How can the internet help the film industry at a time when online-only businesses are still struggling to devise effective revenue models?
The film industry has been slow in adopting websites to help its business. At the turn of the century, the corridors of MIFED and the offices of Cannes were filled with aggressive start-ups planning to move the business of buying and selling films onto the web.
Why go to Cannes and pay all the costs associated with it, when you could view promos, trailers and finished films in the comfort of your own office, not to mention accessing deal memos, marketing materials or video-conferencing facilities?
Those free-spending web platforms are gone with the wind, having fatally underestimated the power of the face-to-face meeting in the film business. Buyers and sellers don’t just tolerate going to Cannes or Berlin, they actively enjoy it.
They want to meet and network and see films with audiences and be in the thick of it, and a sterile online marketplace with none of the face time or dinners or interaction with film-makers was of no interest to them.
The websites up and running today are more specialised and more intelligent in how they want to aid the business. They help navigate the complex systems of rights management, European funding systems, festival submissions, music licensing and contract administration. They don’t pretend to replace personal relationships, but provide more practical services.
ScreenDaily.com was founded in 1999 and was the first trade website to provide a daily news service for its readers. It worked particularly well in Screen’s case since our readership is spread around the world. At the time in Hollywood, you could pick up two print papers every day but for the Screen constituency there was no such option and the web was the best way to unify the global community.
Now ScreenDaily is an established service enabling subscribers to access instant news, reviews, features and box-office information in addition to our European production database Screenbase.
But we have always understood at Screen that the film business is a people business, and our conferences, summits, panels and parties around the world are designed so the industry can gather and network. Our journalists are out and about as much as possible, meeting and operating within the industry. Just as deal-makers need to trust each other and look into each other’s eyes, our journalists pride themselves on developing trust on a personal level.
So if the film business is slow to leap online, it’s for clear reasons. While the internet can help the film business, it can’t ever replace the human element at its heart.