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Sarajevo 2021 - CineLink Industry Days

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

Sarajevo invites producers and funders to discuss fair practice in the ecosystem involving streamers and content creators

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The talk, held virtually during this year’s CineLink Industry Days, was moderated by EPC’s Managing Director Alexandra Lebret

Sarajevo invites producers and funders to discuss fair practice in the ecosystem involving streamers and content creators

Is there a way to ensure sustainability for independent producers within the streaming model? This was the main question tackled by the panelists of “Working with streamers,” a talk which took place on Zoom during this year’s CineLink Industry Days of the Sarajevo Film Festival (14-19 July 2021).

The debate, moderated by EPC’s Managing Director Alexandra Lebret, comes at a time where less and less IPs are retained by independent filmmakers and uncertainty is growing around creating libraries, rights’ exploitation and project ownership.

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Four prestigious speakers took part in the talk: Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC)’s CEO Christopher Marcich, the Norwegian Film Institute’s Head of Production and International Affairs Lars Løge, Bulgarian producer Martichka Bozhilova for Sofia-based AgitProp and the Federation of European Screen Directors (FERA)’s CEO Pauline Durand-Vialle.

Durand-Vialle admitted that while all the work created by the co-operation with the streamers is “very welcome,” there are several issues that these players’ business model is bringing to the plate. Among the problems mentioned by Durand-Vialle are the “freedom of artistic expression,” the obstacles of producing content with a “third body” [the streamer], the payment of royalties and the transparency of data.

Løge explained that the fund is pushing funding more and more towards development to face the growing demand of content, and that Norway is, like many other countries, experiencing an unprecedented surge in terms of production. This phase, however, is also very delicate as industry players are worried about the audiences’ reactions following the reopening of cinemas and the possible “bloodbath of many Norwegian films released at the same time.” The Nordic film agency decided not to grant funding to producers selling all rights to the streamers, unlike in the past. “If that happens, we retreat from the project,” he said, “We grant national funding to protect national content, as well as local productions and directors, so it will no longer be available for those who give away their IPs.”

Speaking about HAVC’s course of action, Marcich said that the body is working on the implementation of an investment requirement, with the commitment to reach 5% of the revenue generated in Croatia to back independent productions. Bozhilova stressed the fact that Bulgaria is “one of the few countries where budgets for films come directly from the state,” and there is no funding system in place which makes producing more complicated. She also noted that one of the emerging trends in the region sees producers investing with filmmakers to remain independent and possibly keep their own IPs for the future. In this troubled context, she believes the EU should intervene and start regulating the market as soon as possible. This is particularly crucial for smaller markets such as the Bulgarian one, she argued.

In the second half of the talk, a Q&A session involving the online audience took place. During this part of the panel, the speakers discussed the increasing influence of AI, the difficulties of co-producing during the pandemic, HBO’s apparent “retreat” from Eastern Europe, the need to bestow more decision-making power upon producers and the governments’ responsibility in regulating Europe’s complex audiovisual market, among other topics.

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