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the vienna report / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM INTRODUCTION Film is a cultural product, but it has a long and growing economic value chain that needs to be much more focused.
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the vienna report 2008 2 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM INTRODUCTION Film is a cultural product, but it has a long and growing economic value chain that needs to be much more focused. The aim of filmmaking is not only production, but achieving audiences and sales. This is where the real success comes from. Funding is necessary to support national cinema, especially in a small country with a small market, and, apart from the necessity of coproductions as a give and take process, it should foremost be used not to maximize the quantity but the quality of national films. The (rising) amount of films produced per year is not a proof of success per se, but at most a guarantee for the whole sector to secure a certain sustainability and continuity of production. The Vienna ThinkTank was an attempt to refocus on a coherent strategy to break this vicious circle of stagnating subsidies; the gathering of funding and financing becoming more and more a steeplechase; too many productions with rather poor audience response and sales; and politicians using film merely just for symbolic actions. With the OSCAR for Die Fälscher behind us, we wanted to create a trigger for further and broader success and think of ways to improve our system. There is no ideal system, just as there is no ideal world, but every system can advance and adapt to changes in the industry. And times are not the same any more as they were when Film Funding was established in The framework of production is in a constant flow and Austria is not an island. We have great talent in Austria, we have experienced producers and renowned directors, so there is a real basis that earns and yearns to be developed. We do not have to reinvent the wheel, or copy paste from Denmark. The ThinkTank is not a copy shop. It s an attempt to question our system in good will. And maybe it s the assumed little and simple solutions, adjustments and steps that bring us essentially forward. And it s definitely not just a question of money. It s a question of consensus and will to reform. And then, maybe, the Austrian Film wonder will be more than just a flash in the pan! Roland Teichmann 3 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM THE VIENNA REPORT OVERVIEW This report describes the organisation and proceedings of the Vienna ThinkTank, April This event was instigated and funded by the Austrian Film Institute (OFI). It was designed by the European ThinkTank on Film and Film Policy, and took place in the New Film Studio of the Film Academy on the campus of the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Some 40 Austrian film professionals took part, along with representatives of the film funding bodies, Austrian television (ORF), government, Film Academy faculty and students, as well as invitees from Belgium, Denmark and the United States. The event was prepared by Henning Camre, assisted by advisors. This report comprises four sections with appendices. Section 1 (from page 3) presents the SWOT analysis prepared in the course of two preparatory meetings in Vienna attended by a small group of film industry professionals. The first preparatory meeting took place in January 2008, the second two months later. The results of the SWOT analysis were translated into a work programme for the Vienna ThinkTank. This work programme is set out in Section 2 (from page 5). Section 3 (from page 10) summarises the presentations made at the ThinkTank. These presentations offered ideas to be explored in the Working Groups. Section 4 (from page 17) sets out the conclusions that emerged from the Working Groups. Annexed to the report (from page 20) are the list of participants and three Information notes working papers prepared for the Vienna ThinkTank. 4 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM / SECTION 1 / THINKTANK DESIGN AND SWOT ANALYSIS THE DESIGN OF THE VIENNA THINKTANK AND THE SWOT ANALYSIS The Vienna ThinkTank was structured around having presentations by international experts, panel discussions, interrogation of witnesses and most importantly, intensive group work. At meetings in January and March 2008 with the ThinkTank, Austrian film industry representatives prepared a SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) analysis for Austrian cinema. The issues identified in the SWOT analysis were grouped under three headings: Public Policy, Infrastructure and Film Environment, and Audience Relationship. The themes that came up in the SWOT analysis discussion formed the basis of the programme of the Vienna ThinkTank: the questions to be addressed, the presenters and the witnesses. The concept of the witnesses was to have people intimately involved with the issues that had been identified provide the context for those issues. ThinkTank participants would go into working groups to discuss and develop ways of addressing the issues. The witnesses contributed to panel discussions moderated by an interrogator who had been briefed to ask key questions reflecting the SWOT issues: the questions asked to witnesses were there to further explore the thinking or rationale behind the policies and funding systems prevailing in Austria. Furthermore the presenters were carefully chosen to address the problems identified during the SWOT analysis. Thus the agenda of the event was structured around the SWOT and so entirely based on the observations of Austrian cinema stakeholders. * Producers, Helmut Grosser, Danny Kraus and Erich Lackner; director of the producers association, Werner Müller,; producer/ director/writer Goetz Speilmann; head of Austrian film promotion, Martin Schweighofer; distributor, Michael Stejskal, and director of the Austrian Film Institute, Roland Teichmann. 5 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM / SECTION 1 / THINKTANK DESIGN AND SWOT ANALYSIS CATEGORY STRENGTHS WEAKNESSES OPPORTUNITIES THREATS Public policy Stable political support for No public support for promotion, Rally political support for Further drops in production prints and distribution the cultural importance of film cinema audience lead to lack of political legitimacy No formal agreement with broadcasters re their role Attract additional public support to invest in the whole value chain No tax incentives or other finance sources No earmarked support for new talent Film, not a political priority compared to the arts in general No overall film policy Lack of film education - media literacy in schools Infrastructure and Lots of talent Few opportunities to produce Utilise digital production Disintegration of the film environment lack of continuity for all involved technologies audiovisual sector High-profile auteurs Fragmentation of production Invest in digital Budget limitations (often working abroad) and distribution sectors theatrical exhibition suffocate ambitious initiatives Artistic self-awareness Fragile infrastructure, New distribution windows, Decrease in number of and radical storytelling many small under-resourced i.e. VoD cinemas production companies Professional technicians Lack of commitment Triviality and provinciality on the part of producers Low-cost interesting films Lack of competition in Competition from bigger distribution sector German companies Spirit of passion and No coordinated strategy mutual support in the industry for release dates High level of documentary production No plans for the digital change-over Insufficient investment in project development Lack of self-confidence Small number of qualified script writers Too little diversity in genres and subjects The film school has a slim relationship with reality Attitude of the public broadcaster to screen Austrian films Audience relationship International recognition Austrian audience indifferent Increase market share at festivals to Austrian films small by changing public perception market share of Austrian films Good performance in Low performance Exploit German some foreign markets in Austria and Germany language market Poor communication with the public and the politicians and within the industry Use the Oscar effect 6 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM / SECTION 2 / WORK PROGRAMME THE VIENNA THINKTANK WORK PROGRAMME To develop and refine and the ideas and assertions that emerged from the SWOT analysis process, the ThinkTank developed a work programme that included a detailed breakdown of the activities of the Vienna ThinkTank. Aim for overall outcome: Strengthening of Austrian film and ways of winning back its audience Over two-and-a-half days, the ThinkTank considered the future of film in Austria from a variety of viewpoints. Participants, organised in small working groups, prepared practical proposals which, taken together, were to constitute a blueprint for a comprehensive new policy for film in Austria. Central to the deliberations stood an agreement of all the key players working together to change the Austrian film / media scene focusing on what they could achieve together within existing resources and without public/political intervention. ORGANISATION OF THE VIENNA THINKTANK At the heart of the Vienna ThinkTank were four group work sessions. Each was devoted to a topic of central relevance to a coherent film policy. The work sessions allowed for exploiting the expertise and experience represented by the participants. The topics covered were: Film education and training supply of fresh talent and initiative to the industry / continued investment in talent development Funding policy, prioritising of funding for development, production, promotion and distribution and the volume and type of films to be made / decision making processes / how can public funds add value? Infrastructure and cohesion in the production, the national and the international distribution and the exhibition sectors; fragmentation and its impact on joint strategies; the frequency with which directors and producers are getting to make films. Audience development; getting films to audiences and audiences to films; the actual films part in the equation: Could there be anything wrong with the films? Relations between film and television and the broadcaster s responsibility for film culture. Two additional topics were to be presented in the plenary: the synergy between film and television in Denmark, and understanding the changing market and exploiting new distribution technologies. The four interactive sessions each began with a short presentation by an international expert. For these sessions, this was followed by an interrogation of key witnesses. The witnesses were leading representatives of the Austrian film industry and from various public institutions. The participants then broke out into working groups, each with its moderator and rapporteur. In each working group a range of people from industry and institutions would be represented. In the course of the following hour, the working groups were to produce a number of proposals relating to the topic in response to a number of clearly stated questions. The working groups then came back together and presented in turn their proposals in plenary. For each topic, therefore, there were to be a considerable number of proposals. The four interactive sessions and the information session were followed by a half-day in the course of which the proposals for all the topics were brought together and refined. These sessions and the final half day were preceded by an introduction at which the challenges for a comprehensive Austrian film policy were set out. 7 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM / SECTION 2 / WORK PROGRAMME THE PROGRAMME ITSELF DAY 1 16 APRIL PLENARY (10:00-12:00) Introduction The time is right to unite forces to strengthen Austrian Film (Roland Teichmann) The European THINKTANK on Film and Film Policy Where do we come from and what will we aim at achieving (Henning Camre) Presentation of SWOT analysis as the Austrian view of the situation (Danny Krausz and Götz Spielmann) Data analysis presentation (Jonathan Davis) Introduction to working sessions - structure and process (Mike Osgood and Henning Camre) Lunch WORKING GROUPS SESSION 1 (13:30 16:00) FILM POLICY AND FUNDING POLICY Presentation: Central elements of a coherent film policy comprising volume and type of films to be made / decision making processes / how can public funds add value? Prioritising funding across the whole value chain: development, production, promotion, distribution, exhibition etc. Henning Camre / Witnesses: Roland Teichmann, Director of the Austrian Film Institute; Peter Zawrel, Director of Vienna Film Fund; Barbara Fränzen, ORF Group sessions Assertion: Too many films are being green-lighted for production support even though they suffer from insufficient development. Both the public bodies and the production companies must possess the qualifications that are needed to optimise the projects. A prolonged development process brings no money to the company, the production stage is where the money flow starts and it is tempting to reach that stage as early as possible in a film s creative process. And as the money is being earned by producing and not by selling the films, there is not sufficient incentive to make a marketing strategy from an early stage of development. Questions: 1. How could a changed distribution of funding means across a film s life, from development to exhibition, help secure quality and reaching an audience? 2. How could the funding principles best encourage producers to earn money on selling the films and not just on producing them? (Market orientation) 3. How could the funding bodies best become qualified partners for producers, writers and directors? 4. What methods and criteria should be employed to determine public support at the various stages of the value chain? Feedback in plenary Break 8 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM / SECTION 2 / WORK PROGRAMME WORKING GROUPS SESSION 2 (16:30 19:00) INFRASTRUCTURE AND COHESION IN THE FILM INDUSTRY Presentation: Securing artistic integrity, diversity, continuity and impact in European film production. Jørgen Ramskov, CEO, Nimbus Film, Denmark / Witnesses: Veit Heiduschka, producer; Andrea Dusl, director Group sessions Assertion: Directors and producers production frequency is generally very low. Many directors even make their first and last film simultaneously. This fact suggests a huge potential loss of talent. Continued investment in proven talent is needed. The production frequency needs to be increased in order to accumulate a critical mass of professional expertise and experience in all key positions that in turn will result in films of high quality. In Europe there is a serious lack of industry structures to support production continuity and distribution effectiveness. Even describing it as a cottage industry is an exaggeration of the reality. An industry-inspired structure needs to be developed. Questions: 1. What actions would be needed to create larger production units and how could they become attractive to creative film people? 2. How could the production frequency of directors be increased and the loss of the available mass of talent in all areas of expertise be avoided? 3. What is needed to secure that economy, finance, target groups and promotion are included in the development of each project at a very early stage? 4. And how could it be avoided that this demand hampers the creative development? Feedback in plenary Dinner DAY 2 17 APRIL WORKING GROUPS SESSION 3 (09:30 12:00) EDUCATION, TRAINING AND TALENT DEVELOPMENT Presentation: Driving innovation and new initiatives Vinca Wiedemann, producer/scriptwriter; Senior Advisor, ThinkTank / Witnesses: Peter Mayer, Head of the Film Academy; Antonin Svoboda, producer Group sessions Assertion: The Film Academy, the film industry and the public subvention bodies seem not to act in complete concert. A joint strategy for developing new talent and for creating opportunities for fresh ideas and initiative to flourish is needed to achieve progress and change. 9 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM / SECTION 2 / WORK PROGRAMME Questions: 1. What, in terms of training strategy, should the Academy change to ensure that its graduates can both play a role in revitalising the Austrian film and become integrated in the industry? 2. What changes are required in the industry? 3. The SWOT analysis points to general weaknesses in screenwriting and producing capabilities. What is needed to change and improve the situation? 4. How can the industry, television and the funding bodies best ensure continued development of new talent coming from the Academy and elsewhere? Feedback in plenary Lunch PLENARY (13:30 16:00) Presentations: Synergy between film and television in Denmark the role of television in developing and exposing new talent Sven Clausen, Senior Producer, Danish Broadcasting Corporation Understanding the changing market and exploiting new distribution technologies Kelly DeVine, Consultant, Reframe, Tribeca Film Institute, N.Y. Break WORKING GROUPS SESSION 4 (16:30 19:00) Audience development and getting films to audiences and audiences to films: Are the actual films parts of the equation Could there be anything wrong with the films? Panel discussion: Does public subsidy generate complacent films and filmmakers? A critical view of European films and their difficult relationship with their potential audiences. Peter Bouckaert, Producer, Eyeworks Belgium; Kelly DeVine, Reframe, Tribeca Film Institute; Sven Clausen, Danish Broadcasting Corporation The purpose of this short panel is to evoke a keynote of the ThinkTank s work: the idea that as well as making sure that there are the right structures, the right allocation of resources, the right decision-making processes, the right training, the right strategies for the changes in the technologies and the market place, we also have to have the right films. In other words, if the purpose of any effective film policy is to ensure that film-makers get to make worthwhile films and audiences get to see them, to what extent do we think today in Europe we have the right films and that audiences are being given the right encouragement and the opportunities to see them? The panel were to make short introductions (five minutes each) in which they would suggest What, for the audience, are the positive characteristics of European film (the reasons why audiences look forward to going to see a European film)? What are the negative characteristics (the reasons why audiences don t go and see European films)? What could be done to accentuate the positive characteristics? What could be done to attenuate the negative characteristics? Witnesses: Michael Stejskal, distributor/cinema operator, Heinrich Mis, ORF, Alexander Dumreicher- Ivanceanu, distributor 10 / THE VIENNA REPORT / THINKTANK ON EUROPEAN FILM / SECTION 2 / WORK PROGRAMME Working group sessions Assertion: Austrian fiction films have by and large lost their domestic theatrical audience and it is unlikely that this tendency can be reversed unless a number of new measures and initiatives are put into effect. The responsibility for this should be shared between the public funding bodies and all parts of the film industry. Questions: 1. How could Austrian film and television better support each other and reach larger audiences? 2. What would be needed for Austrian cinema to win its audiences back? 3. How could Austrian Cinema change its public image? 4. How should the windows for getting films to audiences be coordinated and exploited? Feedback in plenary Dinner DAY 3 18 APRIL PLENARY (11:30-15:30) CONCLUSIONS The ThinkTank meeting was to be just a door opener to a broader community then the real work starts: What needs changing analysis of group replies and suggestions Who have committed to participate in changing things after the ThinkTank event? Who are needed to achieve change of the various identified problems? Where are the limits for what can be
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