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Matthijs Wouter Knol • Director, European Film Market

“It’s time to take a different kind of responsibility at the EFM”


- BERLINALE 2020: We chatted to EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol to get the low-down on what’s new at the upcoming edition of the prestigious industry event

Matthijs Wouter Knol  • Director, European Film Market
(© EFM/Angela Regenbrecht)

Helming the European Film Market (EFM) for the sixth year running, Matthijs Wouter Knol unveils to Cineuropa some of the key aspects of this year’s edition, which will run from 20-27 February, and which is ready to introduce some new initiatives and the EFM’s Sustainability Manifesto, as well as to support diversity in all its forms.

Cineuropa: What are the major changes at this edition of the EFM? What should visitors and exhibitors expect?
Matthijs Wouter Knol
: Participants will encounter a couple of new things. At this year’s edition, we are introducing the brand-new EFM Landmark initiative. This new platform is aimed specifically at film commissioners and producers, offering them an additional business platform. New trends, funding opportunities, cash rebates and tax incentives will be presented at EFM Landmark, and of course, it will showcase the best locations for film and drama series to production companies looking for the ideal spot to shoot their next project.

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I’m proud of the EFM’s new Sustainability Manifesto. Through this unique initiative, the EFM is attempting to take responsibility for its carbon footprint and unnecessary creation of waste. We’d like to contribute to a more sustainable event and improve by being careful in our use of energy and resources, and by developing strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle them. The manifesto also covers the creation of a healthy and sustainable working environment. The EFM joins in with the activities already organised in previous years by the Berlinale, but the EFM is also an event that needs to take specific measures in its own right because we’re organising quite a different kind of gathering alongside the festival. The manifesto is bold: it includes different kinds of actions, starting with the ban on plastic cups and the sorting of waste at the EFM, but it also embraces increasingly using sustainable materials for stand construction and advertisement printing, and developing alternative travel options. Sustainability is not just about being more “green” in our work; it also covers a healthy and supportive working environment throughout the year for the EFM staff, the active promotion of diversity and inclusion programmes all year round, and increasingly liaising with sustainable partners who will help us to take the next steps.

Finally, the EFM’s documentary platform, DocSalon, has some new formats to offer: there will be an “Archive Day”, focusing on the use of archive material, as well as the DocSalon Toolbox Programme, specifically intended for delegations of documentary creatives from underrepresented groups from all over the world – for example, those from indigenous communities. Last but not least, DocSalon is presenting a new partnership with DAE, the Documentary Association of Europe, which will officially be founded during a meeting at DocSalon.

Regarding the EFM Sustainability Manifesto, why is it necessary for a market to become greener, and have you received any feedback already?
I’d like to rephrase that question: why shouldn’t a film market like the EFM, one of the major business platforms for our industry, become greener? I think it’s time to take a different kind of responsibility at the EFM, and we cannot just leave that responsibility to our visitors. The EFM Sustainability Manifesto has been developed by the EFM team over the past six months, and the feedback from customers and visitors has been very positive. Even though we’ll have a lot to do in the years to come, the odds are on our side.

Once again, EFM Horizon will examine all of the most progressive aspects of technology in the creative industries. What do you believe could be a game changer in the near future?
EFM Horizon does not focus on technological aspects alone. Sustainability, well-being, diversity, storytelling, artificial intelligence and immersive media are the focus of this year’s edition [see the news], and thus the programme also includes social, economic and creative aspects as well as some technological ones. I wouldn’t say that there is one sole game changer. We have included the above topics because we believe they are all clear trends about to surface in industry programmes this year, both in Europe and elsewhere in the world. They will re-shape our thinking, influence the way we schedule our work and therefore have an impact on the near future of the film industry as a whole. Especially interesting are those trends that are not limited to the film and entertainment industries, but which have already had a dramatic impact on other industries ─ artificial intelligence, diversity, immersive media and, of course, sustainability, to name a few. We can learn from what has happened elsewhere and make sure the effects on our industry are beneficial and positive. The EFM sees a clear role for itself here, and EFM Horizon is the place to discover all of this at an early stage.

Focusing on diversity, which remains a key topic, what changes have you observed in the industry and at the EFM in this respect, and how close are we to achieving 50/50 this year?
Diversity remains a key approach for the EFM. It’s not just a matter of trends for us; it’s an issue that is key to how we see the development of business evolving and becoming future-proof. Let’s face it: the film industry still has a long way to go. The awareness of the need for diversity has been raised enormously and the industry has implemented changes, but it is not enough. Ask female producers, ask programmers of colour, ask funding representatives about the applications they receive. In Europe alone, the existing infrastructures are still alarmingly one-sided. Awareness alone is not enough to allow things to really change. As long as people feel comfortable and things are going well, it’s a sign that the status quo is still in place. When it comes to gender equality, the EFM will support everybody in reaching the 50/50 goal, hopefully in the next few years. And we won’t forget others, such as indigenous filmmakers; we’ll keep supporting the queer community so that they can find their place at the business platforms of the EFM. Also, the new kindergarten project is a good example of the EFM expanding its services. We set it up together with Parenting at Film Festivals.

Finally, how has the new leadership of the Berlinale affected the EFM?
In a very pleasant way!

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