Documentary filmmaking in a changing media Landscape:
Internet vs TV – dia 1
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
Thank you very much for inviting to be with you this morning.
Talking to audiences who were interested to know more about
the different aspects of documentary production in Europe is
something I have done many times and in many different
countries, often for people who belonged to a language group
that in fact could be called a minority. Coming from a small
region like Flanders I know what that means.
I have been in different roles and positions when I was doing
this. First I did is as a producer. In fact my very first international
production was with Italy, about an environmental scandal in
Porto Marghera, near Venice.
After that I became a commissioning editor. Many of you might
think that such a position must be a dream. Well, let me tell you
that the two years I spent within the walls of a broadcaster were
the two most miserable years of my life. I'll come back to that
later in this presentation, for it has a lot to do with today's
When I was a commissioning editor, it became clear to me that
I, like many of my former colleagues-producers and many of my
colleagues within the broadcasting environment were very
quickly turning into dinosaurs, because we kept dealing with
media in the same way we had done over the past twenty
years, and we were blind to the fact that the media landscape
was changing and that the game was starting to be played
under a new set of rules.
Trying to do something about that I created a postgraduate
training institute in France where we did our best to prepare all
kind of professionals working in Media - I use the word
professionals intentionally as you will see later - where we tried
to prepare them for a new and much more demanding future.
Alas, that adventure ended when local politicians decided to cut
the subsidies we needed to keep the school alive. Today I'm
more than ever convinced that media people need a lifelong
training to stay at par with the developments in de media
environment, and it is my intention to add professional training
activities to the range of activities that EDN is undertaking.
Today I'm here in my position as the director of that association,
a professional network and information source at the service of
close to 1000 documentary filmmakers, commissioning editors
and anything in between these two positions. Looking at my
past you might say that I’m familiar with the concept of
“change”, which is good, for today it’s all about change in our
Later this morning I will introduce you more into detail to the
European documentary market, or I could even say: to the
international market, for production and financing don't stop at
the borders of our own continent any more. I will also briefly
introduce you to the pitching system but before doing that I
would like to ask for your attention for this brief - well, not that
brief - presentation on how I look upon the current documentary
market. Prepare for a shock.
For many years, documentary and television have been
synonyms. Many filmmakers still aspire to bring their film to the
cinema, but unless your name is Michael More or Morgan
Spurlock, or if you concentrate on making films on pinguins,
dolphins or migrating birds, you will never make a cent out of
the big screen. So television it is!
If I have been able to build a career out of documentary
producing, I owe it all to two main sources: public financing
through film funds (national funds and European) and television
money. Television has been my friend for many years.
would like to refer to a speech I delivered a couple of months
ago, during the most recent Sheffield Meetmarket.
It was a keynote address in front of the EBU documentary
group, in which most of the commissioning editors that we have
all been chasing down to pitch our projects to are represented.
I dare say that the speech created quite a stir because in
essence I was accusing the public broadcasters of letting down
filmmakers. If you want to read that whole speech and find out
more about the point I was making, you can go to the EDN
website and read it there.
My job this afternoon is to entertain you with a lecture that
should introduce you to the current media landscape and the
position of Italy therein. In my opinion this speech however
should be more about the changing tv-landscape versus the
internet, for it's in that latter field that the challenges are to be
found, but also where the potential for a successful production
company can be discovered.
indeed these are two factors that cannot be denied: the face of
television is changing rapidly and the internet is becoming the
creative, commercial and social heartbeat of our society.
The television landscape is changing on two levels: contentwise and in the field of broadcast technology. Although it might
seem that these levels are two very different things, it is my
conviction that they are intimately linked and both are of
importance for what you’re doing now and will be doing in the
future: content and technology: friends or enemies?
I fear that in order to be able to make sense of today's subject
and to come up with some plausible theories that you can use
in your professional activities, I cannot avoid looking at the past,
also, because it’s easier to talk with certainty about what
happened in the past than to predict a very uncertain future.
I took advantage of the speech in Sheffield, not to attack the
commissioning editors but to inform them about how the
independent producers look upon the current production
situation and how we feel about the relation between “content
providers” and “content distributors”.
I did not only share with them our worries and fears, but I also
extended an inviting hand to tackle together the many current
changes in the media landscape that drive all of us out of our
comfort zone and that force us all to become more daring and
innovative than ever before. In other words: personally I still see
a future for the traditional broadcasting system although we will
never return to the comfortable times of the late nineties/early
I started by telling the commissiong editors at that meeting that
- in my humble opinion - in today’s media environment there are
no certainties any more. Every single current media-model is
under pressure and although there are many questions about
where the future will take us, there are no clear answers
available that can put our minds at ease.
I don’t think that I’m the only one who experiences this kind of
uncertain situation as disruptive, paralysing and threatening.
I also referred to another lecture that recently I have been
giving to documentary professionals in Czech Republic and
Bulgaria under the very optimistic title:
hurrah, we’re in a crisis.
In that speech I gave a more detailed overview of the different
aspects of the changes in the media world that might seem to
be a threat, but in the end could turn out to be an opportunity.
Let's not forget that: threats can be turned into opportunities for
those who are ready to change their way of thinking and acting.
In Sheffield I told the commissioning editors that over the past
themselves, the commissioning editors, we’ve had our quarrels
and differences of opinion about how to work together, but that
in essence and in all honesty we both have been defending
what we thought was right, as seen from our own side of the
Now the time has come, so I told them, that we have to set our
different opinions aside and reunite our forces, for if we fail to
do so, we might very well get kicked off the media playing field
Let’s face it: we are in a crisis. There’s no doubt about that.
Changes in the entertainment- and media environment affect all
sectors of production and distribution. The old evolutionary
theory by Darwin is valid, more then ever:
ADAPT, OR DIE!
But the other side of that coin is the second part of that theory;
THE STRONGEST WILL SURVIVE.
Let's think a bit more about that: we might ask ourselves
whether a crisis is a problem or a blessing in disguise? Maybe
it’s exactly what we needed to be shaken awake and to make
us understand that some things need to change if we as
documentary filmmakers want to stay relevant.
How did this crisis come about? How did the media
environment change over the past years and why could these
changes be so threatening to all of us?
I started producing about 30 years ago.
If we had the whole day I could tell you how I began as a very
small and innocent, naive might be a better word, as a naive
Flemish producer, who wanted to make a living out of producing
documentaries that would change the world. We don't have that
time at our disposal today, but let me say that it took me about
three years before I understood the rules of international
production and co-production and made my first steps on that
Very soon I also started making me first mistakes, but alas I
don't have the time to talk about those neither. That would
certainly take a full day.
What I did learn very quickly was that if I wanted to break out of
the boundaries of beautiful but small Flanders or even Belgium,
I had to travel and meet people. I needed to create a network.
That network I started to build by going to events like the one
that you are participating in today.
I went there, looking for partners and money and after a very
long period of searching, seeking, pleading and experiencing
many disappointments, I finally managed to start finding
funding. The money came mainly from broadcasting related
sources and I dare to say… that worked well.
Workshops, pitching sessions and even festivals proved to be
places where commissioning editors would gather. They were
the people who where in charge of strands and slots for
creative documentaries and who had a keen interest in the
fascinating world across their own borders. If you're not familiar
with the terms strands and slots, please ask me about them
during the Q&A at the end of my presentation.
These commissioning editors liked their documentaries to be
innovative, surprising and they loved it when they were directed
by a real filmmaker; by a person with a vision and maybe even
with a message, but certainly with his or her own creative
handwriting: diversity was the key to success.
18 years later, I had become a commissioning editor myself.
Now why on earth, do you ask, did I change my profession as a
relatively successful producer and stopped producing?
There were several reasons and they all had to do - already
then - with emerging changes in the television and the
production landscape that made me feel uncertain and uneasy.
First of all, the once rather small international community of
producers and directors was expanding rapidly. Increasing
numbers of people started to make documentaries, the
competition became heavier and it became more difficult to
complete the financing plan. More projects were competing for
the same amount of money and this growing competition
made me feel that it was time for a change.
Therefore, when I was given the opportunity to start working for
a public broadcaster, I jumped to that occasion.
I have always been a strong supporter of public broadcasting.
To me, it’s the cornerstone of a democratic and open-minded
society, the place where standards are set for quality and
professional media-standards. You can imagine that I looked
forward to working in that kind of environment because I
believed that it was the place where documentary really
mattered and still was appreciated. By accepting to change
sides and by becoming a commissioning editor I no longer
would be obliged to compete with friends in order to get the
necessary funds to make my films, but at the contrary I would
be in a position to help them make theirs. What more could one
Alas, it turned out differently. When I went to the pitching
sessions in my first year as commissioning editor I was full of
hope and very enthusiastic, convinced that I would manage to
set up a system of international co-production between my
employer, other broadcasters and – most important – the
international independent production sector.
Two years later I had lost the hope of being able to do that. I
started to see that the kind of documentaries that had been so
popular on television in the nineties and during the early years
of the 21th century - the kind of documentaries that I and my
colleagues had produced – how these became less in demand
by the broadcaster’s management and the programming
I don’t think this was because the audience didn’t like these
documentaries any more, but it was because the media
environment had changed and public broadcasters started to
struggle with their identity in a communication environment that
became very commercial.
The public broadcaster's solution was to start copying the
commercial broadcaster’s programs and style and the first
victim of this change in policy was the creative documentary.
The genre was exiled to the late hours of the evening, or often
even to the early-night hours.
I believe that for a short while the decision to turn towards a
more commercial model for the public broadcasters was the
right decision. Many of them had become ministries of
television, and I'm sure I don't have to explain to an Italian
audience that bureaucratic administrations are not exactly the
right places for vibrant work. Before you start to be insulted, let
me assure you that the situation in Flanders was not better at
But what is worse: once the public broadcasters had managed
to regain the confidence of their audiences, they stayed in the
same commercial logic of thinking, very often forgetting what
their role in society should be. This different way of thinking
and running a broadcaster led to a situation in which we lost our
former natural allies: the commissioning editors themselves, the
people who knew about and loved documentaries.
Until then, Commissioning editors had been real decision
makers and could more or less independently decide what
projects they would support and show to the audience.
new market-driven thinking of their employers, the public
broadcasters, now forced them into a role in which they had
less power and had to follow the orders from higher
management-levels and – worse – from the programming and
The financing departments also started asking questions:
- why are we investing in heavy-risk projects if we can wait until
they’re finished and we can buy them at a lot cheaper prices?
- why are we dealing with small and vulnerable production
companies that very often lack the financial backbone to deal
with unexpected problems?
- Shouldn’t we be working with established and bigger
companies who have deeper pockets and carry less risk?
The business aspect of commissioning became a lot more
important. The broadcasting environment, in which I had been
working very comfortably during so many years, disappeared
and new rules started to apply.
For many years the relation between the C.E.'s and the
producers had been a very personal one: it was important that
they knew who you were and that they remembered your face.
Now the relation became more anonymous and business-like.
And then, there was another phenomenon emerging at the
horizon: one that did not even exist in the period when I was a
producer: the internet started to play a role.
When it first appeared, with it’s low transmission speeds and
poor picture quality, nobody believed it would ever be an
important player in the media landscape, except some
information technology prophets, who hardly anybody took
serious at the time.
It meant that also on a different level, things started to change.
The broadcast contracts that until then had been rather simple
became more complicated and the broadcasters would start to
demand the rights for internet applications too. They didn’t
know what they would do with them, but they preferred to
possess them anyhow.
In most cases the producers were only too happy to give these
rights away, more or less for free, for they themselves saw no
possibilities to create an extra income in that field. Who cared?
Well, that situation has changed for sure. I’m not saying that the
internet rights bring in a lot of money today, but they certainly
have become a matter of importance for the broadcasters’
efforts to stay in touch with their audience and create loyal
viewers who are interested in their programs.
I think that by now, even the most conservative documentary
producer understands that the internet rights represent a
potential value. And it's not only the internet that changes the
The technological developments allow for a complete new way
of distributing content and making money with it: digital
broadcasters come to us through high speed cable or satellite;
time shifted media consumption is a reality; Over-the-Top
distribution is knocking on our door; VOD services flourish; we
can now use bits of an existing program to reformat them in
other formats that we produce for different screens; the
possibility to integrate and actively make use of social media in
the distribution strategy around a program, It all represents a
potential income but it doesn’t come for free.
How fast did things change!
The technological progress was no longer an evolution but it
became a revolution.
I’m not going to take you through this slide in detail, but do see
how for 50 years the media technology was a slow process of
improvement, whereas since the turn of the century each day
brings a new surprise that changes the way media are
distributed and consumed.
(There will be some improvisation talk here, translator!)
Out of a sense of nostalgia, we can disregard these new
technologies and try to stick only with our old faithful partners in
the television environment, but I am convinced that such an
attitude will be the shortest way to extinction.
If you allow me to take you back once again to the horrible
days when I was employed by the broadcaster, I can tell you
that before me and my colleagues realised it, this technology
that we considered to be a plaything for nerds, the internet,
started offering creative and business possibilities that nobody
could have imagined just a couple of years before.
If internet distribution was something unimportant when I left
production in 2004, when I turned my back on the broadcaster
in 2006, one could feel that this technology had the potential to
become a game changer.
Talking about the current media landscape and trying to
discover how Italian producers can find a place in it, I have to
underline the strong potential of this new platform.
During my stint as a commissioning editor I had learned two
a) the media world was becoming much more business-like and
documentaries could also run a healthy company and
b) the media world was undergoing a revolution that neither the
production world nor the broadcasting world was prepared for.
The convergence of tv and broadband was and is becoming a
fact but at the moment leaves us all with many open questions.
How important will converged TV become? Nobody knows.
By 2007, changes in society too had played their part in the
evolution of media consumption. The audience by then knew
how to make full use of the available technologies, and after
having been offered a wider choice (more available channels
through cable and satellite, the first distribution initiatives on the
internet, linear and later digital recording of programs they
wanted to look at later and/or on different screens) the audience
now also got a louder voice.
They could actually start to communicate with the television
makers and let them know whether they liked what they saw...
or not! And if they didn't like it, they were not very faithful. They
just zapped away and maybe would never return.
This became a nightmare situation for every broadcasting
executive. They became addicted to ratings and audience
behaviour analysis and in many cases did no longer ask
themselves if what they were offering to the viewer was good,
but only whether it was pleasing the audience.
It has led to the current situation where television has become
predictable, superficial and very often just boring. That person
that television had been serving for over a 50 years
viewer – now had become the “consumer”.
This situation and the broadcaster's reaction to it also
influenced the reality of the production environment. Now that
the “consumer” was in charge, the programmers aimed to
please and the answer was found in an avalanche of lighthearted entertainment.
Now that’s a strategy that I can understand for a commercial
broadcaster, but I was shocked to see how the public
broadcasters adapted the same strategy, in an effort to keep
their market shares.
The situation today is that in the majority of cases the
broadcasters are not looking for innovative storytelling any
more. The budgets for the few slots that still cater for creative
content started to go down and in an ever-increasing way
commissioning editors continue to lose decision power. As a
self-fulfilling prophecy the slots for creative documentary are
increasingly being cut: the marketing people consider the
interested audience to be too niche, too limited.
But today, thanks to internet, broadband and soon glass fiber
technology, niche audiences become interesting target groups,
and once again here I can see good possibilities for aspiring
producers or established producers who are not afraid to jump
on the train of new technology.
For the first time in history, voices are heard that claim that
broadcasting will become less important as a distribution
channel and that broadband will become the medium to find
and to keep an audience. Visionary people are telling us that
the internet and broadband distribution will become the main
entertainment and that the new technology will also bring along
new ways of financing and monetising audiovisual productions.
These people are pioneers and actually still not many in the
business really believe them, most of the commissioning editors
laugh at these predictions, claiming that linear television will
always be around and will stay the number one partner of the
audience that is looking for content. Many television people
I have to admit that at my time in broadcasting I didn’t know
what to think off it myself… wait and see: that was my attitude.
Today I don't have that doubt any more: linear television will
never disappear but will lose a lot of its power and influence.
Better take that into account when you're working on your next
Today, we’re still in the middle of the technological revolution
and the situation has already changed completely, as far as
funding possibilities are concerned. DVD has practically lost its
importance as a source of financing, the budgets made
available by public broadcasters have decreased considerably
(the available amounts have gone down with a factor between
30% and 70%), VOD-services are all around but until now fail to
prove that they can really contribute to the financing of
documentaries and other major players have appeared but until
now, they too they fail to contribute in a significant manner to
the financing of creative documentaries: you know the names of
these over-the-top companies. Netflix, Hulu, youtube, most
probably apple-tv and google tv quite soon…
These corporations are the biggest threat to the existing
broadcasting system because… who needs broadcasters
Will you be waiting to watch your favourite documentary or TVseries until some programming executive will make it available
for you to watch it on tv, while the same programme is available
for you to watch where you want it, when you want it, on the
screen you want it and at a reasonable price?
If I would be a broadcasting executive today, I would be very
worried about my future.
Actually, if I were a producer or a director today, I would also be
very worried, be it for different reasons. Sheffield received over
650 demands for a meeting with C.E.’s during the MeetMarket;
DocsBarcelona had to deal with more than 250 applications
from producers who wanted to get in touch with decision
makers to ask for their support, the Media support program
received close to 500 applications for one single call for single
project support… and from my own experience as an expert
reader for film funds I can tell you that there we are confronted
with the same huge increase in the number of applications.
It seems that today everybody wishes to be a documentary
filmmaker in an environment where there’s less and less
funding available and the number of television slots keeps
diminishing! The number of documentaries that are produced
every year is astonishing.
Now it’s time for us to look into the mirror and ask ourselves
whether quantity equals quality?
As a community of documentary filmmakers, we should be very
critical towards ourselves and honestly examine whether what
we offer is of the highest standards, up to the quality level that
is needed to fulfil our promises to our audience.
None of us, professionals, should turn a blind eye to the fact
that technically speaking, today everybody is a filmmaker and a
content distributor. Only two decades ago one needed to be a
trained cameraperson, an experienced sound engineer or
seasoned editor to be able to work with the expensive and
sophisticated equipment that was needed to turn top-quality
images and sound into compelling stories.
Today, an untrained but technology savvy person who owns a
6.000 euro camera, a 2.000 euro portable computer and a
couple of software programmes worth around 1.500 euro can
produce a film that looks better than what we produced - at topprices - 20 years ago.
Already a couple of years ago I predicted that shooting
documentaries would become a lot cheaper. I emphasize the
word: shooting! What did not really become cheaper is the
professional post-production and of course the labour. More
and more I notice during pitching sessions that producers come
to the table with part of the project already shot and looking for
funds to recoup the money they already invested or - in the best
of cases - to find the budget to complete a high standard
postproduction process. That's what technology does for you.
And that’s also what tolerance does for you. All of us here in
this room pay - more or less happily – rather high prices for a
top-of-the-range flatscreen TV so that we can watch those
wonderful programmes in the very best quality, but the younger
generation couldn’t care less about the size of the screen.
See them walking around with their PSP’s, their mobiles and Ipads or other tablets, consuming all kind of content that appeals
to them on a screen, the size of which gives dinosaurs like me a
Do they care? Not in the slightest. They love it. They produce
and distribute their own content and happily consume their
friends’ content, delivered at internet speed by many platforms
that are available for free and on which everything is allowed.
Often what they find there is funny, shocking, revealing even,
but more often it’s boring, purely exploitative and repetitive, and
what is almost always lacking is a good story. I wonder whether
this is the right way to build up a loyal audience.
We’ve entered the digital age, for sure. I consider people of my
age to be dinosaurs who try to keep up with the new
technologies and fight a bitter struggle to integrate these in their
professional strategies – and often fail. People between 15 and
45 are the ones that are of the mixed generation: they know
how to use the new technologies but they still remember more
or less the old world and therefore they can relate to us, still.
But those who are younger than 15 – the digital natives – they
have never known what I would call “our world” and they don’t
see a reason why they should. And let’s face it: these are your
future audiences. If you can’t convince future funders that your
productions will reach this audience, you’re in trouble.
or not, but more and more you’ll have to cater for these
audiences’ needs and expectations. If you fail to do so, you’ll
lose contact with them and they’ll find their way to the “Over
The Top” platforms and the V.O.D. offerings, where they will
find exactly what they will be looking for.
I still don’t know what is going to happen but one thing I do
know for sure: nothing is going to be the same ever again and
those who think and hope that they can continue to produce
and distribute documentaries like we did it only 10 years ago
are making a fatal mistake.
Allow me to refer to the world of technology to make an
analogy. How many of the technology companies that were too
big to fail in the seventies, when the I.T. world started to
Instruments, Digital, Wang… Many of you will even never have
heard of these companies who, in those days, were the
mastodons of new technologies.
They were convinced that by sticking to the old business
models they would also stay on top of the industry. Well, they
Those companies who did survive, like IBM, diversified and
changed their ways of doing business. The other blockbuster
companies were so sure that they knew it all, that because they
had the money, because they had the experience and because
they had the brains, they thought they could dictate how society
would use the new technologies that they would chose to
develop. Take it or leave it was their motto. Time has proven
That example should make us think twice about how we see
ourselves develop over the next decades. Clinging on to what
once was has never been a good survival strategy.
This goes for broadcasters, but it also applies to independent
production companies. In the new media world that we will be
confronted with, we will need to create compelling media
experiences that go far beyond the traditional documentary
format, media products that take into account different media
consumption patterns and find ways to make our stories work in
a multiplatform environment. That’s quite a challenge and it can
only be answered by being innovative and by using the creative
input that comes from different sources and by working very
When I started in the business I could detect three sizes of
production companies. The first one I would call the big boys.
These were indeed the blue chip companies (often founded by
former commissioning editors who left the broadcaster and
started on their own). They were producers who had privileged
relations with the broadcasters. They seldom had to pitch, or
did not really have a hard time when they had to do so,
because indeed they were serious, well organised and well
structured. No harm in having them around and every big
language territory had a limited number of them. But because
they were so big they were also rather expensive to work with
and therefore could not cater for the poorer slots.
companies came in.
Let me now first jump to the other side of the spectrum where in
those days already, one would find the idealists, the
experimentalists; the people who were fond of media but who
had no real intention to make a direct living out of it. Very often
they would be very close to the art world and live either from
somebody else’s income or from state subsidy. Their products
where seldom to be seem on the regular screens but they
would form the environment in which new techniques and forms
of storytelling would be invented and would be tested. But this
was a rather small group indeed.
In the middle, there would be a rather large group of medium
sized companies. Also rather well structured but less well
capitalized than the big boys; working with a more limited staff
and very often contracting independent researchers and
directors. They would also be more mean and lean in their
organisation structure. They would be making a limited number
of documentaries per year, enough to keep them alive and have
some butter on their lunch-sandwiches. They would actually
make enough money to pick up some of the better ideas from
the experimentalists and turn them into more mainstream forms
of storytelling. Once these ideas would have been tested and
approved, the big boys would often take them over and start
making real money with them.
But actually, this sector would be the place where new talent
could be tested and got battle experience, before they moved
on to better paid levels.
It was not such a bad system: between the real factual
programmes “industry” on one side and the experimentalists on
the other, there would be this important middle class that would
serve as cement or glue and keep everything together, driving
forward creativity and innovation. I would say that many of you
where situated in that class.
Exactly like in the real society, this situation has now changed.
We see the disappearance of the middle classes everywhere,
and we witness the disruptive effect is has on society.
The same is happening in our own media environment.
The middle class production companies are struggling to stay
alive and are getting less numerous by the day. A recent study
by Joerg Langer for AG.DOK in Germany revealed that the
average wage for a producer is less than 10 euro/hour.
80% of the companies are working at a loss!
The group of big boys has become a lot bigger but also a lot
more international, which means that there’s not a lot of
diversity to be found in their programmes. More and more they
offer “one size fits all”. And still they are the ones that the public
broadcasters increasingly want to work with to please mass
audiences! Does this create an opportunity for those companies
who manage to create productions for smaller but very
interested audiences? Maybe yes. But from where will the
financing come? And how will these products find their
audience if not shown at a decent hour?
The group of experimentalists and idealists has grown
exponentially. Today, they produce an enormous amount of
content but it will never find its way to the traditional screens.
They are now the ones who cater for the non-professional
needs of the internet, but very few of them will actually make
any real money.
But the real danger lies in the fast reduction of the number of
middle class companies, and as I said, I believe that many of
them are in the audience today. The way independent
producers of creative documentaries are being pushed aside
and treated like beggars by many a public broadcaster is not
correct. If they manage to find some support at all, in many
cases the amounts that are being offered are scarcely enough
to cover a limited part of the production budget, and generally
small independent companies are considered to be a pain in
the ass. It’s true that working with them is challenging: there’s
more risk to it and certainly more work involved; they might be
more stubborn than the big boys in defending their ideas and
also yes…their documentaries are more demanding and are
less aiming at entertainment, and therefore maybe are less
But these films are the voice of an important part of our society
and they should be the gatekeepers of quality, innovation and
creativity. Do the broadcasters claim that the audience doesn’t
like thse films anymore? How could they, if that audience
doesn’t know about them? How can the audience like
something they never see?
On the other hand: can a company survive on making only
creative documentaries? The answer is very simple: NO!
Like IBM in the eighties small and middle-sized companies
have to diversify and produce different kinds of programs, some
of them very commercial and aiming at the huge market of
digital broadcasters, big and small. And there's nothing wrong
Only yesterday morning I was at the Nordisk Forum in Malmo in
Sweden. There I talked to a very respected Swedish filmmaker,
with a couple of extremely successful documentaries behind his
name and I asked him why he had such a worried look on his
face: the answer was quite simple: he worried about how to pay
the bills. Worldwide success, many sales to broadcasters and a
film shown in tens and tens of festivals did not bring bread on
the table. He had just finished a duo-masterclass with a very
well known and also very respected American filmmaker who's
name I can divulge, Alain Berliner, and who indeed is making a
lot of money… by shooting commercials and corporate movies
that finance his more creative documentaries.
technology and the ever more talked-about trans-media offer a
solution for this dilemma of financing? A lot has been said about
it and many theories are going around but personally I haven’t
seen the light yet.
Even when I’m talking to people who are very involved in the
concept of trans-media, I hear opposite opinions and a lot of
conflicting theories and above all lots of intentions but not so
many concrete results.
As you have noticed by now, I’m an old fossil, a dinosaur.
I admit that I too, I struggle with the new developments and I do
not yet feel very close to the emerging possibilities of crossmedia or trans-media, whatever you want to call it. Transmedia: are they about stories or are they about technology?
Or does the success lie in a happy marriage between both?
Being here in Bari, I want to use this opportunity to confirm that
EDN is not blind for this situation and will act to assist our
members to deal with the new circumstances. We too will have
to adapt our actions and come up with innovative solutions to
make sure that the documentary genre not only survives but will
become more popular, on all platforms, in all formats.
Together with our members we’ll look for solutions to make sure
that the wonderful films you’re going to make will find and
audience that will be captivated by them.
To me personally it’s important to find solutions to make sure
that producers and directors can work in professional
circumstances and make a decent living out of their creative
efforts. How we will make this become reality is still an open
question and we at EDN are very open to discuss about this
with you and to take in your opinions and advices.
Talk to us, because information and knowledge mean power
and power is what we’ll need in the coming years when we’ll be
negotiating with the powers-that-be.
You might think that all what I've said is sad and pessimistic
and not really encouraging. Well, it isn't. It is possible to
produce and direct and to make a good living in media land.
If you're dreaming about having that Ferrari in front of your door
then I would advise you to seek another sector to work in.
However, if you plan to have a life worth living, meeting nice
and interesting people and in your own way making this world a
little better place to live in, then you've come to the right place.
Thank you for your attention and good luck with your projects.