Fueled in no small part by international streamers looking to entrench their market share, production days skyrocketed across the European continent in 2021. But if the last year marked a gold rush for both service providers and content hungry viewers, independent producers have been feeling the squeeze.
“It’s not a golden age when it comes to IP retention,” said Katharina Hiersemenzel, senior VP public policy of German mini-major Constantin Film. “It’s been more of a step backwards, and that’s very dangerous for us, because [we don’t want to] become mere service producers in the long term, unable to invest in new talents and projects.”
Speaking at an independent producers panel the Berlinale Series Market, Hiersemenzel was outspoken about the need for need for new regulations. “Market interventions are needed when there is a market failure,” she continued. “And there is a certainly a market failure when it comes to negotiating power.”
And so, in Germany, local producers have been working with the new government and new culture ministry on legislation that would closely resemble the mandates passed by the French government in June of last year. Indeed, the French investment obligations – which require international streamers to invest between 20%-25% of their French revenues in local content, and to partner with independent producers to do so – have become beacons across the European industry, inspiring similar measures in Germany and Scandinavia.
“Everyone is now looking at France as our key and main example,” said Rikke Ennis, CEO of Denmark’s REinvent Studios. A production house and sales outfit, REinvent launched its Faroe Islands set crime drama “Trom” (pictured above) as part of Berlinale Series Market Selects.
Now, as the Nordic industry looks to increase its own investment obligation beyond the current level of 5%, Scandi policymakers have also taken interest in another aspect of the French decree: The licensing agreement that returns full IP rights to independent producers after a 36-month window.
“Keeping the rights, and being able to resell the series after some time will be almost like a pension,” Ennis said. “It will also incentivize smaller producers to invest in new projects and to take chances.”
For all panelists, who also included Janine Jackowski (Komplizen Film), Sydney Gallonde (Make It Happen Studio) and Imran Khan (Big Window Productions), transparency was another major point of interest.
“We have no clue what works and what doesn’t,” said Ennis. “When we release a film we know who goes to see it, but we’re not exposed to [streaming data] so we cannot learn from production to production. So that’s something we need to have legislation on going forward. We need access to the data of who’s watching the series you produced over the past two or three years.”
“At the end of the day, producers are talent too,” added Khan. “We bring our creative vision to these projects, and that’s an important thing to think about when it comes to IP allocation and rights retention.”