Press Enter to Search
Subscribe to the MeCETES Newsletter for the latest blogs on European film and TV drama.
* = required field

Concerns over digital single market dominate Cannes

Cannes isn’t just the place to see the latest films or spot Hollywood stars. It is also a key forum for debate about the future of the European film industry. Ilse Schooneknaep reports on the hot topics at this year’s festival.

By the end of 2016, Netflix will be a fully global player, Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, told film executives gathering for this year’s Cannes Film Festival.  Speaking at the NEXT Pavilion on Friday 15 May, Sarandos said the company’s would continue to grow its catalogue as well as produce its own original films and TV series.

CannesAnticipating the launch of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market (DSM) proposal, Sarandos questioned current windowing strategies within Europe: “Everything about how we consume entertainment has been changed by the Internet except windowing for movies”. He said Netflix wasn’t against traditional theatrical releases and was willing to collaborate with cinemas to coordinate day-and-date releases.

A dramatic moment in the debate came when Sarandos was defended by Harvey Weinstein, boss of The Weinsten Company, after a reporter in the audience claimed Over-the-top (OTT) content players like Netflix were destroying the European film sector. Weinstein, who recently signed a production deal with Netflix, said Netflix’s catalogue had actually made European films available to a wider audience.

Digital single market

The EU’s DSM proposal, published on May 6, continued to dominate industry discussions throughout the Cannes festival. During a conference on “The future of copyright in Europe”, French Minister of Culture, Fleur Pellerin, questioned how the proposal would impact on European copyright law. Delegates raised further concerns about the DSM proposal, suggesting it could deliver the final blow to an already endangered industry.

In his opening speech to the conference, acclaimed director Volker Schlöndorff said creative practitioners needed to show the European Commission that while the DSM proposal might provide a practical solution to the problem of piracy and marginal circulation, it ignores the fact that European films are mainly financed through pre-slaes and co-production between several independent companies in different countries. Or as Polish producer Darwin Jablonski put it: “The doctor is prescribing a medicine without even seeing the patient”.

Others such as Peter Dinges and Lynne Ramsey uttered similar concerns, highlighting the importance of territoriality for the continuation of cultural diversity in Europe. Possible solutions ranged from a European alternative to like Netflix, to taxation of VoD platforms and more investment in the fight against piracy.

Opponents of the DSM proposal found surprising support from representatives of the six major Hollywood studios. However, no significant suggestions for alteration of the DSM proposal were forthcoming from any of the delegates.

As the festival drew to a close, EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger finally responded to concerns about the DSM proposal. Speaking at the European Film Forum on Monday 18 May, he said the Commission’s proposals would allow the portability of media content while maintaining the territoriality principle.

In response to Oettinger speech, veteran producer Lord Puttman said Europe was on a very slippery slope, one with many unintended consequences. Panelists from EuroVOD, ARTE and the FIAD repeated demands for a European alternative to Netflix and taxation of VoD platforms.

Meanwhile, a working group led by Europa Distribution, EuroVOD, Europe International and the European Producers Club released an open letter to the European Commission, calling for audiovisual professionals to come together to discuss new measures and “present solutions to improve accessibility, distribution and circulation”.

Market trends

Aside from debates about the digital single market, the European Audiovisual Observatory released its annual Focus: World Market Trends report and its pending research on European film funds. Notwithstanding all the concerns on the survival of the European film industry, the numbers were surprisingly positive, with the highest market share for European content (33.6%) since the first Focus report back in the 1998.

Meanwhile, Jacques Audiard picked up this year’s Palme D’Or for the French drama Dheepan, while other European auteurs – including Sorrentino (Youth), Trier (Louder than Bombs), Garrone (Tale of Tales) and Lanthmos (The Lobster) – were well represented in the Official Competition.

Europe was also well represented in the side bar competitions, including Belgium’s Le Tout Nouveau Testament (dir. Van Dormael) and the remarkable 6 hour trilogy Arabian Nights by Portuguese director Gomes. The discovery of the festival went to Hungarian film Son of Saul, which received universal rave reviews in the press.

t Twitter f Facebook g Google+