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EFM Toppers Knol and Probst Stay on Top of Fast-Changing Industry

Variety logo Variety 2/9/2017 Ed Meza
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The European Film Market has introduced a number of new initiatives this year focusing on key aspects of the fast-changing global film industry. EFM president Beki Probst and EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol discuss this year’s new events, burgeoning business models, and new opportunities.

As the EFM grows to reflect technological developments, how challenging is it to highlight the right trends?

Matthijs Wouter Knol: The EFM has been growing in the past decades and Beki obviously played a key role. We’re not making the choices for the industry but we can say that there are changing players in the market and established business models as well as new and different business models now exist side by side. There are many questions: what new players may become dominant players in the market? It’s always interesting to see that some things that are discussed in February turn out to have a big impact throughout the year. It’s important to help people navigate this changing market.

Beki Probst: It’s testing the waters. All those new things — will they still be around in one year, two years? No one knows. As a market, if you don’t do these tests, then you’re just sitting on your laurels, because everything is moving on. I don’t see the old classic model declining, but people are asking themselves questions. The market is showing them what is going on and presenting possibilities.

You have announced some new programs this year, including EFM Horizon. What will it focus on?

Knol: We did the EFM Startups project the past two years. That worked very well and has basically developed into the larger EFM Horizon platform this year, thanks to our partner Audi. It focuses mainly on innovation that is either happening in the film industry or innovation models that are happening in other industries that could be perfect examples for the film industry. For example, models that have developed in telecommunications, the music, or even the automobile industry in the past few years — are these things that we could consider for new distribution, new sales and new marketing models in the film sector? That could be very interesting for EFM visitors and the industry in general.

Probst: Our business is undergoing a very big change. The digitalization has brought so many new things, you have to think, what business model do we have here? We have the classic model that we have been doing over the years at the market, but aside from that, things are happening in the world and Matthijs is very aware of all those things. And that’s wonderful because it’s a question to adapt the classic model to today’s world.

Drama Series Days is a day longer this year. How significant has it become?

Knol: It’s in its third year and it has established itself. People who are buying, selling, commissioning, and funding high-end drama series know that it is a good place to come to in the beginning of the year. About 50% of the Drama Series Days visitors come exclusively for this event. Even though there’s the advantage that the event is part of the market, they’re not specifically coming for the EFM. We still selected the same amount of series as we did last year. We want to focus on quality and 20 series is great for a three-day event. What we added is a bit more of a conference program. With so much talent, people thought we should talk more, so we made it one day longer. We also moved it to the Zoo Palast this year. It’s a good location where the screenings, conference program and Co-Production Market pitches take place and there’s also networking space in the lounges.

How did the EFM’s new Country in Focus initiative develop?

Knol: The market has so many visitors from so many countries. Many stands are booked by national film institutes. It’s a very big and colorful representation of the world. Together with Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick, we thought, why not use that strong point and international flavor of the market and focus on specific countries. We started with Mexico this year because there’s a Germany-Mexico celebration year going on from summer 2016 to summer 2017. Mexican cinema always has been strongly represented at the market and at the festival. … The EFM also has strong links to other regions, including Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America. We’ve been trying in the past three years to intensify those relationships. … We don’t want to just stick to what’s happening in Europe even though we’re called the European Film Market. Everybody is here and everybody should feel represented here.

Probst: It’s like wine. One year you suddenly get a lot of films from one country, then it’s quiet and there is another one popping up. For the market it’s a must and also a benefit to be following those movements. We are linked to a festival that also has the aim of finding where the interesting cinematography is coming from — this year it could be Iran, next year it could be Chile. It’s a changing thing.

How has the EFM’s overall turnout been so far?

Knol: We have sold out all our space — we sold more space than in the past years, so also space-wise, the market is growing and expanding. When it comes to the stability and the high quality of the market, that’s something that we continue.

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