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The Creative Europe MEDIA Programme is funded by the European Commission

In spite of the work of the European Union’s Creative Europe MEDIA programme since it was created in 1991, there are no signs Hollywood hegemony has really been challenged at the European box office.

This was the conclusion of the European Film Forum Tallinn that took place at the Black Nights International Film Festival in the Estonian capital last week.

Only half of the European films released in cinemas “make it to online” whereas at least 90% of US films that are released in theatres go on to have an online life, according to Martin Dawson, deputy head of unit at the European Commission (EC). 

Dawson also noted, “two-thirds of the European box office” is still dominated by US productions.

The EC executive was in Tallin to talk through what will happen when this iteration of the MEDIA programme ends in 2020. The EC manages the day to day business of EU programmes such as Creative Europe MEDIA.

The Commission first presented its proposals for the new programme to run from 2021-2027 in May. Negotiations with the European Parliament and the member states of the EU council are under way.

Dawson and his colleagues are promising “evolution, not revolution.” They are asking for a 30% increase in the MEDIA Programme budget, from the current €1.5 billion to €1.9 billion. Gender balance and equality is a key priority across the entire programme and there will be a new emphasis on supporting quality journalism and MEDIA literacy.

“The message we’ve got is that the MEDIA programme as a whole has been successful,” said Dawson. “It has clear added value. It complements very well all the work we’ve done at national level by national films funds. ”

“We know the global giants are providing competition which is fiercer than ever and our European model is based on independent, small audiovisual companies,” he said of the challenges European face when pitted against behemoths like Netflix and Amazon.

He called on these companies to “scale up” and to adapt to “make the most of digital technology and the data that comes with that.”

The new MEDIA programme will have four main priorities: skills and talent development, quality of content, cross-border distribution and promotion.

“Europe is a production giant but its films are not always visible enough. They need to be more prominent,” Dawson commented.

The European production sector has already received a boost from the recent “quota” directive requiring all VOD platforms in Europe to have at least 30% of European content. This content has to be given due prominence on the platforms so that European films can be “seen and known and discovered by Europeans.”

Dawson also shared some of the new ideas being floated for inclusion in the new programme. MEDIA helps to train around 2,000 industry professionals a year but the aim is to ramp that figure up to at least 5000.

He referred to the Europa Cinemas Network as “one of the biggest successes” of the MEDIA over the last three decades. It encompasses 1,000 cinemas in 33 countries, reaching an audience of 41 million. However, Dawson has called for the Network to expand further in central and eastern Europe.

MEDIA has tended to support distribution territory by territory. In the new programme, however, there will be a new emphasis on what Dawson called a “pan-European strategy” with distributors encouraged to share data, promotional material and subtitling costs. MEDIA will continue to support festivals but is trying to encourage greater collaboration between them “so they can pool their resources and achieve economies of scale.”

There will also be structured support to help European filmmakers tap into growing markets in the US, China and Latin-America. (He didn’t offer any specifics as to how this would be achieved.)

The new programme is also committed to delving further into the world of virtual reality and to financing new kinds of digital content as well as high quality TV drama. Dawson talked of an equivalent of Europa Networks for European VOD platforms. “There are hundreds of European VOD platforms but often they are not well known and often too small to have an impact…we want to look at how to bring them together so they can pool resources.”