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Is collaboration possible between public funds and streaming platforms?
Meetings#11 hosted a panel discussion in which producers and representatives of public funds reflected on the position to take vis-a-vis streaming giants and the subject of financing works
Is it possible, if not essential, for public funds and streaming platforms to work together in order to finance audiovisual works? This was the question put to those participating in the panel discussion “Public Film Funding at a Crossroads”, which took place in Merano (South Tyrol), hosted by the Meetings film conference organised by the IDM-Film Commission Südtirol, the 11th edition of which unspooled between 29 and 29 April. Borrowing the name of the public funding report recently published by Sweden’s Film i Väst, and presented in Merano by its author Tomas Eskilsson (for further details, read our interview), the debate saw producers and representatives of public funds exchanging views on several points made by the report, which was based on over 700 interviews with audiovisual professionals, conducted back in 2021. The fundamental question was this: is it possible “to sleep with the enemy”?
“The presence of streamers is a good thing because it means wider audiences”, Project Manager at Eurimages Sergio Garcia de Leaniz began, “although it would be interesting to have data on the impact of such exposure on audiences, which we’re still unclear on. This is something which needs discussing”. He then specified: “There are two factors which we need to preserve as we continue to co-exist: works should continue to be released in cinemas first, in co-producing countries, and IP and creative control should remain in the hands of independent producers. With these criteria in mind, we’re prepared to discuss matters on a case-by-case basis.”
“In our minds, films, by their very nature, are projects which are destined for cinemas. But even content wholly designed by streamers enjoys cinema releases now”, observed Iole Giannattasio, head of International Activities, Legal Support and Research at the Italian Ministry of Culture’s Film and Audiovisual Department. “We’re adapting our standards in order to stay ahead of new business and distribution models, but one thing is clear: we can’t not cooperate with streamers”. He also reminded us that “In 2015, we introduced tax credit in order to support independent producers, allowing them to retain control over IP and to be freer, creatively speaking, vis-à-vis public service broadcasters. These days, public broadcasters are tiny players compared to platforms. But it’s still important that content created for streamers or for TV channels is independent, creatively speaking, and this can only happen if producers have something to bring to the table”.
German producer Henning Ferber of Henning Ferber Filmproduktion sees things differently: “Platforms are commercial enterprises which commission content, they shouldn’t be funded, because their business model is based on subscriptions. The aim of public funding is to ensure films are made, and platforms don’t need public money to produce films, not even local ones”.
“The point we should be discussing is what is or isn’t public. Whatever is public belongs to me, it’s something which makes me proud to be Italian”, clarified Marco Alessi, CEO of Dugong Films. “The question is whether you’re proud to be offering 40% tax credit to Netflix: I am if the film is of public interest, if it has cultural value. It’s an open debate, but one thing is clear: our goal is different from theirs; their goal is to increase subscriber numbers”.
“As a regional fund, we’ve supported projects involving streamers, and it’s a huge responsibility”, stresses the Director of the IDM Film Commission Südtirol Birgit Oberkofler. “The cultural side is important, of course, but projects also need to have audiences, because we’re talking about public money. We need to be open, flexible and willing to go where the market takes us. What we’re doing is bringing together small producers, development funds and global players so that they can access new and exciting things, which they wouldn’t be able to access without our help”.
Last but not least, Head of Strategy at Film i Väst (and the afore-mentioned author of the report) Tomas Eskilsson shared his thoughts on the matter: “It’s crucial that we understand diversity”, he stressed. “Take Eastern Europe, for example. Most of the producers interviewed would have liked platforms to come onto the scene there and then, in order to survive and for creative and artistic reasons. Not all countries are as open and democratic as ours: sometimes streamers offer better opportunities for telling stories without hindrances or political limitations”.
(Translated from Italian)
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