An online service is looking to help rights holders and festivals to take their films to a wider industry viewing base.

It is no secret that, for many international films, the world premiere at a film festival could be their principal window of exposure. At the same time, professionals visiting festivals big and small sometimes prefer to watch films in theatres with audiences, rather than hole up in a video booth and cram in five or six movies a day in industry rooms. This leaves certain films overlooked.

It was with a view to expanding the exposure for festival films that three French sales executives — Alessandro Raja, Mathilde Henrot and Lucie Kalmar — teamed up to form Festival Scope. Raja, formerly of Celluloid Dreams, Henrot of MK2 and Kalmar of Wild Bunch, designed a custom-made service where films can be viewed online at the same time as they screen at a festival. That way, professionals around the world who are unable to attend the festival can still see some of the films.

“The idea is to highlight some films and festivals as a way to create extra promotion for them,” explains Raja. “We don’t want to replace festivals. On the contrary, we want to give them a chance to improve their profile.”

Festival Scope has already partnered with this summer’s festivals including Sarajevo, Melbourne, Taormina, Era New Horizons, Locarno and Paris Cinema to showcase some of their titles when it goes into an invitation-only test period this month.

Other upcoming partner events include Helsinki, Istanbul, Brussels’ BIFFF, Sofia, Gothenburg, FNC in Montreal, Hamburg, Gijon, CPH Pix in Copenhagen, IndieLisboa in Portugal, Galway Film Fleadh and Transylvania.

For the rights holder, it offers free promotion and helps those who cannot afford advertising

“It’s not a database for films online,” Raja says. “It’s a showcase for the films and festivals, and the films will only be online for a few months. Naturally we have to have the agreement of the rights holder, and it will be up to the rights holder how long they want it to be available online.”

For the rights holder, be it the producer or sales agent, the service offers free promotion while also helping those who cannot afford to invest in advertising and promotion.

The project is financed by seed money from the RIAM network (Research and Innovation in Audiovisual and Multimedia), co-financed by the CNC and Oséo, and is working on building additional funds. In early 2011, it will be supported by an annual subscription fee from the professional — be they TV schedulers, distributors, sales agents, exhibitors, producers, festival programmers or specialised media.

Security considerations

A major factor in the inception of the site is security, and subscribers will only be allowed to watch films once — though they can restart viewing from where they left off — enabling rights holders to know who has seen the film and when. Rights holders can also dictate which subscribers can or cannot see it — they could block other sales agents, for example, or exclude subscribers from one country if it has already been sold in that territory.

“The service is being built as user-friendly as possible,” says Henrot. “It’s fully compatible with both Mac and PC. User-friendliness is the key. Also, we don’t use geo-localisation based on IP addresses because our professionals are travelling at all times.”

“We care about aesthetics,” says Raja. “We want to create a desire to watch the films online. Sometimes when you see online services for films, they don’t make it a conducive environment to watch films there.”

Henrot adds that the site is informed by the three principals’ passion for cinema and desire to share it with others. The ultimate plan is to accompany the film of a new director with his or her previous shorts and features.

“It’s not just a technical service to show films online, but an innovative way to support independent cinema,” she says.

For the launch, Festival Scope has secured feature films and shorts including the winning pictures from Paris Cinema (Dooman River), Taormina (Dalla Vita In Poi), Sarajevo (Tilva Rosh) and Era New Horizons (Mundane History). A special focus will also be given to projects presented at Paris Project and Locarno Open Doors.