I choose to stay independent, ask me why
At Series Mania, CEPI led a lively discussion on what it means to be independent with a panel of independent producers. Caroline Benjo – producer at Haut et Court TV, Tiago Gomes Mello – executive producer at Boutique Films, Odile McDonald – producer at Wildcats productions, Tim Mutimer – CEO of Cineflix Inc. and Carlotta Ca’Zorzi – Head of business and legal affairs at Fandango SPA, with Mathilde Fiquet from CEPI as moderator, exchanged in a passionate discussion on the role of independent producers in today’s market where big players and consolidation bring opportunity but also a lot challenges.
Each of them had different views about what it means to be an independent producer, but also a lot of convergence, especially around the importance of creative freedom, ability to choose and develop projects, and owning the IP of their work. But being independent nowadays comes with challenges, especially when having to negotiate with large financial players and their demands.
While there is a growing demand for content, producers feel the increasing reticence of larger players to take risks in investing in new and different projects. This contradiction is de facto outsourcing the risk to producers, said Caroline Benjo. Innovation in creation is often the result of independent producers' balder projects, and their courage to experiment new ideas and possibly fail: successes may arrive but not without trying again and again.
The presence of larger players able to connect us to a global audience is also an opportunity, says Tiago Gomes Mello, as it gives producers the opportunity to join projects from other side of the world, which would have been almost impossible before. Securing talents has also become a challenge. In such a high demand market for AV content and shortage of creators and crews, production costs are rising. The arrival of global streamers has been a huge opportunity for producers in Europe; however, such large players can have an easier life securing collaboration with talents to prices that independent producers are not able to afford, pointed out Carlotta Ca’Zorzi.
How can independent producers prevail in the face of these challenges? Does Europe need to have clearer and protective legislation on independent production?
Odile McDonald highlighted how independent producers secure opportunities via their networking and nurturing relationship with consolidated partners. Financial capacity isn’t the only way to find co-production and distribution partners. Network is important, confirmed Tim Mutimer, adding that a distributor like Cineflix can accompany producers from the beginning of a project, with financial investment, as well as in helping producers negotiate with other partners in an independent way. While vertical integration of players is building up, horizontal collaboration, such as with networks of producers from different countries, can be an efficient tool enabling producers a better leverage in negotiations, in securing talents, and access funding, Caroline Benjo explained, with the example of the network The Creatives.
Consolidation is also a growing trend for production companies, which comes at a certain cost for their independence. But market driven solutions may not be enough. The panelists agreed that more legislative and funding efforts should be made by institutions to create a level playing field and preserve independent producers and their creative added value.
The Audiovisual Media Service directive surely is a first step in the right direction, enabling EU member states to impose investment obligations to online players towards creation. This is a positive trend showing the presence of a political ambition to maintain a vibrant local creative sector, which needs to be broadened all across the EU. Odile McDonald held the last word of the discussion: Diversity, the reason we all fight to keep independent producers thriving.