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In Berlin, Big Thinkers Look to Disrupt the Movie Biz

The European Film Market is building on its longtime mission to connect buyers and sellers by attempting something far more ambitious: partnering industry execs with new tech companies to help change the way films are produced, distributed, and seen.

The new EFM Horizon program (presented by Audi) will feature five events that introduce innovative new products to distributors, sales agents, producers, directors, screenwriters, and marketing professionals. It’s an expansion of the EFM Startups project, launched two years ago, that brought the film industry together with new Berlin-based tech outfits.

“EFM Startups showed us that a market is not only a place to buy and sell content,” says EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol, who developed the initiatives alongside Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick. “It’s also a place to connect players from different parts of the media industry, because innovation has proceeded at a much faster rate in other types of media than it has in the film business.”

EFM Horizon kicks off Feb. 10 with Game ♥ Cinema, which will offer computer game playing on a movie theater screen in the MGB Kino exhibition hall. Presented in collaboration with Intl. Games Week Berlin, which unveiled the format in 2015, the event will allow exhibitors and buyers to experience the spectacle with an audience of gamers.

On Feb. 13, the VR Now Con Business Mixer will feature an international lineup of virtual reality experts in the Berliner Freiheit complex. “Virtual reality, 360°, MR [mixed reality] and AR [augmented reality] are buzzwords in all discussions about the future of cinema, but there are many open questions about how to use these new technologies,” Knol says. “[Such as], ‘Which technology would make sense for the film industry? How does storytelling work? Who would be a good partner?’ Our mixer aims to bring together pioneers from the VR industry with EFM visitors, and link producers to content developers to help them implement VR in their filmmaking.”

Other tech enthusiasts can spend that day at the third annual EFM Startups event, which now includes five companies from Germany — Illusion Walk, Mobisol Group, Native Studios Creace, Viorama, and SpiceVR/Spherie — and five from other parts of Europe — Virtelio by realab and Aiva from Luxembourg, CtrlMovie from Switzerland, Dive from Spain, and Picl from the Netherlands. The first two years have already yielded a few success stories, including Vigour, an app connector which forged a partnership with New York City-based producer-financier Archer Gray.

At The Next Level of Cinema, a two-hour event presented Feb. 14 in the Audi Berlinale Lounge, companies will present case studies in innovation that include new projection techniques, sound systems, and equipment to improve cinematography, followed by a panel discussion.

Later that afternoon, the Propellor | Speednic (a combination of “speed” and “picnic”) will bring an invitation-only crowd of film, tech, and startup execs from 24 companies, including Cinetic, Mubi, Arri, Festival Scope, and El Sur Films, to explore the challenges of innovation and ways it can be applied in the film industry. In these collaborative working sessions, held at the Berlinale Nespresso Rooftop Café, moderators will guide discussions.

It’s part of the new Propellor Film Tech Hub, formed in collaboration with the Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam, the Copenhagen Intl. Documentary Film Festival, and the Berlin-based innovation studio Cinemathon, which is staging events in the different home cities of the participating organizations over the next few months.

“Propellor is shaping a think tank with creative input, influence, and disruptive ideas from outside the business,” Knol says. “Its main thesis is that the business cannot be changed from the inside. It has to get input from completely new or related players.”

Anyone with an EFM market badge can make an advance reservation to attend an event, with the exception of Propellor | Speednic, via the EFM Horizon website (efm-horizon.de). The ultimate goal, says Knol, is to unite companies “which develop products, strategies, or apps that will help EFM attendees [achieve] an improvement or an innovation in the way they produce, distribute, or market to audiences.”

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