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Interview with Festival Scope’s CEO and founder Alessandro Raja

Interview with Festival Scope’s CEO and founder Alessandro Raja

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In the framework of the Industry Days, we have interviewed Alessandro Raja, CEO and founder of Festival Scope, on online platforms, the future of film distribution and piracy.

Could you tell us about the reasons why you founded Festival Scope and the process of its creation?

Back in 2009, I was working for a sales agent (Celluloid-Dreams), and so was my partner Mathilde Henrot (MK2). We felt that there was a need for a new service to help independent films get visibility among film professionals. Many of them go from one festival to the other, from one market to the other but it is almost impossible to watch all the films due to the meetings and the quantity of films available there. So, we thought there was an important need to fulfill and we decided to partner up with film festivals around the world. The fact that film festivals select films very carefully was a quality guarantee for us. Moreover, we didn’t want to create a database of all the films available on the market but rather to present a curated selection of films launched at festivals and films that could attract the attention of festival programmers, distributors, sales agents and film critics. So, we quit our jobs, developed Festival Scope during one year and launched the platform in September 2010.

Why is, to your mind, the existence of platforms like Festival Scope important nowadays?

Festival Scope and online platforms have a very important role because they give film professionals the possibility to watch films presented at film festivals more easily and to discover new talent. Given the overabundance of films, it is key to curate the service. In that sense, we give recommendations through our weekly newsletters “Festival Scope selects” and social networks.

How do you think such platforms will shape the future of film distribution?

Festival Scope doesn’t have the ambition to reshape film distribution. Its aim is rather to help it develop around the world. Distribution of independent films is difficult in every country. The reaction to this trend should be innovation to try to reach the public rather than shifting the focus on mainstream films. Young audiences are not less cinephilic or less eager to discover new stories and new cinema but in order to reach them it takes other means than those of traditional distribution. Especially as their viewing habits are evolving more towards online platforms than sticking to cinemas.  

Where do you think the distribution is headed with the existence of VOD platforms?

There are initiatives such as “day-and-date” releases, mainly in the US and the UK. In Europe, it is much more complicated due to different reasons, including the legislation of countries like France. Nevertheless, there is a clear intention of the European Union to finance initiatives that experiment with “day-and-date”. In my opinion, it is a sign that there is a need for change. It is not, however, a valid system for each film and each country but I believe it is good to try new ways to help the distribution of independent films.

Indiewire recently published an interview with actor Tim Roth in which he embraces VOD platforms. How do you perceive his opinion on them and how important and useful do you think they are to actors as well?

Yes, I read the interview with Tim Roth and I think it is just a sign that everybody is embracing VOD because it is really facilitating the access to films that don’t get a theatrical release. It is important to stress that films are now available in different ways and people are getting used to it. VOD platforms are replacing TV and traditional home video but are also adding a new element: the immediacy factor and it is definitely changing people’s habits. As far as actors are concerned, Festival Scope can be important for emerging actors in the sense that it can help them to be discovered by producers and casting agents.

Will Festival Scope cease to be exclusively aimed at film professionals and evolve into something bigger, involving the general public and bringing film festivals and certain films closer to it?

We do not plan to shift from professionals to the public. Still, we have already experimented with some initiatives linked to the general public. I want to mention in particular the experience with the Sala Web, the web theatre of the Venice Film Festival. This year, for the second time, we will be helping the Biennale to show most of the films of the Orizzonti Competition to the general public. The Festival organizes an additional screening on the day of the world premiere: an online screening done through Festival Scope for the first 500 virtual ticket buyers. It is a way not only to give a chance to people from all over the world to view some films of the Venice Film Festival but also for the films to get additional visibility.

Is Festival Scope a way of fighting today’s most dangerous enemy of the film industry: piracy?

Yes, in fact Festival Scope is a reliable way to fight piracy. It is easy to prove that it is an extremely secure platform  (one viewing per person, impossible to download the films, watermark on the image with the name of the person watching).

Tara Karajica
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