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Zurich Festival’s Summit Spotlights Family Films, Streaming Revolution

The Zurich Summit has, over the years, become a major industry gathering at the film festival, attracting Hollywood players and entertainment business reps from both sides of the Atlantic.

Running Sept. 28-29 at the palatial Dolder Grand Hotel, the summit focuses on current business trends and the pertinent issues and challenges facing the industry. This year’s hot topics include the streaming war, the growing demand for local-language films and the global prospects of family entertainment.

Launched in 2014, the Zurich Summit grew out of the fest’s Film Finance Forum with an expanded scope that covered technological developments including augmented and virtual reality and business areas such as marketing and distribution.

“For us, it’s a great thing because we always get great speakers,” says Zurich Film Festival co-director Karl Spoerri While Zurich can’t compete with Cannes or Toronto, the festival and summit nevertheless offer a high level of quality that is enhanced by its relaxed atmosphere, Spoerri notes. “I think you can get more out of it.”

In addition to being an ideal networking and knowledge-exchange event, the summit is a great marketing platform for the festival, he adds. “We can present the festival to people who have not attended before or had a film here, but who come to speak — they can experience the festival first-hand.”

This year’s speakers include former Lionsgate co-chair and head of Picture Perfect Entertainment Patrick Wachsberger; Roeg Sutherland, head of CAA’s film finance & sales group; CAA media finance agents Maren Olson and Sarah Schweitzman; and UTA Independent Film Group agent Alex Brunner.

Also on hand will be Ollie Madden, head of creative at the U.K.’s Film4; Danish producer and M&M Prods. co-founder Kim Magnusson; German producer and head of Amusement Park Film Malte Grunert; and Jean-Yves Roubin of Belgium’s Frakas Prods.

Richard Phelan and Will Becher, co-directors of Aardman Animations’ “A Shaun the Sheep Movie:Farmageddon,” will likewise take part to discuss the importance of family entertainment.

High on the agenda will be the radical transformation of the film and TV industry.

“Netflix, Amazon, Apple and, soon, Disney Plus are all altering the viewing habits of audiences,” Spoerrie says. “This brings new opportunities for producers and talent who are willing to break with tradition.”

The summit will examine the unprecedented opportunities these changes are presenting for producers and filmmakers, particularly in the Swiss market.

Large parts of Switzerland’s local industry have yet to discover those opportunities, Spoerri adds, noting that the country’s Federal Office of Culture, the Zurich Film Foundation and pubcaster SRF remain the main sources of financing for Swiss producers.

“We want to convey to the industry that there are other ways to bring these stories to the big or small screens. It is important to look outside the box. Every time I speak to industry executives, the topic of local-language productions is raised. It’s currently one of the biggest trends in the film industry.”

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