The Berlinale’s European Film Market opened on Thursday with the inaugural European Film Politics Seminar, offering a look at the pressing challenges facing independent European producers in a fast-changing landscape increasingly dominated by the growing number of U.S. streaming giants.
The seminar was hosted by Steven Gaydos, executive vice president of global content of Variety.
In his introduction, EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol noted the increasing presence of streaming and VoD platforms attending this year’s market. In addition to Netflix and Amazon, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and HBO Max will also be in Berlin and open for business, much to the annoyance of independent distributors.
At the same time, the number of producers attending the market rose by 40% over the past year, he added. “For a market like EFM, it’s crucial to keep producers on their radar.”
Independent producers in particular are vital in the industry as makers of content, and markets like the EFM could cease to exist if the conditions to protect them are no longer there, Wouter warned.
Alvaro Longoria, head of Spain’s Morena Films and president of the European Producer’s Club, said the new business model ushered in by the arrival of the streaming platforms had completely changed the industry and made the situation more difficult for distributors of independent films, leaving many indie players struggling as buying trends shift.
“I think the EFM must be seeing that. The independent distributors are the core of the independent co-production business,” Longoria pointed out, adding that they were facing very difficult competition from the big streaming companies who can pay more for world rights.
Longoria warned that the trend could lead to the extinction of entrepreneurship in the film business. “I consider myself to be an entrepreneur, I’m also a creator, a producer, a talent manager. If I were working in a company, I doubt I would be doing what I’m doing now.”
He added: “I think the extinction of diversity is also a huge risk.”
In a video message, Maja Cappello of the European Audiovisual Observatory offered a detailed look at European media policy and guidelines that aim to protect independent producers and diversity.
Doreen Boonekamp, former CEO of the Nederlands Film Fund and co-chair of the EU’s Open Method of Coordination (OMC) group of experts on co-productions, expressed the need to ensure basic principles and cultural diversity but said ensuring an even playing field among the EU member states remained a challenge.
As a result of the changing landscape, financing circulation among European co-productions was increasingly under pressure, she added.