“Over time, more public film financiers have developed a more complex and perhaps more nuanced approach to global streaming services”
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Tomas Eskilsson • Author of Public Film Funding at a Crossroads
The film producer answered a few questions about his report on public financing, recently published by Sweden’s Film i Väst
Cineuropa interviewed Tomas Eskilsson, the author of a recent report on public financing titled Public Film Funding at a Crossroads (see the news). The main purpose of this piece of research, based on a large number of dialogue-based seminars and interviews with industry representatives, is to lay the foundations for a European-wide debate regarding the objectives, arguments, tasks and methods of public film funding. We asked Eskilsson a few questions about some of the document’s key topics, including the public funds’ work with streaming giants, current capacity issues and the gold rush for content creation, among other subjects.
Cineuropa: The matter of whether to “sleep or not to sleep with the enemy” is perhaps one of the most heavily discussed, crucial points in your research. Where do the different European countries – or regions – stand in response to this dilemma?
Tomas Eskilsson: There is no common understanding of how public film financiers and public service broadcasters should act in relation to the “streaming giants”. Over time, more and more public film financiers have developed a more complex and perhaps more nuanced approach to the global streaming services. There are areas where public film agencies can benefit from cooperation – capacity and skills development, talent development, infrastructure development – and there is a grey area where public film financiers and global streaming services finance the same project while respecting one or more key cornerstones of the European tradition: namely, the production company's ownership of underlying rights, and the possibility of an exclusive viewing and exploitation window in the specific territory. The crucial question, however, is who has the creative and artistic power in the grey area?
In your research, you state that respondents believe that capacity issues will be solved by 2025. Why do you think this is the case? What solutions could there be to overcome this challenge?
There are a few respondents who believe that the capacity problems can be solved in the next few years. Neither we nor the majority of the respondents believe this. Our view [for further information, see the Recommendations chapter in the report] is that public film financiers have a responsibility to analyse the situation and propose solutions. It takes time to develop creators and key functions. In many European countries, the work to develop capacity has barely begun.
The gold rush for content creation seems set to end by 2026 – for some countries a bit earlier, whilst for some others a few years later. Why do you believe this is going to happen?
The majority of those we have talked to believe that the gold rush will continue throughout the 2020s, but that along the way, there will be consolidation phases when growth is lower. In territories where “streaming giants” have become central commissioners and financiers of local content, a plateau phase may come faster. Local European content will be a means to compete for local and global dominance. The importance of exclusive releases each week will increase. All of this will drive a continued expansion of volume and capital. We believe that the gold rush will last until at least 2026.
After having completed this research, which are, in your opinion, the public film agencies that are moving in the right direction?
During the spring, we will conduct a supplementary study called Public Film Agencies in Transition, where we will present eight bodies – four national and four regional film agencies – that are driving development work that relates to the changes in the ecosystem and the paradigm shift. It will be presented in June. The selected agencies represent all parts of Europe.
Some claim that the perspectives outlined in the study are too “Nordic” and are therefore hard to apply to other European territories. How do you respond to such claims?
In the report, we clarify that the answers to the study’s questions vary on the extent to which “streaming giants” have become a central player in commissioning and financing local content, and the extent to which the “consumption” of “storytelling on cinematographic ground” takes place through streaming. If one reads the ten territorial reports (produced by our partners around Europe), it can be noted that the report’s accounts reflect the responses given in different parts of Europe quite well. The conclusions have been discussed and agreed with the authors of the ten territorial reports. It is also important to clarify that the study focuses on the mid-term future.
What role will the two upcoming publications linked to this report, Creative Overload by Wendy Mitchell and Streaming Giants and Public Film Funding by Michael Gubbins, play? Could you please elaborate on some of the topics they are set to cover?
Michael Gubbins’ report focuses on how the expansion of “streaming giants” affects public film funding – opportunities and threats, pros and cons. Wendy Mitchell has interviewed a number of well-known creators about how they would reflect on “the content boom” – again, opportunities and threats, pros and cons.
One more question: it’s a hot topic opened up by some trades these days. Some industry reps say that the Russian-Ukrainian war will push more and more productions towards Western Europe or even out of the continent altogether. What’s your take on this?
I think it is impossible at this stage to make a prediction about how the war will affect the localisation of production in the future.
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