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The Film Industry in Times of Covid-19 Discussed at Visions du Réel


As part of this year's edition of Visions du Réel, the festival in Nyon offered a number of online industry sessions in order to address challenges and opportunities in times of the Corona pandemic. One of the talks focused on documentary filmmaking, and the film industry in general, featuring a panel of experts representing a diverse spectrum of industry branches including production, distribution, festivals and documentary markets.

The implications of the Corona pandemic for the documentary sector are manifold and while various players of the film industry have reacted quickly in order to communicate what's at stake, some of what needs to be done (as previously pointed out by the European Producer's Club) is already being implemented, at least partially. How different companies and organisations currently respond to the pandemic was the main topic of an industry talk which has been presented as part of the 2020 edition of Visions du Réel.

The panel, moderated by Variety's John Hopewell, included Heino Deckert (Managing Director at Deckert Films; Producer, Distributor, Sales Agent), Marit van den Elshout (Head of IFFR PRO, International Film Festival Rotterdam), Daniela Elstner (Managing Director, UniFrance), Roberto Olla (Executive Director, Eurimages), Jérôme Paillard (Executive Director, Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes) and Laurent Steiert (Deputy Head, Film Department of the Federal Office of Culture).

As an example for ambitions to secure the continuity of productions, Roberto Olla from Eurimages (a cultural support fund of the Council of Europe) pointed out that COVID-19 has prompted Eurimages to introduce a number of measures, such as: going online with the entire administration of Eurimages (including voting procedures, payment, contracts), securing payments on time even in cases where shoots had to be aborted, dropping penalties for missed theatrical distribution and introducing VOD releases as an alternative to theatrical distribution, among others. All of this, according to Olla, is a requirement for securing the cashflow of producers who are involved in the production of films supported by Eurimages, and to maintain "business as usual" despite the pandemic.

Further take-aways include the notion that there is currently a tendency for more collaboration and syndication among industry players, especially documentary festivals and markets in order to continue providing exposure for projects and films – while there will also be a huge demand for content on the part of broadcasters who will likely experience a lack thereof in a few months time due to all shoots having been postponed or canceled, thus slowing down productions considerably throughout the entire industry.

The full-length panel discussion is available for viewing on YouTube, the links (including further information) can be found on the website of Visions du Réel here.

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