Working for change

The four working groups tasked with finding solutions to ongoing stagnation within the international distribution sector reported back yesterday at the end of the Reality Check conference. 

Some of the ideas had already been successfully actioned, such as to share resources for outreach and audience engagement among professional networks, but the majority of the ideas were applauded and deemed very workable in the future.

Prominent among these were two ideas which came from the Pan-African group, one to devise a production and distribution training program for African independent filmmakers to allow for maximum exploitation of content within non-African markets. The other is, one assumes, very realisable, namely to publish a newsletter or magazine to disseminate information about the African industry (and its output) to an international, professional audience.

Moderator Wendy Mitchell, a trade journalist as well as a programme manager at the British Council, conceded that African film industries have been poorly served in terms of news coverage, and therefore the publishing idea had much traction. 

Reality Check Day 1

Day one of the IFFR Reality Check conference delivered a series of panels designed to lift the fog of uncertainty around current and future distribution methods and models.

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Everybody agreed that film education at school level was a must both from a vocational perspective and in terms of media literacy, allowing children and youth to understand the images and messages they are being fed via all media. It was also suggested that film should be endemic across all curricula to add value to lessons in every discipline. Such policies are in place in South Africa, we were told, but not so successfully as the teachers themselves needed to be more fully immersed in the subject of cinema. The Durban International Film Festival is therefore launching an initiative in 2018 (in partnership with AFDA) to remedy this and "teach the teachers", said festival manager Chip Zhou.

The idea to engage future audiences at project pitch stage proved popular among conference attendees (especially with the suggested incentive of a CineMart Audience Prize), as did the idea for online festivals that allow viewers to rate films and guide programmers in their decisions.

The most animated pitch was for the creation of a diversity code for the assembly of panels, juries and selection committees. In terms of how to action this, Cinemathon's Erwin Schmidt struck home. "I don't think you need a large organisation to get this started. Why not just start in one place and then have it spread naturally, and if it is good enough for others to partner with..."

And where would be a good place for this to start, he was asked. He pointed to the IFFR floor at his feet.

Reality Check

The two day conference on film distribution. Read about the whole programme.

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Last remarks

Commented Mitchell after the petitions were made: "There were even more ideas that we heard but had no time to discuss in the room, but it was amazing to hear twelve very concrete ideas that people can go away with today [that can] start affecting businesses and change the way we work. I think that the festival will digest some of these points of action… I think that it so important [when] there are so many big thoughts swirling around about inclusion and helping new filmmakers and creating the filmmakers of tomorrow, to actually have pragmatic points of action that we can leave with today is just great."

Added festival director Bero Beyer: "What we hoped for has happened, where a ton-load of great ideas came forward and people discussed things openly and in a multitude of ways, and started what we as a festival are sometimes trying ourselves to do, with our screenings in Harare, with IFFR live our own VOD platform, with all those collaborations, but which are never enough. It always takes many more people of whatever gender, whatever race, whatever background, whatever inspiration to come forward and to discuss these things openly. We call these people the humans of Planet IFFR, which is all of you."

Photo in header: Reality Check Day 2