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European Film Forum Analyzes Europe’s Daunting Digital Challenge

Entitled Developing audiences, San Sebastian edition saw keynotes from Canada Media Fund’s Catalina Briceño

SAN SEBASTIAN – “As part of our strategy of Digital Single Market, we would propose a pragmatic re-organization of copyright laws, not a complete overhaul of the system,” Lucia Recalde Langarica, the European Commission’s MEDIA new head of unit, said Sunday at Audience In Motion: European Film Forum, the latest industry discussion-debate meet analyzing digital potential for European films, following on Forums at Berlin, Cannes and Venice.

With that, the European film and industry can breathe a very brief sigh of relief. Increasingly, as the European Commission sounds out Europe’s content industries over its project for a Digital Single Market, it looks like its plans for cross-border access will not render impossible territorial rights sales, the backbone of Europe’s current content industry.

Other daunting digital domain challenges still facing Europe’s film industry, even if territorial rights sales remain functioning, was the main subject, however, of San Sebastian’s Developing Audience European Film Forum, which on Sunday delivered a vigorous wakeup call for Spain’s industry.

“While Europe film industry produces high-quality films, they do not always reach their potential audiences,” Lucia Recalde Langarica said in a welcome speech.

She went on: “We should be able to create content capable of reaching a great number of users. This also means fostering access to this content by its potential audiences, using all new ways made possible by technology.”

Delivering the Forum’s keynote speech, Catalina Briceño, director of industry and market trends at the Canada Media Fund, delivered incontrovertible evidence of just how far the world which provides Europe’s film audiences has changed, and why its industry need audience-centric approaches.

90% of the world’s data has been generated in the last two years, meaning that media overload is the No. 6 source of stress in the U.S., Briceño observed.

“Will audiences grow as digital only consumers? You bet they will. There is no way they will revert back to other ways of consuming content,” Briceño continued, outlining three creative responses to an audience-centric hyper-abundant content world: Participation, Prototyping and Personalization. One case of participation: Australian pubcaster ABC won an Intl. Emmy for comedy series “7 Days Later” whose ensemble cast featured YouTube celebs; its audience also submitted briefs of where they wanted the show to go.

But there is a danger of users living in “filter bubbles” where last decade’s dynamic of “pull” content will morph into a “push” scenario, Briceño said, citing Netflix’s personalized pages.

Just how much European – or indeed non-U.S. – content would make that “push” cut is a moot question.

Developing Audiences saw three panels: Creative, Production and Distribution/Programming.

In production, Argentine director Gustavo Taretto talked about the singular online success of his feature “Medianeras” which, selected for Berlin’s 2011 Panorama, turned on the loneliness of big city Internet users. Still receiving daily emails about the movie – he put his email address in the credit roll – he is now developing a TV and transmedia spin-off.

Some audience-centric film models – crowdfunding, for example, – are now established. At the European Film Forum, Kickstarter’s George Schmalz said it had raised $1.9 billion in pledged film investment. Sophie Kuno talked about France’s Touscoprod, a European counterpoint to Kickstarter that can also help build audiences, not just raise funding.

Targeting specific aud segments, contacting them via Whatsapp, for instance, it’s possible “to get from an Indian movie that nobody knows €10,000-€15,000 ($11,400-$17,100) with no promotion or advertising in Barcelona over just one weekend,” said Alberto Tognazzi, at Screenly.

“Our work is not exclusive of that of traditional theatrical bookers. We created Tugg to be complimentary of all theatrical and digital strategies that aim to build a community of followers through eventized experiences,” added Pablo Gonzalez of U.S. crowd-screening company Tugg.

But, when it comes to content at least, “The bad news is that Internet successes are singular exceptions,” warned Jaume Ripoll, at Spanish SVOD service Filmin. “It would be good to talk about the large ocean of failures inundating the Internet.”

Also, compared to the traditional entertainment industry, Internet entertainment is another ball game. “The Web is alive, connected, not isolated unit contents. You can’t download a digital experience,” said Maria Yañez Anllo, a Spanish digital media maker.

Ripoll said that Filmin, a predominantly European movie service, faced four challenges: Abundance of offer; lack of knowledge – Europe doesn’t have stars; disinterest; abd user impatience.

Combating these, Filmin has positioned as a site which shows “what goes on in society,” created visual content guides, and sorted content according to user mood. “To battle disinterest, there’s nothing better than education,” he concluded.

Lamentably, education does not seem to be high on Spain’s governmental agenda.

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