Resources & Reports

Think Tank Reports

The European Film Market (EFM) held three invitation-only Think Tanks during its last two digital editions. Industry experts, stakeholders and professionals were invited from around the globe to reflect and brainstorm about three highly topical areas of reflection for the international film ecosystem today.

The overarching theme of the EFM Industry Sessions 2022 was Shaping Change. Each of the three Think Tanks took a more specific look at the changes impacting various sectors of the film and TV industries.

The intimate, closed-door discussions concentrated on several key topics: the future of the film ecosystem, changes in distribution and changes in production.

The intimate, closed-door discussions concentrated on the ever-increasing digitisation of the industry, heightened to never-before-seen levels during the pandemic; the current and future roles and responsibilities of festivals and markets; and expanded access, diversity and inclusion in a business still controlled by a few.

Industry Sessions 2022

EFM’s 2022 Industry Sessions came to a close on Tuesday following six exciting days of conversations and key learnings exploring the present and the future of “Shaping Change." From tectonic shifts caused by VoD & streaming to accessibility concerns faced by the disabled to the role of funding for the marginalised and how innovative technologies play a part in all of this and beyond, the status quo was consistently questioned and challenged over dozens of sessions on topical areas of reflection facing the industry today.

Joining all sessions, filmmaker and consultant Andrew Houchens brings together the key learnings below.

FEB 10

Adapting to and “Shaping Change” versus merely reacting to it was the major takeaway from EFM 2022’s stirring Opening Session. Economist and Professor Mariana Mazzucato painted a bigger picture, highlighting the concept of innovation within the marketplace as an essential means to its evolution. She noted diversity, sustainability, and inclusion as just a few of the essential aspects of the value chain that should be present in all industry sectors in order to advance creativity and productivity. Veteran producers and innovators Karin Chien and Nusrat Durrani underlined this notion, pointing to examples from their prolific careers which have embraced the idea of being an “outsider” and creating diverse content for diverse audiences, in effect maximizing the value of IP to reach a wider public. Entrepreneur and content creator Mo Abudu took it all home, tracing her own professional evolution from business owner to talk show host to film & TV producer to push forward that change is imminent. The future is exciting and is already here, so storytelling must innovate and adapt, and audiences will follow. Click here to watch VoD.

Like many industry sectors, animation has been catapulted to new heights through cutting-edge breakthroughs in technology, but also through cross-pollination with other sectors. AR/VR/XR and gaming have merged and expanded incredibly over the past years, and they connect perfectly and organically within animation. Experts in this session exploring the future (and present) of animation agreed that audience engagement was a key part of this trend, referring to the “metaverse” as a natural next step in storytelling. Audiences are no longer just viewers but rather can be active, real-time participants in changing narratives increasingly using animation as a tool to expand storytelling, giving audiences the ability to contribute to story universes by creating their own user-generated content. Animation furthermore allows for increased sustainability, the experts argued, with smaller teams and greener optimizations outputting more efficiency industry-wide. Click here to watch VoD.

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Sensitivity to data-monitoring has increasingly been highlighted as a major and necessary driver toward progressive change in the industry, but how can we break discriminatory practices often inherent in data collection and encourage more equity, both on screen and on film and executive teams? Experts broke down the important work they’ve been doing to allow more integrity to the process, through examples like inviting more collaboration across industry sectors, industry bodies, and different communities, giving applicants more confidence. Data collection is also increasingly innovating to reflect more individuality and diversity through self-identification. Founders of the blockchain–driven platform Decentralized Pictures - an arm of Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope - presented their new outfit which takes data collection to the next level, allowing for users to become decision makers in the kinds of projects the company funds and produces, diverting power away from the conventional powers-that-be and giving it back to the public. By better understanding audiences through transparent and publicly available data, creators can harness more power and ownership over their content. Click here to watch VoD.

FEB 11

Is the sales agent still a crucial part of the strategy in bringing a film to audiences and finding success? While Covid has certainly shifted the way films arrive to market over the past two years, participants in this session examining the role sales agents play in publicity and distribution agreed that a strong festival premiere is still imperative, especially at festivals with a market presence. While things like the infamous MG (minimum guarantee) may have decreased with sales agents literally not being able to guarantee as much in unpredictable pandemic times, other things have remained the same, like the importance of creating diverse, high-quality marketing materials to help sell a film and create audience buzz. Producers should remember to plan ahead and budget for this while in production, reminded the expert panelists, but before anything their key piece of advice was “make good films.” The rest will fall into place. Click here to watch VoD.

Is creating content for the streamers key to survival in today’s ever-changing landscape? Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson argued that yes, platforms now truly drive content, impacting everything from the way content is sold and licensed to the type of content that finds success in the global market. What may seem like a threat to independent producers used to working in smaller budgets is also an opportunity: the majority of this content is produced by indie producers, commissioned by the platforms. And only more recently, there’s more opportunity for non-English language, local content. For example, 60% of Netflix Original content is made outside the US, and many recent hits have come from the non-English speaking world. Veteran producers in the session highlighted their recent successes with Netflix, working in series and with budgets that have allowed them to sustainably grow their businesses while also allowing them to continue making arthouse films. While there are many challenges facing producers today, all agreed that opportunities are still plenty, they simply need to be leveraged. Click here to watch VoD.

Tech like VR was all the rage a couple of years ago, but does it have staying power in 2022? What technologies are productions actually implementing today and what’s just buzz? Producers now must look to the horizon more than ever, with the constantly innovating nature of the audiovisual field in which new tech, platforms, and processes are adapted all the time. Mark Harrison, CEO of industry network DPP, mentioned virtual production and robotics as some of the handful of technologies currently trending and forming part of the ‘metaverse’ that is changing the way content is produced and distributed. He suggested that the productions of the future - already here - should focus on reducing their carbon impact, producing the highest quality content possible, and, with change inevitable, being agile and open to innovation today instead of tomorrow. Click here to watch VoD.

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As the VOD landscape has grown exponentially in Africa and an increasing number of native and independent platforms have arrived on the scene, experts met to discuss how this evolution has taken place and what concerns remain for platforms and filmmakers alike. Ultimately the emergence of more platforms has provided more options for both emerging and established filmmakers. There’s greater ease to working with independent platforms and less “red tape” than if working with big players like Netflix and Amazon, as well as potential for better deals incentivized by more competition. IP ownership is still a major concern, as filmmakers have become accustomed to commissioned work where the broadcaster or streamer takes most rights, but new platforms are giving more options and allowing IP co-ownership and co-licensing arrangements for filmmakers. The online space also caters to more niche audiences, fostering more diverse content and a greater diversity of creative voices, a win-win for all. Click here to watch VoD.

With greater representation at film festivals over the last decade, Indigenous filmmakers still face great hurdles in funding, producing, and distributing their work, often as a result of perceived cultural barriers. Indigenous creators in the session agreed that they often have more in common with their Indigenous peers in other countries rather than with those in their national industry, though funding bodies are still generally based on region and not on cultural factors. For example, filmmakers in the Mixtec region of Mexico have long advocated for co-production collaborations with Canada, as they feel their interests better align with the Indigenous community there than with the Eurocentric industry in Mexico. And there’s still great need for more Indigenous filmmakers to be invited to the decision-making table in order to truly impact funding decisions. Filmmakers expressed excitement on recent changes that have taken place, but there’s still frustration and work to be done: “we need less talking and more action.” Click here to watch VoD.

FEB 14

The Commission is fully committed to support the greening efforts of the audiovisual sector, said Lucia Recalde, Head of unit Audiovisual industry and media support programmes, in her opening the European Film Forum, Towards a climate-neutral audiovisual sector, in Berlin on 14 February 2022. The Commission aims to accompany and empower the industry to meet the most important challenge of our time – climate change.

In the context of the structured dialogue set up last year by the Commission, a technical working group of existing calculators is already working on comparability and coordination of existing carbon calculation systems. The aim is to have a user-friendly online tool accessible to all professionals that would allow comparability, without replacing existing systems.

Members of the first panel agreed that measurement is critical. The industry lacks data and coordination to understand where the most impacts lie.

Presenting the work of the technical working group, Philip Gassmann, a green film production expert, pointed out that there is often a focus on paper and single-use plastics, when it should be on accommodation, energy and transportation.

The second panel focused on the importance of changing the mindset that greening costs money and of using greening as a platform for innovation, both of which could and should go hand in hand. Professionals pointed out the necessity for public support to evolve, notably on the obligation of local expenses, in order to allow professionals to reduce their impact. Click here to watch VoD.

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The appetite for local content is stronger than ever, with local broadcasters thriving and big global players like Amazon and HBO focusing on regional content with local teams in each territory

Local and regional broadcasters have adapted to keep up with the major players, as well as audience demand for content and how they consume it (digitisation, different subscription models, etc.)

Global streaming has allowed a multitude of different business models for how producers and platforms can collaborate (i.e. Netflix commissioned its first series in 2012 from NRK, this opened the door for a huge range of collaborations). Click here to watch VoD.

The Framing of Us initiative began at IDFA 2020 as a call to interrogate decision-making practices of film institutions, specifically their relationship with and framing of marginalised groups. Panelists and a live audience described their experiences and how institutions have supported but often failed them, tokenizing and colonizing their work. The conversation mainly focused on funding. Naturally, those with funding hold power which informs storytelling and a project’s final outcomes. Filmmakers were less concerned about exhibition and distribution if given full autonomy with awarded funding, something rarely the case in the past and which is only just starting to become more common practice. By allowing filmmakers to construct their own subjective voices instead of holding them to ticked boxes, exoticism, and cliches, funding bodies can challenge the status quo and begin to right the wrongs of the past. Click here to watch VoD.

Post-pandemic, mental health has become of even greater concern in an industry that was already pushing filmmakers and executives to their limits

Mental health must be acknowledged, this is a first step to implement policy change

Companies are increasingly focusing on the mental health of their employees, like giving paid mental health days (no questions asked) and checking in transparently on mental health as part of the HR process to foster trust and encourage productivity (teams can’t progress if individual members aren’t sufficiently supported). Click here to watch VoD.

Digging deeper into the role of funding for marginalised film creatives, the conversation explored innovative ways funding bodies are challenging frameworks against global renewed calls for racial justice. Netherlands Film Fund and Ford Foundation/JustFilms representatives discussed their organizations’ evolution to embrace different forms of thinking and protocols around filmmaker support, highlighting new funds that focus on career sustainability versus project-based funding, as well as programs that award non-traditional filmmakers like Netherlands’ trailblazing Cypher Cinema initiative. Instead of judging applicants through discriminating qualifications like experience, education, or their relationship to a broadcaster, the initiative considers filmmakers based on their distinct vision alone, furthermore giving autonomy in how they choose to submit their application. Increased sensitivity in data collection was also called out, with organizations pledging to pursue a more qualitative and less quantitative approach when surveying applicants, but all acknowledged there’s still work to do. Click here to watch VoD.

FEB 15

Post-pandemic, China has seen big shifts in moviegoing attendance, with overall attendance decreasing and ticket prices increasing. Domestic films are dominating the market and the share of foreign content has significantly decreased.

For EU and foreign producers looking to work with China, the market is predicted to remain domestic-focused for the immediate future while borders are still opening up (though there’s current potential in exploitation of European IPs and remakes), but in the long term China expects a stronger return to international co-productions and increased interest in foreign content. Click here to watch VoD.

VOD & streaming has fundamentally changed the (documentary) industry, a good thing in that it gives consumers more choices (the consumer cannot be forced to consume things in a specific way, we can’t force them back into theaters). But platforms need to do better at curation to ensure consumer retention. In the same way, cinemas must offer experiences to get people back.

Not all documentaries are appropriate for theatrical model; filmmakers must think of audience and what platform/exhibition/distribution makes sense for their film as a starting point before production. Click here to watch VoD.

Given tectonic shifts in distribution due to VOD & streaming, the work of distributors is still more relevant than ever to lead a film to market; the work is now more about how to reach your audiences (many new tools available) and compete for consumer attention with so many other films, games, series etc now available to them

Major shifts in the way that audiences are engaging with film, especially post-pandemic, call for a greater need for curation (the work of distributors)

More adaptable distributors are in making connections between content and audience, the better off they will be in today’s shifting landscape. Click here to watch VoD.

Wrapping up a packed six days of sessions, AC Coppens and Wendy Mitchell highlighted major takeaways from the week, featuring expert guests who provided insight into 2022’s three highly focused Think Tanks on Future, Producers, and Distribution. The booming VOD & streaming landscape and how it’s affected all industry sectors was a theme across many conversations, from how platforms have become increasingly focused on local content to how working in series at the global and regional level has been a boon for independent producers and career sustainability. While VOD has given consumers more choices than ever in what, how, and when they consume content, it also requires expert curation to ensure audiences keep coming back for more. But this starts with the filmmaker, who now more than ever must consider distribution as a starting point for production. Marginalized communities and the disabled also gave voice to their experiences in the industry around funding and accessibility, with innovative new funding opportunities increasingly available to address different types of filmmakers, and the pandemic increasing visibility of the disabled and the basic right to arts access for all. Shaping Change is an acknowledgement that the industry is in flux and that these are complex, continually evolving topics. We hope that the space created within the sessions informs, but furthermore inspires deeper introspection and qualitative action. Click here to watch VoD.