LOCARNO, Switzerland — There is only one Cannes Film Market. And that’s not likely to change any time soon. Majorly fortified as an Academy Award launch-pad, Venice, like Toronto, lacks a pre-sales market, the American Film Market a big parallel festival to attract more arthouse players. Though blessed by high-level international sections, Sundance is primarily a U.S. domestic market. Date clashes means Berlin is weak on Asia. The Marché du Film also remains the world’s prime platform for non-English language fare, the life blood of the Locarno Festival. As the Locarno StepIn, its think tank discussion forum, analyzed the Role of Film Markets in the New Landscape, Jérôme Paillard, head of – by far – the biggest film market in the world, delivered his take on that role for Cannes.
Locarno’s StepIn has just debated the Role of Film Markets in the New Landscape, with your participation. How is that changing in general, and with regard to the Cannes Film Market in particular?
For decades, long before I joined Cannes, a film, music or TV market was a trade show where salesmen, like sales agents, television sales divisions, record companies, have a booth to present new projects and completed contents to distributors and agents from everywhere in the world, and eventually sign deals.
15 years ago direct distribution appeared in the U.S. but it was limited for years to very indie and ultra-low budget features. What is happens now with Netflix and other platforms looking for film original contents is the same nature, but on a totally different scale. In the mean time, there is a total revolution in the distribution channels from theaters and TV to VOD and a new appetite from spectators, young generations and growing markets like China, for different contents, series and short formats.
What’s the impact of these changes on film markets?
This new global distribution paradigm is obviously impacting all the chain of value, shortcutting the relation between creators and audience, with a stronger effect on smaller quality films than on mainstream products.
As a market, we see sales agents being extremely careful about their expenses. They’re taking smaller booths, or sharing them, the volume of advertising has shrink. The distributors are even more selective than before, the volume of deals is down by 30% or 40% compared to 10 years ago. Deals are made year-long, online screeners can be easily sent out.
Producers look to be in a far better place than independent distributors…..
The context is certainly also changing for producers. Traditional public funding is going down; TV and video pre-financing is almost gone in most countries, but luckily other sources of soft and hard money are available. Therefore financial creativity is key. And finally the barriers between film, series, web contents, even VR are getting thinner.
Cannes is an incredibly good vantage point to view these changes, and we have started years ago to adapt to this new landscape.
At Locarno’s StepIn, sales agents reaffirmed that the big market events were still where they do most of their yearly business. Our strategy is of course to continue to serve in the best possible ways this core group, sales agents and distributors, by offering increased and innovative services while maintaining very stable prices. We developed, for instance, new products like co-working packages.
Much has been written about the Cannes Festival’s policy towards Netflix. But what is the position of the Cannes Film Market, the Marché du Film, on the big digital platforms?
We have also to understand how to work with the platforms. Beyond this year’s Netflix controversy, which, I hope, should not carry on in the future, we have to support films’ getting financed, made and seen. To quote Stuart Ford, the Marché du Film itself has to be agnostic in terms of distribution platforms. We are not naïve, we will be pragmatic in this approach.
The Marché attendance is now much more beyond this group, and producers at the Marché represent more than 40% of registered participants.
For many years, we’ve been developing targeted programs dedicated to producers to assist them finding in Cannes inspiration, projects, financing, locations, partners or distributors. It ranges from networking and training programs (Producers Network, Industry Workshops) to targeted events (Doc Day, Frontières, Bridging the Dragon…).
Under your stewardship, the Cannes Film Market has grown year-on-year. Do you think you attendance may have nearly peaked?
Cannes is Cannes, we are close to our maximum capacity, our goal is not to attract more people from other adjacent sectors but to give the best possible value to our participants. Part of that value is offering the greatest possible opportunities of networking and relevant meetings, of finding selected projects, WIPs and films. It’s also giving them the chance to discover and hear about emerging models and technologies.
Reporting on the strength of Cannes Film Market trade tends to revolve around the big titles brought onto the market by the top U.S, U.K. and European sales companies. Far less coverage, at least in print trade dailies, is made of foreign-language arthouse films, where deals on breakout and fest winners break long after print daily have ceased publishing. Arthouse is also the stock-in-trade of the Locarno Festival. What market trends do you see in the arthouse sector?
I see really two markets. One for these big projects, represented by a small dozen of big sales divisions, which is mostly a pre-sale business and where Cannes is a very important step to brand and monetize those titles.
And the other for arthouse films, quality genre, animation or doc titles, which may sometimes even be English-speaking, represented by more than a hundred of sales agents.
These two streams will need environments and services which will be more and more different, and the arrival of millennial executives at companies will certainly generate new behaviors.
But it is arthouse, currently which is bearing much of the brunt of change.
The arthouse world is tougher, people has to work twice as hard for less results with many more risks, competing with moguls which are often encroaching onto their territories. The players have to diversify, maintain a constant creativity and inventiveness, like survivors. The good news is that we see many new ideas, projects, technologies, which can help find new ways and channels. The fuel for that is a passion for film, recognition that more often comes from festivals and the press that the box office. As a market, with the brand and the legitimacy of the [world’s] biggest festival, we do our best to anticipate and support them.
Another focus of Locarno’s StepIn was on the need for producers and distributors to embrace technology, including in the choice of films they produce or distribute and how they market them. What is your take on this, and the Marché du Film’s embracement of technology?
As I said before, Cannes is a good moment in the year to give professionals an opportunity to discover. Not to get a full training or class, but a familiarity with new tools, products or concepts, by meeting with those new companies on their booth at Next for instance and attending conference and workshops.
Most small and middle-sized enterprises have limited or no time for monitoring trends which are not exactly their current core business. We have played an important role for some companies participating in Next over the past years to go further into VOD, online marketing, online tools, crowdfunding, VR. This year, we introduced blockchain based distribution models and other blockchain services with a group of exhibitors and staged panels which got a lot of attention.
Next year we plan to expand the space allocated to these activities and to bring new emerging technologies. They are not the future of cinema, but they may be the bricks and the cement of building a new era.
The major Cannes Film Market – and Cannes Festival – initiative outside Cannes has been the launch, with Argentina’s Incaa film-TV agency, of Ventana Sur. This year’s edition, running Dec. 10-14, will mark its 10th anniversary. How has Ventana Sur evolved as a market? Can you anticipate one or two initiatives in the works for the 10th edition? And how do you see the future evolution of Ventana Sur?
We are very excited to celebrate 10 years of Ventana Sur! Of course we will organize a big party on the second day, together with the Cannes Week. But it will be much more, with many new initiatives for this edition.
Primer Corte, the selection of works in progress headed by José María Riba, will be extended by a selection of six completed films looking for a sales agent, Copia Final.
Producers Networks will change to a new format, with pitching sessions and meetings organized around a selection of Latin-American projects selected in collaboration with the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Documentaries will make a come back, with Film.ar, a selection of 18 Argentine projects which will participate in a coaching and development program, the Incubadora, for some months before being pitched at Ventana Sur.
And we will continue our now established programs Blood Window, Animation! and a second year of Fiction Factory.