At a panel hosted by the Venice Production Bridge – the industry section of the Venice Film Festival – earlier this week, delegates from the Italian, American, and Chinese industries shared the virtual stage with European regulators as they enumerated the challenges facing the global film business in the post-pandemic era.
Jointly organized by Italy’s cultural heritage ministry (MiBACT) and motion picture association (ANICA) for the second year in a row, the panel brought together global actors in an effort to foster cultural diplomacy and exchange, and offered the microphone to a diverse cross-section of policymakers and industry players.
“It’s clear that we must do more,” said Anna Laura Orrico, Italian undersecretary of state for cultural heritage and activities and tourism. “We have the difficult role of relaunching even while the pandemic is not over.” Bringing up the €40 million ($47.2 million) the Italian state has dedicated to supporting cinema owners, Orrico also emphasized the state’s plan for distribution tax credits and its aims to think ‘glocal.’”
European legislators Ibán García Del Blanco and Jasmin Battista then followed, introducing attendees to the European Commission’s Digital Services Act. Since June, commission officials have engaged in a prolonged public consultation in order to craft a new telecoms regulations package due for completion this month.
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Battista described the bill as a series of “regulatory measures meant to better integrate platforms” with legacy media actors, thus leveling the current playing field.
When the Italian industry delegation took to the stage, they made clear their particular needs with regards to this upcoming legislation. The past six months gave rise to a 66% increase in piracy, they explained. What’s more, there exists an-as-of-now insurmountable asymmetry with regards to user data. While the non-European tech giants are able to leverage external IP in order to collect detailed user information, the production outfits that produced such content are left in the lurch.
“We hope that the Digital Services Act will be able to clarify, once and all, the questions of tech platform liability,” explained Mediaset’s Carolina Lorenzon.
As Liu Chun, president of the China Film Co-Production Corporation, took the reins, he made clear the value of such a summit. “It seems this issue [of the DSA] is very important to the European film community,” he noted. “I will make sure [that Chinese industry partners] learn more about it.”
Liu then recapped the measures the Middle Kingdom put in place during its own shutdown, which lasted from January to July. While Chinese distributors experimented with new forms of VOD releases, exhibitors took advantage of the lockdown to refurbish and upgrade their theaters, in order to “give our audience a more secure film-going environment.”
Jay Roewe, senior VP of production for HBO, whose series “30 Coins” (pictured), directed by Álex de la Iglesia, screens at the festival, echoed those thoughts. Explaining that the recent lockdowns created a content crunch, forcing the pay-cable service to resume production as fast as possible, Roewe evoked the myriad security protocols put in place to make that possible given the current constraints.
“How do you create a safe physical and psychological environment [in order for production to resume],” he asked and then answered, citing specific measures and on-set practices derived from contemporaneous medical research. “Our protocols are above even those of the leading COVID-treating hospitals,” bragged the exec.
As the panel wound to a close, MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin joined to stress the need for strengthened liability and copyright regulations before handing the baton to MiBACT cinema director Nicola Borrelli to close it out.
Revising the many ideas shared throughout the panel, Borrelli implored: “We have to work swiftly. If all the rules are implemented in four years’ time, as some expect, then they won’t have any effect. Time is of the essence, here. Time is as important as the content itself.”