Connect to Reality at the Locarno Festival
New strategies for Swiss cinema: professionals meet for rethinking the distribution, management and promotion of Swiss films
Locarno, 5 August 2017 – Over sixty industry professionals have met within the framework of Connect to Reality, a debate platform conceived by the Locarno, Zurich and Geneva festivals. A think tank which intends to structure a critical analysis of the challenges to be faced during the development, production and distribution stages of Swiss films.
On Saturday at the Locarno Festival, about sixty personalities from the Swiss film industry, along with guests from about ten European countries, divided into 6 work-groups, discussed the distribution and visibility of Swiss cinema at home and abroad. Participants agreed that it is necessary to define strategies for increasing the market share of Swiss cinema within the country (which currently amounts to about 5%) and improve its visibility at an international level, not only at festivals, but particularly in cinemas, with the utmost urgency.
The Connect to Reality conference was opened by speakers Edouard Waintrop, Director of the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival and director of Cinémas du Grütli in Geneva, and Klaus Rasmussen, head of sales and acquisitions for German company Global Screen, one of the most important world film sales agencies in Europe. Christian Jungen, head of the Cultural column of NZZ am Sonntag, also presented his vision regarding the success Swiss cinema should be garnering in Switzerland and abroad. A vision passionately discussed by the Swiss professionals attending, who offered counter-observations arising from their practical experience and goals already achieved.
Among the many participants in the various work-groups, the directors of the festivals of Solothurn, Zurich, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Nyon, Freiburg and Hamburg stood out, in addition to European distributors, producers, representatives of institutions and funding funds, as well as international sales companies such as The Match Factory, Doc&Film, Loco, Cinephil and Beta. Each working group delved into a specific theme. At the end of the debates, the following reflections and proposals were formulated:
- In most groups, the importance of festivals in a film distribution circuit was stressed. Without selection at a category A festival, obtaining theatrical distribution subsequently is difficult, if not impossible; this applies to Switzerland as well as foreign countries. Making the timing of the film's release on the various media supports more flexible was also proposed, in order to enable professionals to manage their own cinematographic and digital broadcasting strategy better.
- All participants agree that it is necessary to have more time and more funds during the development stage of a film in order to ensure the quality of a screenplay. Likewise, the targeted audience and film distribution goals must be defined at the initial planning stage and not at the end.
- Although a magic formula for success does not exist, each film should benefit from a business plan which is appropriate for its dissemination aims. Among the criteria deemed valid for increasing the circulation potential for a film, the professionals indicated the quality of the screenplay, the presence of strong artistic distribution, the director's fame, a will to work with promising talent and exposure at an important festival.
- Several participants commented that the Swiss cinema financing system is no longer viable for current reality. In particular, it has been suggested that the Federal Office of Culture may collect more frequent statistics on theatrical audiences, as is the case in other European countries, in order to develop appropriate strategies for theatrical release. A concrete proposal was floored for organising pilot-screenings, which are often effective for testing audience reactions in advance.
- It was also noted that it would be necessary to promote the creation of new strategies to attract young audiences in theatres. It emerged that a turnover in distribution is generally missing in Europe and this leads to a lack of representation for this audience among market players.
- Working on the rebranding of Swiss cinema, which does not seem to have a very good reputation within its national public, as opposed to what is being observed in Germany or France, was also proposed. The situation is naturally complicated further by the fact that Switzerland is divided into three language regions. Moreover, Switzerland's exit from the European MEDIA funding system constitutes a major drawback for its cinema.
- However, the work-group which delved into the theme of documentary identified many positive aspects. Unlike fiction cinema, the Swiss documentary brand keeps expanding. Switzerland remains a protagonist in the documentary sector, accounting for almost half of Swiss domestic film revenue.
After its launch at the Locarno Festival, the Connect to Reality initiative will continue on 2 October at the Zurich Film Festival and on 7 November at the Geneva International Film Festival. In Zurich, issues concerning production will be the focus of debates, while creative challenges will be addressed in Geneva. The common goal of these three conferences is to bring about the necessary reforms for increasing the presence of Swiss films in cinemas in Switzerland and abroad and at international festivals, significantly and sustainably.
The Connect to Reality Locarno initiative Is financed by the Federal Office of Culture’s MEDIA compensation measures and promoted by the SSA (Swiss Society of Authors) and by the Suissimage cooperative.