The European Union will invest €3.4m in co-production funds and audience development for the first time as part of its Creative Europe programme for the cultural and creative sectors from January 1.

In addition, the MEDIA sub-programme is heralding major changes for the support schemes for theatrical distributors and the organisers of training initiatives.

At the same time, European exhibitors will be cheered by the news that the European Commission (EC) is will not be promoting day-and-date releases as part of its future VOD support strand.

Co-production funds

A total of €1.5m is being made available to support four to seven international co-production funds backing European producers for the production and circulation on 25 international film projects annually.

The aim will be to “increase the European dimension of the funds and their access for companies from all countries participating in the MEDIA sub-programme.”

Funds such as the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund and Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund could potentially be among the beneficiaries of this support.

Audience development

At the same time, €1.9m has been allocated for activities stimulating the appetite of the European audience – and especially children and young people – for European films through audience development events and film literacy projects.

The goal is to fund 10 projects of each category each year.

Audience development events could involve multi-territory marketing or promotional events showing non-national European films on various distribution platforms, while the film literacy projects will encourage cooperation across borders in order to increase the European dimension of film literacy initiatives and foster best practices.

Changes to training and distribution

In addition to the changes reported last week on the proposed guidelines for MEDIA’s development strand, the Brussels-based Education, Culture and Audiovisual Executive Agency (ECAEA) has revealed other changes to the support schemes for training and distribution under the new MEDIA sub-programme.

With a budget of €7.5m for 2014, the training strand will now concentrate on professional training and stop funding initial training schemes which had often been organised from within colleges and universities. These initiatives can now apply to the expanded Erasmus+ Programme.

A legacy of the current MEDIA Mundus will see nationals from non-MEDIA countries being able to participate in the MEDIA training projects.

The Commission has decided that, in 80% of the projects, there can be a participation of up to 20% of “non-MEDIA” professionals, while a maximum of 20% of the supported training courses can have a participation of up to 50% in “international” courses aimed at collaboration between MEDIA and non-MEDIA professionals.

The goal is to support annually around 80 initiatives for more than 1,500 professionals and to focus on the following subjects in the training courses:

  • audience development, marketing, distribution and exploitation
  • financial and commercial management
  • project development and production
  • the challenges of the digital shift.

Distribution still at the “heart” of MEDIA

As Sari Vartiainen, Head of the MEDIA unit at the EACEA, pointed out in a presentation of Creative Europe, distribution remains the “heart” of the new MEDIA sub-programme with a total budget of €33.45m in 2014 for the automatic (€22.7m) and selective distribution (€8m) and sales agent support schemes (€2.75m).

EACEA’s programme coordinator for distributor Gaël Broze explained that some changes to the selective distribution support would see a restriction on backing films from the five “big” territories – Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK – when a film’s production budget exceeds €10m.

In addition, a grouping of a minimum of seven distributors has to be formed in future for a funding application to be eligible. Until now, a group of five distribution companies were accepted for „small“ films and seven for medium-sized films.

Moreover, the sales agent will be responsible for coordinating the grouping.

In a move for more simplification and less red tape, the selective funding will also be in the form of lump sums rather than being budget-based. The same will apply to festival funding.

Market access

Meanwhile, between 50-60 market access actions – such as professional markets and pan-European professionals databases – will be supported annually with a budget of €8.17m.

The market access strand would also support those events throughout Europe, which facilitate the financing, co-production and sales of European works across all genres.

New focus for festivals

Moreover, the issue of audience building – which runs through the whole of the Creative Europe programme – will have a greater emphasis in the funding strand for festivals.

Festivals wanting to be one of the 80-odd events benefiting from a total € 3.25m each year from 2014 will be required to have a “clear” audience development strategy before, during and after the festival.

In addition, festivals will be expected to include film literacy activities and contribute to the promotion of programming diversity by screening a substantial number of productions from at least 15 participating European countries.

Support for exhibition, talks on VoD

While the funding for cinema networks which aim to expand the screening of non-national European films on the European market has been set at €10.5m for 2014, the EACEA is now in negotiations with the Commission on where to place the emphasis for the future VoD support scheme since the current pilot project for day-and-date releases had not been a success.

Describing 2014 as “a year of transition” between the current MEDIA 2007 programme and the future MEDIA sub-programme, Sari Varitainen added that there would an analysis of the schemes after the first year to see if there was possibly a need for the introduction of new or revised actions in 2015/2016.

Creative Europe’s budget

According to Varitainen, Creative Europe’s overall annual budget will amount to € 178.6m in 2014 and dip slightly to €177.7m in 2015 before increasing year-by-year until 2020: from €191.8m (2016) through €206.9m (2017) and €223m (2018) to €240m (2019) and, finally, €244.7m (2020).

The MEDIA sub-programme’s budget will start at just over €100m next year and end the seven-year period in 2020 at around €120m.

In total, the Creative Europe’s budget for 2014-2020 is €1.46bn for the MEDIA and CULTURE sub-programmes and a cross-sectoral strand.

Creative Europe was formally adopted without debate today (Thursday) by the Council of the European Union and will come into effect on January 1, 2014.