean-Pierre Ameris, a sales hit; a second French title, Jean-Jacques Zilbermann’s “A la vie”; flying the home Swiss flag, Peter Luisi’s “Schweizer Helden” and Mathieu Urfer’s “Pause.”
11:30 pm Industry Party, co-hosted by Cinema do Brasil
SATURDAY, AUGUST 9
Beginning of Locarno’s Industry Days, organized with Europa Intl., Europa Distribution, Europa Cinemas, Festival Scope and, for the first time, the FERA Federation of European Film Directors. Industry Days run Aug. 9-11 with industry screenings and Carte Blanche at the Rialto Cinema industry home base; StepIn at the lakeside Hotel Belvedere.
10:00 am Mia Farrow talks about her career.
10:30-12:00 Open Doors case-study on the distribution of Sub-Saharan movies
11:00 am SSR/SRG-Disney presentation of “Lucid Dreams of Gabriel”
11:30 am Ives Rosenfeld’s “Hopefuls” brings down the flag on Locarno’s 4th Carte Blanche works-in-progress showcase, focused on Brazil. Seven features screen through Monday.
2:30 -4:00 StepIn Ch A first big Swiss debate between industry honchos and government reps on the knock-ons of Switzerland’s exclusion from the Creative-Europe-MEDIA Program. Among guest speakers: Eurimages’ Roberto Olla, Senator Films’ Milada Kolberg, Camino Filmverleih’s Kamran Sardar Khan.
4:30 pm A second Swiss debate at Locarno: “Swiss Audiovisual Funding: Challenges in the Digital Age” Following a keynote speech by French transmedia analyst Oriane Hurard, Sven Walti, Swiss pubcaster SRG SSR co-pro head, joins Laurent Steiert, at the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, and Sylvain Gardel, from the Pro Helvetia Swiss Culture Foundation to debate how Swiss film/TV funding should evolve in a digital age.
6:30pm-8 pm Industry and Open Doors Happy Hour, co-hosted by the SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Europa Distribution
SUNDAY, AUGUST 10,
10:30 am-12:30 pm Locarno industry office’s third StepIn international discussion forum kicks off with presentations on markets in Brazil and South Africa. Panelists include, for Brazil: Cinema do Brasil’s Andre Sturm, Imovision’s Jean-Thomas Bernardini and Europa Filmes’ Marcos de Oliveira; Talking about South Africa: Ster-Kinekor’s Clive Fisher, Spier Films’ Michael Auret and Comart Films’ Michiel Berkel.
2:30 pm – 5:30 pm Second – brainstorming – part of Step-In: Closed work sessions debate challenges facing arthouse distribution in Europe and beyond. On the table: Audience development, VOD, day & date, multi-platform and multi-territory releases.
4:30 pm Screening of Open Doors title “Zifret,” from Ethiopia’s Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, followed by a panel discussion on “Democracy Without Borders.”
6:30pm-8 pm Industry and Open Doors Happy Hour, co-hosted by the SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and EAVE
MONDAY, AUGUST 11
10:30 Conversation with celebrated Nouvelle Vague – and beyond – filmmaker Agnes Varda, a Swisscom Honorary Leopard recipient.
1:30 pm Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi, a Raimondo Rezzonico award winner, is interviewed about her career.
3 pm Conference organized by Swiss film/TV training org FOCAL on adapting to the challenges of the digital era.
6:30pm-8 pm Industry and Open Doors Happy Hour, co-hosted by the SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and ACE
7:00 pm Carte Blanche Award ceremony brings down the curtain on Locarno’s Industry Days.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 12
10:00 am Titanus retrospective round-table.
12:30 Open Doors Award announcement.
2:30 pm New Swiss films are discussed at a Swiss Cinema Rendez-Vous, hosted by Swiss Films Catherine Ann Berger
6:30pm-8 pm Industry and Open Doors Happy Hour, co-hosted by the SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and FERA
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13
10:00 am Career Achievement winner Victor Erice, in conversation with Spanish film writer Miguel Marias.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 15
4:15 pm Roman Polanski master-class, hosted by Locarno Fest director Carlo Chatrian.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 16
2:00 pm Chatrian talks to Juliette Binoche, winner of a Moet & Chandon Excellence Award.
4:30 pm FIPRESCI, Critics’ Week and Europa Cinemas Label prize announcements, among other independent juries awards.
9 pm Prize ceremony, followed by Tony Gatlif’s “Jeronimo.”