Wrap-up NFF Conference 2018

On Friday 28 September, the advice of the Council for Culture sparked a full day of discussions at the NFF, where professionals at the NFF Conference put their heads together to discuss the current state of affairs in the AV landscape and in particular to jointly look for solutions and opportunities.

By Anton Damen

The NFF Conference got going with a plenary programme that first addressed the visibility of Dutch productions and proceeded to discuss the transition of broadcasting networks from linear to online providers. In his opening statement, Erwin Provoost, CEO of the Flanders Audiovisual Fund, did not beat about the bush regarding the biggest challenge the sector is faced with -“the tsunami of foreign products” that local parties have to compete with: “Either we grow, or we die.”

The French Alexandra Lebret, director of the European Producers Club, also saw opportunities. “We have to realise that the online copyrights of movies represent value. We discover that films can also be successful beyond the domestic domain. An all-British series like Downton Abbey, for example, scores great ratings… in China.” According to Lebret, Netflix is not necessarily the big bad wolf in the tale, but people should work together with parties like these to set the algorithms so that local productions are promoted.

Doreen Boonekamp of the Netherlands Film Fund saw a challenge in the worrisome trend that the market share of Dutch movies is in decline. Boonekamp feels that in an effort to increase the visibility, money should not just go to production, but also to distribution. “Plus, the development phase is very important, which requires investing. And speaking of quality and talent, it also asks for a decent film education. The industry can manage many things on its own, but support is really needed from the national government to help the industry adapt.”

One of the conclusions of the second part of the morning session was that everyone in TV land is looking for that one model that can rival Netflix and YouTube, but that such a model is an illusion.

Markus Sterky (Content Strategist Sveriges Television) called for experiment: “You have to try many different things and if something doesn’t work, you stop it.” As an example, he said his Swedish TV station puts most of its content online at two o’clock at night, hours before the TV première, so that during the day it can become a topic on social media.”

Eefje Blankevoort also argued for experiment – such as, paradoxically, presenting offline events like meet-ups around NPO programmes – and for more pride, because TV is, apart from an essential financial requirement, a great hallmark. Frans Klein, NPO Head of Video, argued that the main strategy to realise greater visibility is: less, bigger, better. Decrease production, provide more budget, so the quality of the end result will be higher.

Concrete steps
The afternoon saw several meetings, round-table sessions and presentations. The Netherlands Association of Film Distributors (FDN), for example, sounding the alarm over the steady decline of the market share of the Dutch popular film, took an advance, along with the NFF, on a projected think tank by giving the audience a say in possible causes and solutions via their smartphones.

Both the audience and attendant representatives agreed that this is primarily a matter of getting everyone on the same page. After the festival, FDN and NFF will send invitations to people who should participate in this think tank, with the aim to take some concrete steps within six months, for quick wins and for the longer term.

Film education to the next level
A breath of positive air blew through the meeting Film: valt er wat te leren? EYE Film Museum’s Florine Wiebinga contended there are opportunities to better organise the fragmented curricula by bringing together creatives, exhibitors, teachers and politicians and have them team up, thus elevating film education to a higher level.

An inspiring Flemish example (JEF, which bundles a festival, distribution and education) and a panel discussion showed that cooperation does pay off, and that the ambition should be that every student, at any level and from any village or city, is reached – which makes a closer dialogue with and a greater contribution from teachers desirable.

This made it all the nicer that the Conference was concluded with the presentation of the very first ‘Film Teacher of the Year’ award, as a boost for all those teachers who have been unstintingly conveying, sometimes for many years, their love of making and watching films to new generations. The nominated teachers covered the entire school spectrum, from kindergarten to highschool teacher. The winner was Jeroen Stultiens from the Montessori primary school in Roermond.