Annecy recap days 3-5

I’ve been home for a few days now, so time is long overdue for the second part of my festival report. The MIFA market was interesting as every year, and I had time to take in roughly one screening per day for the whole festival. My favourites were ‘Barnacle Lou’ & ‘Yes Virginia’ in the screening TV3 and almost all films in CMHC1. Also the ‘making of’ talk & world premiere of Pixar’s ‘Day and Night’ was an interesting (and packed) event.

Thursday’s highlight was, of course, a MIFA institution: The Finnanimation picnic. We had lots of friends, old and new come to our event. The greatest thing though was that a lot of them also showed up for the sauna later in the evening. Here’s a small taste of how great if was:

On Wednesday I attended the round table discussion on the topic ‘Does licesing drive programming’ and on Friday I checked the cross-media pitches in the Creative Focus. The discussion was interesting and you can find my notes on it below. The pitches were a mixed bunch, just as last year. It seems the French come there to show their projects and talk about them and the few non-French projects come with a real agenda like finding coproducers or broadcasters. The problem for them is that no-one knows who’s going to attend so it can be a big waste of time.

Anyhow, the festival was again a great place to meet the small family that is the European animation scene and I’m sure I’ll be there next year as well. Until then, au revoir!

Notes on the round table discussion ‘Does licensing drive programming’

Here are some rough notes I took during the round table. If you have any questions just post them in the comments!

Media consultant Johanna Karsenty from Médiamétrie-Eurodata TV Worlwide, France talked a bit about different trends in adapted programming. Her presentation included these figures:

In 2009 the top 20 of youth programming was based on the following original materials:
Comics 21%
Manga adaptations 7% (particularly strong in Italy)
Games 4%
Live action films 4%

That leaves 64% of the top 20 that were original formats, which according to Karsenty means there’s still room for creativity and licensing can’t be said to hold the reins over programming.

Philippe Alessandri
, president of Tele Image Kids, talked about the different viewpoints that producers and broadcasters have on licensing.

– With the fragmented audiences nowadays pre-financing is difficutl for producers
– Launching new IP’s is risky and difficult for broadcasters, they prefer IP’s that have a track record

1. Licensing contributes to the success of a programme

Kids are conservative viewers, they like what they know
Kids who like the licensed toys are more likely to watch the show
Tele Image makes sure all their projects have all fringe features in place before launching a property

Broadcasters benefit from the buzz created by the licensing strategy
Licensing generates more ad spent for the broadcaster as licensees run ads during the show

2. But viewers cannot be seen only as consumers

IP’s that do well in licensing don’t always translate well to tv-shows
Toy driven shows mean narrow audiences because you can usually only target boys or girls
Genre neutral shows have less licensing potential, but can attract larger audiences
Broadcasters’ priority should remain to look after the editorial policy and programming consostency
Broadcasters also have to follow regulations and be sure they don’t get mixed up  in licensing that conflicts laws etc
Programming strategy should take licensing into account but not let it be the main guideline

-> In his view licensing does drive programming, as the market is tough and financing shows isn’t easy.

Tom van Waveren, creative director of Cake Entertainment UK:

When Cake look at a new project they first want to see if it makes them sit up and smile, if they are touched. Whether the IP is previously well known is only secondary.

TV is sill the strongest launch platform for something new. Still there’s new competition for the prime media position all the time. We need to be smart to get our audiences to attache to our stories. Licensing is only one tool in this. As producer or broadcaster you need to reach audiences through many different ways.

Sylvia Schmoeller, Super RTL Germany

Licensing is important for pre-school IP’s. There’s a misconception with some producers that even if you have strong licensing etc lined up a show would be better off, but if you don’t deliver on the ratings it will still be pulled off the air. Sure licensing helps but entertaining the audience is key. Schmoeller understands that produrers need that 2nd leg of cash flow to make money. But just banking on the licensing succes doesn’t guarantee a good show.

Moderator’s question: What’s the biggest difficulties with adapting existing properties?

Tom: You want to analyse what people conect with in the IP. Is it the tone or the characters, the setting or what?
If the original works as a book but not as a script you need to tweak and play around with it. You need to take risks and sometimes you miss. Can you communicate the core idea? You have to communicate it to all the licensing players, the game designers, directors, comic book artists etc everyone who works on different parts of license.

Annecy – short recap on days 1 & 2

Annecy has been great already, and it’s only two days into the festival. The German party on Tuesday was especially nice, with lots of familiar faces and many new acquaintances.

I’ve seen one screening per day so far: The TV competition #4 on monday suffered from eardrum piercing volume levels and a projectionist who didn’t care if the aspect ratio was cutting out heads or subtitles… Metropia on Tuesday was a big dissappointment. I wanted to like the film, but with such a clichéed script that wasn’t even well dramatised (think Avatar – thanks to Andy Blazdell for the comparison) it just didn’t work. The storyline had glitches and I didn’t even care what happened to the main character during the final chase…

I also went to check the conference on “European studios’ competitiveness”, of which I saw 4/5 speakers. The most interesting to me were Bruno Gaumétou of Neomis animation and Petter Lindblad of Copenhagen Bombay. Below is a short extract of the notes I took from their presentations. If you have any questions just post them in the comments.

Now it’s off to see TV competition #3 at Decavision and then off to the Mifa market, see you around!

Notes on conference: European studio’s competitiveness

Bruno Gaumétou (Neomis animation):
Who are the competitors? 5000 animation studios world wide…2754 in Europe, that’s a lot!

When Neomis was founded it was on the 14yrs of experience working for Disney.

Their goal was to be the go-to guys for high quality projects. They would provide connections, know-how, ideas and expertise.

Their ‘survival kit’ for the global industry (with pifalls) is:
– varied range of services (but rooted on the core business)
– technical diversity (but limited to solid internal expertise)
– a large pool of artists (but talent is rare)
– the production process (but it has to be constantly updated)
– a stable core team (but how to secure a stable work load?)
– a wide industry network (but building trust takes time)

Says it is important for EUR studios to work as a network. That is the only way to compete, keep talent and deliver projects on time!

Says for studios to survive they have to be a service company AND a production company.

Petter Lindblad from Copenhagen Bombay
‘Low budget’ animation and crossmedia

Being competitive in EUR means doing projects that can be financed in EUR, completed in reasonable time and use EUR talent.

Shrinking your budgets is a way to stay competitive. Financing is faster and less complicated. There’s fewer equity partners. And the producers investment results in a higher ownership share. Low budgets enable you to keep the project in-house. The team is close together and teams are smaller.

How they do it:
Mandatory thorough development so you know the budget will hold. Accurate animatics reduce redundant animation. Keeping the production informed and the director close to the team helps catching issues early. Optimizing the project from start to end e.g. not animating feet in 3D when they’re not in the frame. Being flexible with teams e.g. shuffling people from layout to animation or vice versa on demand.

Copehagen Bombay only do original projects to keep the IP inhouse

Drawbacks with low bud projects:
No time and money to correct mistakes – scenes might have to be cut out altogether
You need to be 100% sure if the films intentions beforehand

Animation financing seminar – Twitter transcript

Here’s a quick transcript from the seminar arranged today by Finnanimation. Sorry about any spelling mistakes etc. If you have any questions just post them in the comments!
Attending the financing seminar by Finnanimation. Going to tweet using the hashtag #anifinance.

Film Fund ceo Krohn gives a welcome. Says that in the finnish animation scene does not suffer from big egos =)

Finnanimation’s promoter @LiisaVee gives a welcome. Facts on FA: 50 member companies from freelancers to studios. Running 6 yrs.

Liisa: FA’s mission is to Share info, Promote internationally, Influence educational policies and Develop funding models.

Anima Vitae’s ceo Petteri Pasanen continues with “the size of the animation market & the possibilities for animation”.

Petteri: Be careful how you look at the numbers when assessing the market. Especially in the field of animation.

Petteri: 2008 world market US158 billion, 2012 estimate US249 billion. Most segments grow at 10-15% annually.

Petteri: North America is the biggest market, Asia passed Europe in 2007. 80% of market is art/entertainment, 20% industrial.

Petteri: TV & movies request growing at 20%, 3D grows fastest of the techniques.

Petteri: Animation travels well, in France 45% of the AV-exports is animation, even though only 4% of film sector.

Petteri: Animation is a born global business. There’s also no language barriers, no star actor cult.

Petteri: Short term anim. is more expensive than live-action, but has a larger & longer audience potential. Niche is big as well.

Petteri: What if finnish animation could get to 0,1% of the world market? There’s room for much improvement.

Petteri: In 2008 numbers it would be US92 million in tv- animation, or US158 million of total business. Something to think about…

Juliane Schulze from Peacefulfish presents on Animated films as Investment Target.

Juliane: PFF has 3 client groups: Production sector, Policymakers & Digital distribution platforms. Founded in 2000.

Juliane: Film prod value chain presented for investors present. Covering dev/prod/distrib.

Juliane: Price of rights rises along the value chain: Dev: low, Prod phase: high, Distrib: very high.

Juliane: Film exploitation chain same as live action. Theatre -> 4-12 mo later dvd/vod -> 6-18mo paytv -> 6-24 mo freetv.

Juliane: Free tv reruns go on for live action 3-5yrs, for anim 7-12 yrs so there’s more time to exploit ancillaries!

Juliane: Covering film financing in Europe in general (mediaPlus, nat/regional funds, tax incentives, presales, banks, etc).

Juliane: 2 kinds of tax incentives: Tax shelters (BEL, UK, FRA, ITA) and Tax credits (cash rebate) (CZ, FRA GER; HUN, NOR etc).

Juliane: Why tax credits? Studies show that 1 tax rebate euro translates to 2-2,5 euros invested on location.

Juliane: Most banks have stopped providing cash flow loans for film projects because it wasn’t a good business for them.

Juliane: 3rd party guarantees help access bank loans and minimize risks. 3 guarantees (Fra/Spa/Ger) introduced.

Juliane: Specialisd funds for animation: Film funds for gap financing, tax driven funds in Fra/Bel, business driven mainly in UK.

Juliane: UK business driven funds: Ingenious, Goldcrest, Matador among others.

Juliane: New funds: COFANIM film fund (French), available through established FR comp’s Futurikon, Millimages, Moonscoop & Xilam.

Juliane: International Animation Fund (IAF): MIPTV 2010 launch, for Singaporean coproducers, Fremantle takes int’ll sales.

Juliane: P&A (print & advertisement) funds: Global Cinema Distribution, Incentive Filmed Entertainment, European subsidy funds.

Juliane: P&A fund criteria: Covers release prints (physical neg) & advertisement costs, typically funded 2 mo preceding theatre.

Juliane: P&A takes 10% return on principal, 2% of all profits from domestic revenue, priority over all payments, 3 mo payback.

Juliane: Film as investment: small investment, identified market, undercapitalised, growing sector, soft money shares risk.

Juliane: Disadvantages: prototype business (no templates), project based, high risk, intangible assets, unstable regulation.

Juliane: Business angel invests early, regionally and in companies only. 20k-1mioEur, typical 200k-500kEur -> wants to involved.

Juliane: VC 2nd-3rd stage investments w/ proven business model, invest in comp only, active int’ll, larger deals (>5mEur).

Juliane: VC has no real focus on content, waiting for european media market to mature.

Juliane: What should investors consider? Prefer a slate over single films, look at int’ll potential, who else is on board?

Juliane: Investor has several entry points: Slate of 1 prod comp, combined slates with many prod comps, corporate investment etc.

Juliane: Investors should look at 1) Track record -> can they deliver? 2) management team -> will the producer deliver?

Juliane: Investor should look at busin.plan: HOW will the producer deliver? Including creative package, distrib, target, ROI etc.

Juliane: For corp financing investors should check balance sheets 2-3 yrs, assets and realistic ROI.

Juliane: PFF found that what helps is a working relationship btw investor and producer. They encourage transparency & openness.

Juliane: PFF has created an investment forum, which will come to Helsinki this year, check

Tanu-Matti Tuominen from Mediatonic – the game and media brand investment fund.

TMT: Talks about the difficulty most companies face: If you sell your IPR for the prod budget you end up with zilch.

TMT: If you sell your IPR beforehand you’re in the project biz, if you keep it you’re in the produt biz.

TMT: As companies you should focus on building your catalogue.

TMT: When making films it’s not about projects. Your goal isn’t using up the budget, it’s shipping the finished film!

TMT: Many traditional investors/funding bodies still have big difficulties in assessing a company’s skills & assets.

TMT: Example from FIN gaming sector: Was worth 90mEur last year, should have been 350mEur if it had been fully exploited.

Lisa Hanen from MTV3 Media talks about licensing & merchandising.

LH: A very crucial part of Licensing&Merchandising is the marketing of the products.

LH: Licensing is giving your L&M rights to a third party. You can chop up your IPR into parts just as small as you like.

LH: A successful L&M plan enhances your brand’s/animation’s reputation & sales. L&M also opens doors to sponsoring.

LH: Most producers dont have the cash to do L&M themselves. She urges producers to consider a good experienced licensing partner.

LH: Most usual ways for L&M exploitations in Finland: DVD’s, books, toys, games, music, services&events.

LH: Content is always king. Good content makes the precious brand. An unknown or boring brand doesn’t make for good L&M

LH: L&M should be planned from the get-go. What char’s/themes etc can be part of your L&M? Be careful of your contracts re: L&M!

LH: Broadcasters & distributors always want some L&M, so don’t sell out everything to your friend’s companies…

LH: L&M takes time, so don’t sweat it. A new project isn’t easy to license.

LH: If you’re not swimming in cash, you might need a licensing partner. Also a good animator isn’t always a L&M guru.

LH: Always make written contracts, detailing who gets what, which territories, what products etc.

LH: Before writing contracts shop around which L&M player offers you what. Don’t take the first offer! What’s their investment?

LH: Don’t license what you don’t own! Be careful with the small print and that you don’t sell anything you already licensed.

LH: Protect your IPR. Do what you can to make sure you own and protect your project. (I think it’s not so straight forward).

LH: Don’t be afraid of L&M. If you need a lawyer, hire one, but don’t be so afraid of the jargon you end up not doing L&M!

Petri Kemppinen from the Finnish Film Fund wraps up the seminar with his view of the finnish animation sector.

PK: Finnish film fund gives 13% of it’s budget to script writing and development, which is exceptionally high in Europe.

PK sees finnish animation companies as industrious and is thankful of the co-operation he sees.

PK: Small advertisement for the Cross Media Content For Kids by the Nordisk film & tv fund. 6 projects will be awarded 40kEur.

That’s all for the seminar, hope there was something of use for you. If you have any questions, tweet me!

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The best thing made for television – ever

I must say that I am still a bit gobsmacked. Last Saturday YLE Teema, along with a few other channels around Europe, broadcasted the monumental documentary 24h Berlin. The doc, if you can really call it that, was shot on the 5th of September 2008 and broadcast exactly one year later. The film makers followed dozens of people in their daily activities all around Berlin, and the film was edited so that what happened at 6:30 AM would be broadcast at 6:30 AM.

There were something like 80 film crews working frantically all over Berlin and I can only imagine what went through the editing teams mind when they first started to review the hours and hours of material. You can read more about the details of the project at

To return to the gobsmacking, what I’m really surprised about is how big an impact the whole thing made on me. If you think about it, the premise sounds interesting but boring. I mean to follow ordinary people around, while they’re driving their cars or drinking a beer or lying in a hospital bed. But when I switched the programme on, it was so enthralling that I just had to keep watching. The film makers were very professional, they found angles and themes to keep the viewer interested and it was solid documentary making at least for the 5 or so hours that I watched it.

And the best thing I think was the idea to broadcast the show all in one go. This way you could tune in to what was happening when you had time, and there would always be something interesting going on. And the viewer would also be rewarded for tuning in later. An example for this was the show at the Opera, which started at 8 PM and was referred to every now and then. When I shut down the tv at some point, went over to a friends place and we turned the tv on at around 10:30, the doc returned to the Opera to show that the show had ended. It was things like these that clearly brought across the main point of the whole programme: Berlin never sleeps and there’s always something going on somewhere.

The effect of the documentary has stayed with me for the last few days, and it has kept me thinking and looking at the world around me in a different light. On Saturday night I heard parties through open windows, and imagined that documentary teams could be there too, filming everything. I saw my street on Sunday morning and looked at the people walking around, thinking what their stories were, what they would tell the camera when asked about their day, their lives, their dreams. And this is one of the biggest reasons I think 24h Berlin is the best thing ever made for tv: It made the ordinary extraordinary.

If you caught the show, please share your thoughts in the comments!

(Here’s Deutsche Welle’s piece on the project, in english: )

Documentary film makers wave goodbye to the festival circuit

Brad Warner and Erik Proulx say “no thanks” to festival audiences and instead take their films to where their fans are

I’ve been working for the Espoo Ciné international film festival this week, and on Wednesday I got the chance to catch Brad Warner’s Q&A session after the screening of his documentary “Cleveland’s Screaming!“. Among the many Q’s and A’s Brad answered the question whether the film has been well received elsewhere and if it has toured many festivals in the States.

He said that after mailing lots of applications to festivals, each with 20 or so dollars attached, only to have them rejected, he gave up on the idea as a waste of money. One of the most important screenings for him had been in an Ohio punk club, where the people were genuinely interested in the film and knew how to appreciate it.

Lemonade for the laid-off

Brad’s answer reminded me of the comment that Erik Proulx, the director of the upcoming documentary “Lemonade“, made in FastCompany. Proulx used to work in advertising, but after being handed the pink slip for the third time in less than ten years, he decided he wanted to do something else. He found out about others like him and decided to make a documentary about laid-off advertising people and their new lives (for the whole story go here).

Proulx plans to make his documentary available for free download, thereby making it non-eligible for most festivals. However, in the article Proulx says:

“I’d rather have a million laid-off viewers than 500 at a film festival.”

Film makers set their own rules

Now, there are two ways to argue about film makers taking this approach. One way would be to say that the films maybe are of mediocre quality (I personally have seen neither, so this is only for the sake of argument) and wouldn’t make it onto the programmes of large festivals. Most of the US festivals also charge the above mentioned fees just to preview and consider a film for the programme. It could be said that the film makers aren’t confident enough to make this kind of “investment”.

The other way is to see this as a possible new trend enhanced by social media and the idea of sharing. Instead of making their films available only to film buffs and professionals (the gatekeepers and inner circle of the artform) via festivals, they choose internet distribution and highly targeted screenings to reach their audiences.

Personally I find the second argument both more credible and more interesting. It speaks of a well defined and very niche target audience (which is essential for the success of any film), the embracing of new technologies and trends like the long tail, as well as an own definition of success, not set by peers or gatekeepers but by the film makers themselves, as it should be.

Bottom line

What this means to the whole filmmaking community is that old structures are challenged and new values compete with traditional ones. The new, potentially huge audiences outside the festival circuit will invariably cherish different aspects of the films than the traditionalist film buffs. They might even be interested in donating to the film makers, something that is both unusual and very difficult to arrange at festival screenings.

What are your thoughts, is this just an old story of non-talented outsiders making a virtue out of neccessity, or will downloads and social media severely challenge the festival institution?

What’s up? getting into gear

I’m back from my holiday away from work & the internet. I must say I didn’t miss much, in either sense of the word =) But now it’s time to get back to business, and the first thing I want to announce is that our next short film What’s up? is well into production by now.

The folks at Anima Vitae, led by director Meruan Salim, started with modelling and rigging of the main character already in June. The film will be pushed along at a leasurely pace, as down-time on the studio’s bigger projects allows it. The final date for the premiere is set in spring next year, but it’s also very well possible that the film will be finished earlier.

As a sneak preview, here are two development pictures of our hero, Huuhaa:

huuhaTemp huuhaTemp_02

Annecy 2009 – what a fest!

Just returned from Annecy on saturday, where I had a real blast! For the first time I arrived already monday at noon, instead of my usual tuesday evening, so I had the time to watch more films than usual. And boy, there were some good ones! Among my favourites were Brendan and the Secret of Kells (I’d describe it as Spirited Away with a celtic feel) and the Log Jam series, both of which happened to win prizes as well.

The business side was good as well, there was a lot of action at the MIFA animation market despite of all recession talk in the months before. I had some great meetings and many projects took bigger or smaller steps. One of the highlights of every MIFA is the Finnish Picnic organised by our Finnanimation initiative.

All in all it was a great trip, business wise as well as fun. See you in France next year!