European Film Market Tackles Big Changes, Issues at Berlin Fest

Growing demand for a united European response to the ever encroaching dominance of streaming platforms will be high on the agenda at this year’s European Film Market in Berlin.

The first EFM to take place under the leadership of new Berlin Film Festival heads Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian is also introducing a new initiatives, undergoing a massive effort towards greater sustainability and facing a major logistical challenge following the loss of a nearby multiplex.

While the rise of streaming platforms is not new, the topic has taken on greater urgency, EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol tells Variety.

“In the past the questions about the streaming platforms have been about their impact on EFM, what impact are they having on the market in general. Those are almost irrelevant questions now because in the meantime a paradigm shift has taken place.

“They are not just going to be part of the game, they seem to have almost taken over the game. It’s like sitting on the sidelines and watching the Trojan Horse being driven through the city gates. It’s about what we are going to do.”

Knol sees a need for industry players across Europe to work together in formulating that response. Up until now, individual countries have been left to deal with the impact at the national level, with little communication between territories, and producers often contractually gagged.

Streaming-related issues, from terms of trade to EU policy, will be significant topics at a number of seminars this year, from the EFM Producers Hub and the tech-driven EFM Horizon to the Berlinale Series Market & Conference, where Telekom Deutschland exec Michael Schuld and BritBox CEO Soumya Sriraman will discuss “The Streaming Revolution” in the opening panel.

“The feedback that we’ve gotten over the past year is that it’s time to act, it’s time to do something and it’s time to join forces,” says Knol. “If we don’t do it soon we may no longer have the chance because there will be many more platforms and it will be even harder” to join forces.

The Berlinale Series Market, which runs in conjunction with the Berlinale Series festival sidebar, continues to generate intense interest. More than 1,000 people are attending the event, which is presenting some 30 series titles, including Danish drama “Sex”; Australia’s “Total Control”; “The Real Thing” from Japan; and German wrestling documentary series “Basterds.”

“Part of the success is due to the fact that we have a curated market program, so buyers know that they are really getting high-quality drama series there, plus the six to eight festival series,” Knol explains.

As for logistical hurdles, the loss of the 10-screen CineStar Sony Center multiplex, which accounted for 25% of market screenings, has had a major impact, forcing the EFM to invest a six-digit sum in building temporary screening studios to complement new theater venues.

Marketgoers will now have to navigate more widely dispersed sites: six screens at the Delphi Lux near Zoo Station; two at the Marriott; two at the German Film and Television Academy (DFFB) in the Sony Center; two at the nearby Berlin State Library; and one big screen at the Russian House on Friedrichstrasse. The market is also offering a full day of screenings at the Cinemaxx on the Wednesday prior to the start of the EFM.

New additions this year include EFM Landmark, dedicated to international film commissions. The event will showcase the latest in tax rebates and incentives, new co-production funding opportunities and ideal locations for film and series shoots. The Jamaica Film Commission, the Croatian Audiovisual Centre and the Netherlands Film Commission will be among the organizations taking part.

As the EFM embarks on a new decade, organizers are looking to make the event more ecologically sound, with the aim of becoming a green market by 2024. To that end, it’s reassessing services seen as unsustainable, such as the shuttle system, and reducing the high level of waste.

Future film market business models have to be more responsible, Knol stresses.



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