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SOFIA 2021 Sofia Meetings

Sofia Meetings hosts a new Europa Distribution workshop


- The participants at the online meeting discussed the several ideas independent distributors came up with to keep promoting and releasing films during the difficult current situation

Sofia Meetings hosts a new Europa Distribution workshop
The participants at the Europa Distribution workshop at Sofia Meetings

Last month Europa Distribution was part of two major events that open the European film industry’s spring calendar: Cartoon Movie (9-11 March) (read news) and Sofia Meetings (17-24 March). For the association it was the occasion to experiment for the first time with all-digital workshops. The gatherings, however virtual, felt to all participants like friendly occasions to meet again after a long and challenging year. During both workshops, distributors exchanged information, advices and best practices.

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From both workshops it was clear that independent distributors are running the extra mile to stay afloat in this pandemic. Despite the evident difficulties, most participants acknowledged that whether it’s a different way of exchanging with partners, other distributors, and exhibitors, or a new way to connect with audience, there are some positive achievements they will carry with them in the post-pandemic future. In the hope this future is near.

On 17 March over 20 distributors, members of Europa Distribution, attended the online workshop organised in partnership with Sofia Meetings to discuss the current situation of independent distribution in Europe.

Laurent Dutoit (Agora Films, Switzerland) member of Europa Distribution’s Board, illustrated the initiatives taken by the association over the last year to bring awareness on the struggle of the sector to the institutions at European level, working side by side with other networks such as the FIAD (International Federation of Film Distributors' Associations) to collect examples of what is working in some countries and bringing ideas on how to restructure existing support schemes to better support independent distributors in this difficult moment.

During the discussion several members explained how they have been joining forces with other distributors at local level to achieve different goals: to lobby, pushing governments to include film distribution among the sectors to support (Bulgaria), or to have a stronger online presence, using the same VoD platforms (Belgium).

Many companies have been experimenting with different solutions to have their films released online, often working closely with cinemas to include them in the process and to reach their local audiences. While with some titles encouraging results were obtained, the general impression was that even in the present circumstances VoD releases are often not financially viable. On one side there are the usual problems like piracy, acutely felt in countries like Bulgaria, Italy and Romania, and a general unwillingness from the audience to pay for online contents, and on the other there is what Simon Wullens (Lumière Distribution, Belgium) describes as the consumers’ “digital fatigue”, understandably kicking in after a long period of digital living.

Online events have also been frequently organised to launch films online and Samantha Faccio (Tucker Film, Italy) remarked that while they have proved to be an excellent tool to stay connected with the audience and engage it, the amount of work and preparation they required does not unfortunately translate into satisfactory sales.

Europa Distribution will be back in the workshop scene this summer, hoping that the pandemic situation will finally allow in-presence events.

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