After analysing the role that the MEDIA programme has had in the support of European film distribution through its schemes directly dedicated to distributors over the past years (read here the article), we explore here the goals and the achievements of two projects (Scope100 and The European Film Challenge) and of one sector’s association (Europa Distribution), that all receive grants from MEDIA. Each of the them contributes to the promotion and diffusion of independent European cinema with its specific tools.
Get your audience to pick up the hidden gems: Scope100
Despite all the efforts, there are many great European films that don’t make it in some territories, with much regret of the independent distributors who would love to bring them to their audience but who cannot sustain the financial risk of the release by themselves. In order to give a chance to some of these “smaller” films, in 2015 a group of distributors came up with the Scope100 project (originally called Scope50).
The project, that ran for four editions (2015 – 2018) thanks to the MEDIA support, was originally designed by Jakub Duszyński (Gutek Film, Poland), to give a chance to films that his company couldn’t buy and also to test an innovative initiative engaging local audiences in a process of European film acquisitions and promotion. Several brave EU distributors were immediately attracted to the project; among them Ivo Andrle, CEO Aerofilms (Czech Republic): “There are so many great films that we get to see or learn about at the festivals and markets. But with our limited capacity, only some of them get finally selected and distributed. Sometimes, we wish we could be braver and pick a movie that doesn’t seem to have the biggest commercial potential, but somehow gets close to our heart.”
So that’s where Scope100, financed by MEDIA, came in: each distributor participating in this project (running in 7 territories in 2018) recruits 100 people of various ages, places of living etc. This group of “experts” watches 5 pre-selected films online and votes for the winning one, and that film gets then distributed in the territory. The MEDIA support in this project is dedicated to the work with this expert group, not to the release itself, and it creates a direct line between distributors and their audiences.
“And it goes beyond that,” – continues Ivo Andrle – “we ask the experts about their marketing ideas, we consult them about the campaign and the communication on the film. Some of them become active ambassadors of the winning film. We keep in touch with the group around the year and discuss with them about other releases as well. The active participation of our audiences is very welcome, building this core fans around our distribution activities helps us in many aspects. Thanks to the MEDIA support we’ve created a precious tool and we are going to use it as much as we can in the future.”
Where could you watch more EU films? The European Film Challenge
The idea behind this MEDIA funded project, started in 2016, is simple: to motivate European audience to watch… European films. Open to anyone, the “European Film Challenge”, that will be soon running its third edition, presents itself as a game to be played on social networks. By uploading pictures that show the participant legallywatching a European film, each player can accumulate points. The winner of the challenge gets invited to the next A-Film Festival in Europe (Berlin, Cannes or Venice). Participants can watch the film wherever they wish, as long as it’s a legal offer: it can be a regular cinema theatre, a local film festival or a VoD platform. At times, specific films or certain platforms get a bonus status that grants more points to the spectator therefore encouraging them to watch maybe a new release or discover a new platform or festival. Greta Akcijonaite CEO of the Lithuanian distribution company Greta Garbo and among the founder of the programme, points out to the direct and indirect benefits of the project for the film industry: “The competitive environment created by the game stimulates the participants to look for ways to accumulate more points and that often means discovering a new platform they didn’t know about: this way the project also serves to stimulate awareness about legal alternatives to piracy. Thanks to the “bonus film” strategy we noticed that the most motivated players might discover films they probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise, in order to get ahead of their rivals.” The first two editions of the European Film Challenge were played in Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Serbia and Spain gathering over 10.000 users, mainly young people between their 20s and 30s. Bosnia, Finland andPortugal will be joining the game on its upcoming third edition.
Looking into the future, a very interesting feature of the project – that is bound to become even more relevant in the upcoming editions – is the collection of data about the participants: by putting together relevant information about what and how the players are watching, the partners involved in the European Film Challenge will be able to better identify the needs of their audience in order to target it and serve it better in the framework of their respective core activities at national level.
More than the sum of its members. Europa Distribution: mutualising experience
Last but not least… Europa Distribution is also directly a beneficiary of the MEDIA support through its “Access to Market” scheme. Thanks to the support the association has been receiving for about10 years, Europa Distribution has created new bridges for its members to share knowledge and mutualise experiences on film releases. The association works at a very practical level to offer a space of encounter where distributors coming from different markets can compare their experiences and share ideas and creative solutions: even if their local territories are different, they may encounter the same challenges. Every year Europa Distribution organizes several professional training, where external experts are invited to share their expertise on specific topics while during the case study sessions and brainstorming, distributors can get inspired and exchange ideas that can improve the curation, promotion and distribution of independent films. The European aspect is essential: depending on the country they are working in, distributors have different challenges and find different solutions. The impact of the activities would not be the same if organised at a national level, where distributors are competitors.
Partnering with several recognised International Film Festival and Markets in Rome, Karlovy Vary, San Sebastian, Amsterdam (IDFA), Sofia and Haugesund, and also with industry event like Cartoon Movie in Bordeaux and Locarno, Europa Distribution has put in place over the years a stable calendar of European events that involve its members but also representatives of the whole Film Industry. These gatherings are the occasion for the distributors to meet colleagues from other countries, but also exhibitors, sales agents, VoD platforms representatives, producers, film funds, piracy, marketing, technological and digital experts from across Europe and beyond, to share ideas and best practices and to create new collaborations. In a market that becomes every week more competitive due to the high number of films circulating, learning about what are the potential applications of the Blockchain technology in the Film Industry, or about some cross-sectors partnerships developed by distributors in other countries, can inspire a distributor to try something new in her/his own territory.
As often mentioned by the Commission and the European institutions, it is essential to enhance the skills and know-how of our professionals, especially when it comes to SME’s from all over Europe. Laurent Dutoit, co-president of Europa Distribution and CEO of Agora Films in Switzerland, strongly believes in necessity bringing forward the association’s activities within the European framework: “Europa Distribution’s activities wouldn’t have the same structural impact the independent distribution sector without the support received through the MEDIA programme. This support has not only a strong impact on the distribution sector and – in a broader sense – on the audiovisual industry and the circulation of films. Its impact is extremely strong on the circulation of European films, and hence on the promotion of cultural diversity, ensuring that European citizens have access to these films in the theaters but also on DVD, VoD or TV.”
Thanks to the MEDIA support, over the last years the European Film Industry has had the chance to test innovative ideas, develop cross-border collaborations and acquire new expertise through dozens of different programmes and initiatives with one common goal: helping European films to be in touch with their audience.