| WORKSHOP – DOCUMENTARIES GO DIGITAL|
WORKSHOP – DOCUMENTARIES GO DIGITAL
The new opportunities for making, distributing, promoting and developing documentaries offered by modern digital and internet technology were analyzed for the public by, Kees Ryninks, C. Cay Wesnigk and Ben Ross. They are company representatives who put into practice alternative digital documentary pathways. The workshop took place on Thursday, March 22 in the context of the 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Images of the 21st Century. The Documentaries Go Digital workshop organized by the European Documentary Network (EDN) in collaboration with the Festival developed into a rich and revealing seminar on how one can expose his film to a particular audience through the internet, increasing revenues and protecting copyrights.
Speaking about the possibilities offered by modern digital technology, the Dutch Kees Ryninks – head of the Dutch company CinemaNet Europe, which undertakes transforming independent film theatres to digital theatres – noted that the documentary is the ideal genre for the digital marketplace, as digital platforms make it possible to lower film distribution costs so that it can reach a broader audience in more than one country. So then new avenues are opened for the documentary, which can develop and prosper on this new basis. As he underlined, the digital format makes the approach of small groups of viewers with special interests financially doable, since the national and European distribution of a digital film can be done at the price of five analogue film prints. At the same time, print availability is limitless, as today one can produce 6,000 titles per day.
The result of a Europe wide survey conducted by CinemaNet on the digital marketplace confirmed that the future of documentaries is in the digital theatres and the Internet. The documentary audience is female (53%) and male (47%), aged 40 and over, belonging to a higher social bracket. They are couples without (37%) or with (21%) children, and single people (25%) who watch television less than 2 hours per day, while the decision to go see a documentary at a theatre is made by women in 80% of the cases. The reason
this audience chooses to see documentaries in the theatres (and not on television) is mainly because of the insecurity created by the tragedy of September 11 in New York, a fact that makes them seek the company of other socially aware, thinking people, and the better mental concentration offered by the movie theatre as well as the experience of a large screen. What attracts the audience to a documentary film is not the director (only 7% of the respondents declared that they choose a film because of the director), but the subject. The subjects that interest the audience most up to 2001, were people from other countries and cultures, while after 2001 their number one preference was for politics, news and wars.
Summing up, the head of CinemaNet Europe presented facts as to the success of the company. From 2004 to date CinemaNet has created a network of 150 theatres in 5 European countries screening 12 European documentaries per year, while every month they have one pan-European premiere. To date the company has 150 films projecting digitally in Holland, 30 pan-European premieres and over 35,000 digital screenings in total. In 2006 it broadened documentary distribution through the European broadband network, offering even more alternative content and interactive “chats” between the audience and the directors. At the same time it has touched on a new audience, Opera lovers, by screening taped performances in 15 theaters.
Cay Wesnigk referred to the possibilities offered by broadband networks and to digital copyrights and directors’ profits in his speech. He is head of the German company ONLINEFILM.org, a company that offers online documentaries either for rent (streaming), or for purchase (downloading). “What we have created here is what is called video on demand”, he said and stressed the opportunities that are now opening for the distribution and sales of films directly to the public, without the intervention of distributors and film theaters, to the financial benefit of the filmmakers themselves. The hurdle of the free, uncontrolled and unrestrained data exchange that is happening on the net today (downloading) can be overcome with the fair management of digital copyrights, so that more money can reach the directors, less to the middlemen, and the cost to the consumer can vary between 2-6 euros, while he can enjoy excellent picture quality, be part of a community and avoid the dangers of the internet.
Ben Ross – representative of the British company joiningthedots.tv – spoke about new ways of seeing and financing documentaries. The company is a broadband channel that screens documentaries and is designed by genre professionals. He explained that the traditional media don’t have room for documentaries, leaving the genre’s audience unsatisfied, at a time when new technologies can cover this void and without competition, since, as he said: “when one film does well, then all films will do well”. At the same time the Internet channel joiningthedots.tv gives the audience the chance to choose
among alternative versions of the same film, while the film catalogue is structured with the mindset of a Festival, in theme sections, which lead by association from one film to the next, without however guiding the viewer. The films promoted by the company come from all over the world, while the channel (through the computer) is interactive, providing links, for a and real time discussions. Finally, it is worth noting that joiningthedots.tv has created a special fund, with which the service members can commission the creation of a documentary to filmmakers – in other words, a fund for the financing of documentary films.