Kolmannessa osassa puheenvuoroaan Pauwels kertoo, kuinka kansainvälisillä
markkinoilla on paljon porua ja vähän villoja. Ja kuinka suuri osa rahoitusfoorumeista
eivät tuotakaan toivottua taloudellista tulosta tuottajille.
Now let’s investigate why I think that today and for most of you the situation is very serious but not hopeless. Lets call this second chapter:
Breaking the wall of illusion; much talking, no money.
Let’s look about the commissioning system first.
I fear that i’m cursing in this church when saying this, but having been the biggest supporter of the traditional pitching system until a few years ago, I now declare loudly that is doesn’t function anymore. At least not for those who are of the opinion that it’s at the pitching forums that real decisions are being taken or that the commissioning editors that you’re talking to are the final decision takers.
By now most of you will have experienced that the decisions are being taken by marketeers or by strategic departments of the broadcasters. The very best you can hope for is that the commissioning editors to whom you pitch will pick up your idea, add it to their wish list and much later get the “go” from higher up in the hierarchy to support you financially. There are some exceptions, but they’re rare.
Of course, pitching forums are still a good marketing tool. They’re a great place to meet people and test the waters for an idea but stop considering them as an important factor to instantly add money into your account.
I think it’s about time that those who are invited to sit around the table make it clear to the participants that the rules have changed. If that doesn’t happen people will be mislead and pitching sessions will just be expensive events with little or no positive outcomes.
15 minutes of courting and making love to the commissioning editors and then if all goes well 20 minutes of private talk afterplay are not enough anymore to get a project under way. Actually it never was, but for some it is still more convenient to keep the illusion alive. Today, in order to acquire serious commissions, a much more serious sales effort is needed, conducted in a much more professional way, over a longer period of time, in the framework of a long term company business development plan. Play time is over.
As so very often every cloud has a silver lining. Today’s new situation offers new opportunities for a company that goes beyond the borders of traditional one-off documentaries; a company that is based on a solid long term business plan, that is using serious market research and is no longer built on enthusiasm and love for the medium alone.
This will also mean that alongside creative documentaries these companies will produce other forms of audiovisual content and might even be active in whatever domain that creates a company income.
The successul producers of tomorrow will develop new ideas and find new ways of marketing them. But they’ll need to do more than that. They will also have to convince their clients’ financial departments that as a supplier they are trustworthy and will deliver the goods. They will have to prove that there’s enough money in the till to finance the development and bring the production to a good end. Without being able to deliver such a warrantee your chances to succes are becoming slimmer by the day.
The logical result of this is that we will see a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the near future. No matter how beautiful small might be in our eyes… increasingly the market tells us that size does matter.
But in fact this new situation is in a way a minor problem. The dwindling decision power of the commissioning editors within the broadcasters is one thing; the diminishing power of the broadcasters within the content distribution environment is a different and much more worrying phenomenon.
For a very long time broadcasters have been the monopolists of content distribution and consequently the major contributors to documentary financing.
Increasingly they are now under threat because of the changing media market where new players are stealing their audience.
For many years the smaller broadcasters – and those are the majority in europe - have supported a very unlogical system. Although working in a non-competitive environment still they would pay good money to take huge cofinancing risks while they could have gambled and waited and bought the finished programmes for a much lower price. This attitude had to do with taking up responsibility. They understood that without taking risks a lot of good documentaries would never have been made.
Nowadays broadcasters are functioning in a much more competitive environment and the logic doesn’t function anymore while the sense of responsibiliy towards the independent sector seems to have dwindled.
Digital tv and pay-tv providers undermine the traditional broadcasters’ position. Digital video recording is becoming hugely popular – much to the despair of the advertising agencies and commercial broadcasters – and many wonder what is going to happen once connected-tv will bring over-the-top offerings and video-on-demand to every single living room. It’s a cliché, but the saying that people now watch what they want, when they want, where they want and on the screen they want has become reality.
Is this good news? There are now so many more screens to reach, so many digital channels to fill, so many more potential buyers to meet… all true. But there’s one big question that remains unanswered: where’s the money?
One thing is certain… the newcomers on the market (pay-tv, vod services, over the top providers, mobile tv operators…) they have no intention at all to adopt the same generous attitude that was so common in the old days.
All of you who have already dealt with these new players on the market will have found out that they don’t have deep pockets (or at least no money to spend on production) and they can’t or won’t contribute to the financing of your documentary. There might be some exceptions, but only few.
The secret of surviving in these harsh circumstances seems to lie in the quantity of programmes you’re able to produce (many small producers fees make one bigger one) and in the ability to reformat and to re- use the footage. But of course that you can only do when you’re the rightsholder of your documentary, which – much to my surprise – often is still not the case.
The biggest danger that I recognize in this new situation - and it really scares me - is that it’s a threat to the middle-sized production companies: they are in danger of disappearing.
I’m fully convinced that the changing media world will lead to the creation of a few powerful international super-indies who will produce both very high-level popular content and loads of factual reality-trash. Programmes that can be used on many platforms and that can easily be reformatted and re-used. These companies will have priviliged access to the broadcasters and other content distributors and together they will deal the cards.
At the other end of the production spectrum I predict that we’ll see enthusiast filmmakers who with limited technical means and hardly any budget will continue to tell strong stories but who will not be in a position to build a sustainable business on the basis of their work. Internet will provide them with an easy accessible distribution platform but there will hardly be any income to be expected from that.
It’s going to be rough out there. Already now we can see that more and more documentary filmmakers no longer work in the protected european environment of subisides and broadcasting funds but are forced to turn to the american way of self-funded filmmaking, hoping that their film will make a splash once it’s finished. For some this will work, for many it won’t.
This situation forces you to rethink your way of functioning and to be very critical about your company’s operations. Can you make it on your own or can’t you? This is a question that within a short while will become crucial for you.
Ps. Alavfiitteenä täytyy todeta, että jo parin vuoden ajan rahoitusfoorumit ovat muuttauneet muotoaan ja julkisten pitchausten merkitys on vähentynyt.Sen sijana tapaamise, jotka perustuvat etukäteen luettuihin treatmentteihin ja trailereihin ovat lisääntyneet.
Monelle uudelle tuotajalle ja tekijälle kysymys on myös suurelta osin koulutuksesta, pään kääntymisestä asellaiseen asentoon, että ymmärtää oikeasti, mitä kansainvälinen tuotanto vaatii.