When Euromed Audiovisual held its second conference at the Cinémas du Monde pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival last Monday, attending film professionals were treated to a cocktail of interesting facts about Euromed Audiovisual’s ongoing projects and research for improvements to the film sector in the South Mediterranean. And this was all before the customary drinks and nibbles even began.
Two projects financed by others EU Programmes were also introduced: MedMem, an audiovisual archive online for film professionals, educators and film schools from the region funded by the European Union’s Euromed Heritage programme, and a Europa Cinemas scheme for distributors and exhibitors from the region, financed by the MEDIA Mundus Programme.
Isabelle Durant, Vice President of the European Parliament, opened the conference, stressing the importance of partnership between the EU and the Mediterranean region, especially in light of the transition to democracy in many of its countries. Euromed Audiovisual’s work is very important as it allows civil society to express itself through culture, which complements the EU’s diplomatic work in the region, she said.
Next up was Alex de Rendinger to talk about Under the Milky Way, the digital distribution platform he co-founded in 2010.
The company’s success lies in a strong understanding of distribution networks, and creating marketing strategies customised to each market, he said. Under the Milky Way has successfully partnered up with four of the biggest video-on-demand (VoD) platforms: Sony, iTunes, Amazon and Vudu. By 2011 alone, the company had distributed 350 films in 60 countries.
Digital distribution will become increasingly important in the future, he said. Over the past few years, its popularity has grown, as shown by the decrease in physical consumption of films from $25 billion in 2006 to $15 billion in 2011 in the United States. Although not currently working with the Mediterranean region, Under the Milky Way intends to enter this market in the not-too-distant future.
Berthold Wollheber and Ahmed Bedjaoui, from the Capacity Development Support Unit at the Euromed Audiovisual Programme, next spoke.
Wollheber focused on the need to foster South-South relations and funding systems to create a self-sufficient South Mediterranean film industry.
Bedjaoui, a capacity development expert, spoke of the round table discussions held in six key countries of the region: Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Palestine, and Morocco. These discussions brought together film directors, producers, and institution representatives for the first time, he said, and will contribute to creating a healthy dynamic in the film industry for tomorrow’s films.
"Young cinema expresses something extremely deep," he said.
The Euromed Audiovisual Capacity Development Support Unit aims to improve the audiovisual sector of the South Mediterranean by sustaining a regional market, promoting mechanisms for South-South funding, promoting and tending to cinemas, and supporting scriptwriters with proper training.
The Capacity Development Unit will be present at the upcoming Cairo Film Festival and Carthage Film Festival, he said.
Mireille Maurice then took the floor to present MedMem, a project by Euromed Heritage that is closely related to Euromed Audiovisual. Through the project, 4,000 archive documents from the South Mediterranean region will be made available online in three languages: English, French and Arabic. The website will be launched in September 2012, and already counts more than 20 organisations partner representing 14 television stations in 13 countries.
MedMem is an extremely important platform to protect the region’s audiovisual heritage, she said, especially for educators and their young audiences, which is why the archives would have to be given context through relevant specialised articles. The presentation ended with a sneak peek at video clips soon to be available on the website.
Europa Cinemas’ General Secretary Claude-Eric Poiroux then highlighted the importance of screening European films in the South Mediterranean, the aim of their Europa Cinemas Mundus programme. Distributors from the region could benefit from up to 50% of printing and advertising expenses covered by Europa Cinemas for up to three releases through the initiative, he said. The motivation?
"European films are not shown enough in cinemas abroad," he said.
Europa Cinemas seeks to increase European films’ visibility through a two-week screening period with 28 consecutive screenings, something that it has already successfully organised with the release of The Artist in Tunisia.
In Europe, Europa Cinemas is also increasingly showing Arab films in its European film theatres. It recently screened the successful Iranian film A Separation across its European network.
This was followed by a short presentation of one of Euromed Audiovisual's grant projects, TerrmedPlus, a cooperation project between six broadcasters who create a 20-minute presentation of their weekly programmes. An online distribution platform has been announced for June 2012, with several hours of programmes to be available on demand from the TerramedPlus website.
Linda Beath and Lucas Rosant then presented, respectively, her research on the possibilities for co-funding a film in the South Mediterranean, and his census of 224 North-South and South-South co-productions from the region.
Beath said that,over the next 3 to 5 years, DVDs would become obsolete and be replaced by digital platforms. And funding is moving with the times too. Beath shared her particular interest in discovering radically alternative funding methods, such as product placement which is a $4 billion market in the United States alone, and crowd funding websites, increasingly popular the world over.
To entice the people of the region back into the cinemas, South Mediterranean professionals should meet to establish a five-year plan to include the move to digital platforms, and the use of alternative funding methods such as tax incentives, she said.
Rosant then presented his census on co-productions in the region, stressing that a lack of audiovisual archives was a challenge to doing this. Searching the Internet, press archives and catalogues, he found that between 2006 and 2011, there were 221 co-productions in the region, including 151 fiction films and 70 documentaries.
Most of these involved European countries, with France and Germany participating in up to 50% of all co-productions in the region.
There were hardly any South-South co-productions in the region: only four exclusively within the region, and 16 with Gulf countries, reflecting their growing interest in developing the Arab region’s image. It is clear that the South Mediterranean still has a lot of work to do in this area, but there are plenty of opportunities, he said.
Finally, Sahar Ali presented statistical data collected about the film and audiovisual sector in the South Mediterranean as part of a Euromed Audiovisual project with the European Audiovisual Observatory. Once again, she emphasised the lack of data available, but said that the project’s results would be published towards the end of the year. Hopefully, this would stimulate the circulation of information in the region.
After two hours of interesting facts, it was then time for cocktail hour (sheltered from this year's never-ending rain), where animated discussions continued!
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