Roundtable industry discussions yield ideas such as a global database of film availability and pan-European VOD technical standards.

Locarno’s Step In initiative went global this year, welcoming 50 industry participants from not only Europe but all over the world.

The Step In day on Sunday, organised by Locarno head of international Nadia Dresti [pictured] and industry consultant Sophie Bourdon, started with panels examining the South African and Brazilian markets.

Then the 50+ participants from across film industry groups and sectors were divided into four roundtables.

Participants across the groups Susan Wendt of TrustNordisk, Jon Barrenechea of Picturehouse Cinemas, Eugene Hernandez of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Marit Van den Elshout from CineMart, Pierre-Alexandre Labelle from Under The Milky Way, Alessandro Raja of Festival Scope, Nicholas Kaiser from Memento, Marie-Eve Parenteau from Mexico’s Ambulante Film Festival, Fatima Djoumer from Europa Cinemas, Christine Eloy from Europa Distribution, Michael J Werner from Fortissimo, Ryan Werner from Cinetic, David Laub from Oscilloscope, and Roberto Olla from Eurimages.

With the permission of organisers, Screen digests some of the discussion points presented from the four groups. Top takeaway points including the idea to create a database of film availability across borders, the need for shared technical standards across VOD platforms, and the need to involve exhibition throughout the entire value chain of a film.

Audience Development in Public and Communal Settings

The need to try different ways of working that haven’t been done before.

Creating the feeling of events around screenings, such as Q&As

Asking can cinema on demand work for older people not just youth?

Looking at the example of Moscow’s Pioner Cinema, which asks audience members to pay for special projects in advance, then using ticket sales to fund the cost of bringing in films and filmmakers.

Because both distribution and exhibition can be afraid of change, there needs to be more innovative thinking.

The imbalance of film distribution levels – in most countries there are too many theatrical releases (in the UK, there were 698 last year), but in a territory like Estonia there might not be enough releases.

Niche audiences are important.

Exhibitors need to have more of a role throughout the whole value chain of film financing and production.

Audience Development at Home

Collaboration is key and more connections need to be built.

There are less systems in place for home entertainment than for theatrical.

A structural thinktank could help with more regular discussions of these issues.

It’s a very different situation territory by territory, particularly when comparing the US to Europe.

There is a need to experiment more with releases, but the situation with windows makes that difficult in some cases.

Crowdfunding for distribution could help more niche films.

The Increasing Importance of Curators and Community Builders

You can’t put the audience aside when you talk about curation.

Audiences can be curators just as festivals can.

If a film isn’t sold for a particular territory, would it be feasible to offer it online for a reasonable price, say €2.99 on Vimeo (with money back to the producer or sales company). With the thought being that even a tiny audience might be a way to grow an audience in a particular market, all of these films would have been curated by festivals or sales companies, yet they aren’t available to many audiences.

A database targeted at the public that lets users search to see where a particular film is available (in which territories and platforms). With there being too many movies on too many platforms, there is audience confusion currently. Such a proposed database would let you find the film not watch it there. A solid amount of funding would be crucial to get such a project started. (In the UK there is a similar website called FindAnyFilm.)

Social media can continue to be used to connect curatorial voices and audiences. With Facebook feeling more advertising-driven, Twitter seems like the current home of such discourse.

With some festivals having their own VOD offerings, how can the industry connect all those initiatives?

What can filmmakers do more directly to connect with audiences?

The Practicalities of Multi-Platform/Multi-Territory Day and Date and VOD Releases

European day-and-date releases are trickier than those in the US because of the lack of a common language.

It’s not realistic to talk about day-and-date multi-territory releases across Europe yet

Day-and-date releases in Europe are starting slowly but these experiments, such as TIDE, are important

Each film is a unique case.

Sometimes a theatrical launch can help promote a VOD release, but more times the opposite can be true – for instance in the Czech Republic the VOD success of the Serbian film Klip inspired cinemas to programme it.

Exhibition needs to be included in the discussion.

There are big challenges to get data on new forms of releases like VOD, it would be encouraging if sales companies can share relevant data and groups like Europa Distribution could ask their members to contribute.

The issue of broadcasters wanting to take on a film’s digital rights is problematic.

All of Europe won’t evolve at the same pace, for instance France might see slower change because of its strict media chronology laws.

It’s important to work towards pan-European technical standards – and perhaps Creative Europe needs to fund the development of technology that works across borders.