Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers and Jerzy Skolimowski among signatories supporting 37% budget increase

A range of leading European film-makers have signed a declaration by Europa Distribution, Europa International, Europa Cinemas and the French producers association L’ARP supporting the multi-annual budget increase of 37% for the cultural and creative sectors and underlining the necessity for distribution and exhibition to remain at the heart of the future MEDIA Programme.

The list of signatories includes Ken Loach, Aki and Mika Kaurismäki, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Isabel Coixet, Cristian Mungiu, Mia Hansen-Love, Jerzy Skolimowski, Hans-Christian Schmid, Fredi M. Murer, screenwriter Paul Laverty, actors Charlotte Rampling and Yolande Moreau, producers Rebecca O’ Brien, Philippe Avril, Marcel Hoehn and Jose Luis Lozano, as well as Boris T. Matic, director of the Zagreb Film Festival and head of Kino Europa, The Match Factory’s Michael Weber, on behalf of 30 sales agents who are members of Europa International, Lumiere’s Annemie Degryse and Gutek Film’s Jakub Duszinski, on behalf of 117 European distributors who are members of Europa Distribution.

The declaration, which appeared on the eve of a public hearing hosted by the European Parliament (EP) to define the future EU Culture and MEDIA Programmes, accepted that “the future MEDIA Programme can be updated and reorganised. But it must not enter into new fields at the cost of potentially weakening what it has proven a great instrument for.”

Moreover, the declaration’s authors stressed that “the future MEDIA Programme needs to adapt to the new realities of the digital transition: digitization of European theatres, online distribution of audiovisual works”.

But they expressed concern about the EU programme “creating new schemes that would threaten the traditional support schemes for distribution (local distributors and international sales agents) and exhibition, which have proven over the years to be very successful schemes”.

The future MEDIA Programme, according to the four European industry bodies, should take the specificity of the audiovisual and cinematographic sector into account and keep a strong focus on its traditional core, the distribution and theatrical exhibition of European works, and thus ensure the continuity with the current programme.

“The main objective of the MEDIA Programme is to promote the transnational circulation of audiovisual works and professionals, in Europe and beyond, by supporting the distribution of audiovisual works in theatres, as well as on other relevant platforms, including television, video-on-demand, online platforms and festivals,” the declaration argued, adding that “this objective shall remain the core of the future Programme to increase the successful impact of the current Programme on the distribution and circulation of European works in and outside Europe.”

Meanwhile, in an associated development, Polish MEP Piotr Borys, the rapporteur for the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs, has called on his EP colleagues on the Committee on Culture and Education to consider a raft of suggestions for a resolution on the online distribution of audiovisual works in the European Union.

Borys’ Draft Opinion stressed “that territorial distribution schemes should continue to apply to the digital environment, since this form of organisation of the audiovisual market appears to guarantee the prefinancing of European audiovisual and cinematographic works; in this regard, multi-territorial licensing should remain optional.”

In addition, he spoke of “the need to find a solution allowing authors and performers to secure fair economic returns from the online exploitation of their works” and suggested that “the application of reduced VAT rates for online cultural content would boost the attractiveness of digital platforms”.