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Leading industry reps gathered on the opening day of Berlin’s European Film Market for what is certain to be a continuing discussion about leveling the playing field for independent producers across Europe and demanding greater engagement in the sector from global players.

The 1st European Film Politics Seminar aims to set the political agenda of the industry’s top issues over the coming year in order to accelerate European synchronization of film sector policies across EU member states.

With the major priorities being set in Berlin, a first draft strategy will be presented at the Marché du Film in Cannes, followed by an overview of measures achieved or still lacking during the Venice Production Bridge.

During the three-hour brainstorming session, opened by EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol and chaired by Steven Gaydos, executive vice president of global content of Variety, participants explored how Europe’s indie producers, seen as champions of cultural diversity and quality content, are at risk in the fast-changing industry landscape that is increasingly dominated by global streaming platforms.

Participants warned that independent entrepreneurs and the European independent film sector were in danger of disappearing unless more was done to protect them.

The seminar showcased EU legislation aimed at bringing new streaming and VOD players into the European entertainment ecosystem. The Audiovisual Media Services directive (AVMS) is expected to create a level playing field between linear and non-linear services since the same kinds of financial and quota obligations previously limited to broadcasters can now be imposed on streaming services, strengthening the position of independent producers.

To that end, the industry is calling for financial investment obligations to be directly channeled to independent productions or producers and that levies be redistributed into the independent sector.

While deals with major streaming companies differ from service to service, participants were in agreement that they all have one thing in common: the streamers pay a local price for global rights.

The seminar highlighted the necessity to develop a best practice charter for independent producers producing for non-linear services and create compatibility between national support schemes and increase distribution across borders. It also called for the need to impose transparency about consumption data of European works and revenues in the different territories generated by all linear and non-linear services.

Other issues raised included efforts to prevent linear and non-linear services from taking away all IP from independent producers via buyouts and enabling independent producers to recover distribution rights in their films and series after a certain number of years.

While the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, Apple Plus and HBO Max may be disrupting both the EFM and the sector itself, they are also providing greater opportunities for the circulation of European works beyond Europe, resulting in more and more Americans watching European content.

Initiated by the EFM, the European Film Politics Seminar was organized by consultant Doreen Boonekamp, chair of the Open Method of Coordination working group on co-productions and former CEO of the Netherlands Film Fund; the Assn. of European Film Agency Directors (EFAD), the European Producers Club (EPC) and the German Producers Assn.