San Sebastian: Fest, Creative Europe Set European Film Forum

As Europe draws up new digital regulation, one-day event focuses on audience-driven entertainment

MADRID – As Europe thrashes out new parameters for the funding and circulation of movies and TV shows in a digital age, September’s 63rd San Sebastian Festival and the European Commission will host a European Film Forum at the Spanish event.

Taking place Sunday, Sept. 20, event joins a string of other European Film Forums, initiated at February’s Berlin Fest then celebrated May 18 at Cannes Festival and at last week’s Sarajevo Fest. Other Forums are scheduled to follow at the Venice Festival (Sept. 5), Mipcom and the Black Nights Film Festival’s Industry @ Tallinn (Nov. 16-20).

Part discussion forum, part an exposition of key best practices by industry players, and held under the auspices of the Commission’s Creative Europe Media program, a funding initiative, the event also allows the Commission to dialogue with key film and TV players over a strategic policy agenda in a digital age.

European Films Forums focus on financing and public support for content in a digital age, the changing relation between European films and their audiences and support for talent and creativity, said a San Sebastian press statement.

Entitled Audiences in Motion, which can betaken multiple ways, San Sebastian’s discussion will turn around innovative formulas emerging in relation to audience participation … offering a catalogue of new opportunities to share with professionals in the sector,” the statement continued. Conference will be structured around three panels: Creative audience, audience production, and audience distribution/programming.

Panelists already confirmed – hinting strongly at more specific issues on the table– include Nestor Hernandez, HBO Latin America’s original production manager, and Sophie Kuno at French crowdfunding site Touscoprod,

One subject under discussion looks to be audience-driven cinema theater entertainment: One panelist is Pablo Gonzalez, co-founder of Tugg, a U.S. crowd-screening system allowing individuals to promote theater screenings for specific films: Sell enough tickets and the screening happens. Alberto Tognazzi, at a Spanish counterpart, Screen.ly, another system promoting cinema theater screenings on popular demand, has also confirmed his attendance.

Further panelists include Dane Rasmuss Wiinstedt Tscherning, chairman of the European Creative Industries Alliance, who has launched the Creative Business Cup, a global competition of creative business ideas, and Gustavo Taretto, Argentine director Buenos Aires romcom “Sidewalls,” a Berlin Fest hit, and 2014 social satire “Sunstrokes,” about a gaggle of suntan-obsessed girls, both produced by Rizoma Films.

The San Sebastian European Film Forum comes at a paradoxical crux for Europe’s film industry.

In Europe last year, per the European Audiovisual Observatory, market share for European films in the E.U. leapt from 26.2% to 33.4%, the highest level since the Observatory started to calculate European market share in 1996.

That can be put down in part to the rise of local blockbusters. By common sales agent consensus, it is becoming ever harder for foreign-language films to score theatrical releases for companies outside their countries of origin. Moreover, prices paid by foreign distributors for foreign-language films have nose-dived.

But production levels in Europe, as confirmed by continental Europe’s “Big Four” – France, Germany, Spain and Italy – shows little sign of falling: Over 2010-14, production rise in Germany from 193 feature films to 234, in Spain from 201 to 224 and in Italy from 141 and 201, per the EAO. Unable to access commercial markets or funding sources, producers are increasingly exploring innovative financing and distribution methods.

The destiny of many European films, at home at abroad, looks likely ever increasingly to be paid festival screenings, nominal theatrical outings, niche free and pay TV and, ever more, VOD distribution.

Catalina Briceño, Canada Media Fund’s director of industry and market trends, will deliver San Sebastian’s keynote. Another key panel contribution will most probably come from Jaume Ripoll (pictured) at Spain’s Filmin, a VOD service backed by the rump of historic Spanish arthouse distributors plus producers, such as the Pedro and Agustin Almodovar and Tornasol.

While many VOD operators remain frustratingly opaque about their operations, at Switzerland’s Locarno Fest this month, Ripoll offered valuable key parameters to Filmin: From Jan. to April 2015, the Spanish platform streamed 71% European content, 18% U.S. content. Regarding Europe, 37% was from the U.K., 22% from Spain, and 20% from France. Filmin saw around 300,000 users and registers more than 300,000 streamings per month. That is quite an achievement in Spain, where the unauthorized viewership of content for non-commercial use is not regarding in practice as a civil offence.

In November, in a sign of consolidation in Europe’s VOD sector, Samuel and Victor Hadida’s Metropolitan Filmexport, one of Europe’s biggest indie distributors, took a step towards the construction of a pan-European VOD group, buying a 35% stake in Spanish VOD service Filmin. Move was made in conjunction with Le Meilleur du Cinema, owner of French VOD service UniversCine. Filmin opened an operation in Mexico in June. At Locarno, it announced a new branch in Portugal in December.

European VOD is some years behind the U.S. Its future is likely to be determined by its biggest content or telecommunications companies: Think Vivendi, Sky and Spain’s Telefonica. San Sebastian’s European Film Forum will at least show how out-of-the-box ideas may offer some increasing interest for small players at a time of huge evolution in filmed entertainment consumption.

ENDS

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