Locarno, Thessaloniki Festivals Team for New Industry Academy International

Targeting distribution, sales and exhibition, the Industry Academy unspools Nov. 7-11 in Thessaloniki

Marion Klotz
Courtesy of Marion Klotz

Switzerland’s Locarno Festival, the biggest mid-summer movie event in Europe, is teaming with the Thessaloniki Fest to launch an inaugural Locarno Industry Academy International at the Greek Festival.

The Thessaloniki workshop will run Nov. 7-11, during the festival. Event underscores how some of Europe’s biggest movie events – Cannes, Berlin and now Locarno – are leveraging their expertise to expand beyond their own dates and location, launching or teaming on events throughout the calendar and world.

The largest example to date is the Cannes Festival and Cannes Film Market’s co-creation with Argentina’s Incaa Film Institute of Ventana Sur in 2009, quickly established as the region’s biggest film mart-meet.

The Thessaloniki Industry Academy comes after Industry Academy events at Locarno itself, as well as at New York’s Lincoln Center, Mexico’s Morelia Fest and the Cinema do Brasil Boutique Cinema mini-mart.

Designed as the Industry Academy’s annual event in South East Europe and the Mediterranean region, it is open to attendees from South East Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Marion Klotz, the Locarno Industry Academy International manager, will design and develop the edition with Vanja Kaludjercic, who held posts at Les Arcs European Film Festival and the Paris Co-Production Village.

“We are indeed in need of such experts and key players able to fully understand what is at stake in these regions,” said Klotz.

That need is paramount when it comes to “how to train the new generation of professionals and provide them with the proper tools to navigate the industry as well as improving the visibility and circulation of films produced in those countries,” she added.

The Thessaloniki Industry Academy does not look like Locarno’s only international move this year as Step-In, Locarno’s world cinema co-prod, talent and screening forum, looks set to spearhead workshops in South Asia as it focusing on the region through 2018.

Going international, Locarno’s Industry Academy underscores two significant trends in international arthouse. One is the Academy’s focus on sales, distribution and exhibition, these sectors supplying participants, normally young execs in a still early phase of their careers. Over 2010-14, public funds in Europe spent by far most money on theatrical film production, an average annual (€902.9 million: $1.0 billion). Development (€45.4 million: $50.3 million), distribution (€123.9 million : $137.5 million) and promotion (€71.9 million : $79.8 million) fell short by comparison. Y

Yet there is a growing consensus that Europe’s industry – barring countries where production funding has plummeted, such as Spain – needs to channel far more training and resources into initiatives that help European movies that merit it achieve more audiences. On its own, production funding is not enough.

“Maybe the question is whether there are too many films,” said Nadia Dresti, Locarno Industry Days, as this year’s edition kicked into gear.

A second trend is underscored by the Industry Academy’s constituents. Attendance is stoked not only by speakers from the world’s most illustrious festivals but also young execs at even micro-budget distribution outfits. The idea that films justify themselves by their mere existence is now questioned by a new generation of executives who battle weekly for films, however rarefied, to find some sort of audience, and work heroically – Mexico is one example – to create alternative distribution circuits whose films can inspire, fascinate and entertain beyond core big-city arthouses.

The Industry Academy’s success, and rapid international rollout since a pilot edition at Locarno in 2014, suggests there are like-minded film buff executives at the commercial end of the arthouse industry the world over.