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Eighth Workshop – 26 to 28 September 201, Royaumont Abbey, France

Module 3 – How could funds help each other to make the projects they co-finance visible?

Introduction

A certain number of films funded by public bodies are very briefly distributed on the local or international markets if at all. The main reason for this is not by default the quality of the films, but the competitive markets and the difficulty to find an adequate platform.

In other words:

Struggle for Visibility and Impact

Impulse speaker: Raimo Lang (YLE/Creative Content division product development for VOD, AOD, TV, radio and on-line)

Please also see Raimo Lang’s presentation (PDF)

The mentality within funding institutions has been constantly changing throughout decades due to technological changes. In the past there was a strong mentality that the “theater is the queen”, which was disrupted by the emergence of the TV channels when the mentality changed to “content is the queen”. When the audience started fragmenting after the emergence of the Internet, the mentality transformed into “user/audience is the queen”. However, in order to succeed in all these aspects and provide impact on society with the produced content, the funds should pursue “the user context is the queen” mentality. This module will explore this mentality as it was applied by the Finnish public broadcaster (YLE) and how it can inspire public film funds.

Threats to Public Broadcasters

The former threat: Classic commercial television channels. Their business models and strategies are, however, predictable today because they rely only on historical data and copy the models have already proven successful.

The current threats:

This means that many small, independent production companies are turning directly towards big platforms bypassing broadcasters and film funds. This is in particular worrying, public broadcasters in countries of small language regions as more and more commissioned series eventually end up on Netflix.

The three battles for audience…

  1. Keeping the 60+ audiences by fighting against other channels. This is the least difficult battle because everybody knows how to fight it.
  2. Keeping the 35/45+ audiences by competing against catalogue producers. The question is who will have the best drama - global digital platforms or public broadcasters?
  3. Attracting the 15+ audiences while competing with catalogue producers and fighting for social media visibility.
Module 3 1

Challenges

Module 3

YLE’s Success Case Studies

“Mental” – Mission project 2016

Starting point. Mental is a drama series produced in 2016 for the young audience. The starting point in developing the concept was to find and look into a social phenomenon that may attract a wide audience. Thus, YLE conducted a social research on the increasing number of young people with mental problem because it felt like there was something going on there, that nobody talked about. It turned out that every fifth young person suffers from mental problems, and 70% of those people are hiding their problem to avoid shame. In addition, young people do not know where and how to get professional help. In other worlds, the research indicated that this was a relevant social phenomenon, thus YLE decided to deal with it by producing respective content.

The content-creators basically followed a model invented by Netflix. Netflix also looks into social phenomena and finds things that are interesting and relevant for a wider audience. Then they commission a writer or show runner to create a series around that issue.

Goals: YLE defined its goals in regards to this series in a way that would not be measured in numbers, but by social relevance. The goals were:

The user-engagement strategy: Mental demonstrated how a drama series, if carefully planned and published, creates an audience engagement in the form of a snowball effect reaching the audiences and different peer-groups on multiple platforms.

Youtube

Writers wrote the scripts after many interviews with young people suffering from mental problems. To make the content visible, the first step was collaboration with one of the most famous rap-singers in Finland. He made a video on set during shooting together with the actors. The video was published one month before the release of the series. It was just a music video of him with the actors before anyone knew about the drama project. It resulted in 100,000 Youtube views in a couple of weeks,, which is 10% of the total young Finnish population.

Instagram

Then some of the characters from the video started to post on Instagram with the additional insights into the issues covered in the series.

VoD Release

YLE published the the full series on a Friday evening in early May 2016. The first episode got 100,000 views within the first 24 hours. The entire series got several hundreds thousand views within the first weekend. Next Monday, YLE implemented a project with the most famous Finnish Youtube stars, each having 50.000-100.000 subscribers. They were asked to state their experience with or opinion on mental illness. This they did for free although they normally ask for a lot of money for promoting something. Not only did they thus promote the series, they also prompted a lot of discussions and 650.000 social media interactions.

Traditional Marketing

The traditional marketing included interviewing actors and writers and to ensure additional publicity for the series.

Cross-Sectoral Collaboration

The YLE made a deal with relevant professional organizations involved in dealing with mental illnesses and arranged a one-week-long 24/7 chat on the issue aggregating the hotlines of all the organizations. The chat was so successful that a private donor gave money for that 24/7 hotline to be established on a continuous basis.

“Alina Ja Travels to East”

In this case the content-creators designed 20-30 instagram posts and circulated them among representatives of the target audience for a reality check before they were published. Those representatives were aged 17 tp 25 and divided into two groups. They were extremely critical, but there were also things that they liked. Then, the content-creators used paper slips in one color to mark VoD episodes and paper slips in another color to mark Instagram posts. These were shown to the same people and they were asked to propose a publishing rhythm to fit their daily routine, media usage and habits. They did this easily within 15 seconds. For the indie companies producing the content, this provided them with very valuable information on publication.

The lessons that public film funds can learn from public broadcasters

Relying on the experiences of public broadcasters, film funds may reach new audiences in the following ways:

The outcomes of the open discussion

The MEDICI participants reached the following conclusions regarding the threats and possibilities coming from the US platforms:

Module 3 2

Group Exercise

The MEDICI participants, divided into groups, discussed whether film funds should demand that producer enclose strategies for providing visibility for their projects that would prevent a complete dependence on selling films to global digital platforms. Each group could choose one of the following three tasks:

The outcome of the group exercise

Group 1:

Most of the funds already have distribution support schemes. We can already include there the financing of any audience-related ideas producers and distributors may come up with. However, the distribution support is coming too late – just before the film is going to be released (few months before). The idea is to include some funds in the production budget that producers can use in this phase to attract future audience, especially through social media. But the issue is how long are the social media followers willing to wait for the final product. And should the marketing start already in the development stage for some of the projects? It is a good possibility only if you really know when you are going to make a film. But it is a problem if you start advertising a film and then it is postponed for three years for whatever reason. Crowd funding is probably the only way to attract audience at the very early stage. Maybe funds should incentivize producers’ crowd-funding campaigns. The Finnish fund did so with the film Iron Sky by investing a lot of money in pre-production, part of which producers used for the crowd funding campaign.

Group 2:

Our opinion on impact incentives is that funds should be as open as possible for the ideas and proposals from the market. The money for promotion and distribution should be open to producers, distributors, exhibitors and all other parties who have good ideas about how to exploit films in cinemas and elsewhere. The funds must also be open for all release windows and for completely new models of marketing. There must not only be a closed set of qualified costs. Funds need to accept new ideas and costs.

Group 3: “Euro-Flix”

There are examples of many VoD platforms (more than 500) supported by Creative Europe. But we would go for one single platform that would work both nationally and globally, and be called, for example, “EuroFlix”. We imagine it as a transactional VoD with a very flexible price-system. It would be a multi-language platform. Its content would be marketed differently in every country in line with the local culture. However, marketing should involve social media in any case.

The public film funds would make it a mandatory requirement that every film must be delivered to this platform. A producer can choose himself when he wants his film to be released on that platform.

The funds should not be running this VoD platform directly because we funded the films ourselves. We need a different player for that. Maybe the European Creative Europe – MEDIA should be turned into this. The platform-generated revenues should be directed towards producers, but funds should invest in the platform as much as possible because VoD platforms are normally expensive (multinational, multi-language releases, subtitling).

Module 3 group 2

Group 4: “EU-Flix “

Our pan-European VoD platform would be called “EU-flix” and would insist on audience engagement via social media. We have two ideas about how this platform could be built. One option is to team up with public broadcasters across the European countries and together create a new channel for consumption of our content. Rather than creating a new system, let’s recreate the old one.

The second plan is to buy Netflix. It could be cheaper than establishing a brand new global platform.

Group 5: “Unseen-Movies.eu/see before you die”

The name of our platform would be “unseen-movies.eu/see before you die”. We imagine this platform to be an alternative to Netflix that would target art-house audience that are very old. Considering that they will soon be too old to move and go to cinema theaters, they will have the films available on our platform. The platform will be funded through taxes collected from Netflix. Public film funds across Europe will force all supported producers to put their films on this platform after 1-2 years of exploitation.

This platform would also introduce editorialisation that Netflix is actually missing. Netflix uses only algorithms to make suggestions for further watching, but our platform would provide presentations of films by famous filmmakers and other influencers. It will also provide interactions within the chat rooms, which is also something that does not exist on the US platforms.

Module 3 group 5

Cooperation between public funds in an increasingly complex and international environment: opportunities, actions, ideas

Illustrations by KAK

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