LJUBLJANA: Industry expert Linda Beath explains her involvement as Head of Studies in the CEE Animation Workshop, that will take place in Ljubljana, Slovenia from 2 to 6 December 2017 within the Animateka International Animated Film Festival (4 – 10 December 2017).
The CEE Animation Workshop is an initiative of 19 Creative Europe Desks from Central and Eastern Europe, destined for producers of animated films from this region. The aim of this one-off event is to bring together 26 independent producers and give them professional tools based on the latest trends of the international industry.
What are in your opinion the specific challenges that a producer of animated films in the CEE region is facing?
Linda Beath: There are many challenges, but as my specialty is financing, I would like to focus on the economic issues. Animation, to start with, always poses a financial dilemma for a producer. On the one hand, it has a very long 'shelf life', in other words it can be sold and successfully re-sold for decades.
Additionally, if it is made for the young audience, who tend to look at films and television programmes repeatedly, it is bought to be owned, rather than rented for one view. So while the revenue potential for animation is higher than in other film sectors, on the other hand animation is very expensive to produce.
The CEE animation producers face that same dilemma as their international colleagues, and then some more. The organisations which help finance their projects often give lower amounts than their Western European equivalents. The result is that total CEE production budgets are less than what their competitors are able to raise.
As far as revenues are concerned, the CEE animation producers often do not own the rights to distribution and international sales and to a revenue share. Moreover, the CEE producers who can keep rights to their projects, do not have strong enough local companies to support national distribution, nor ones who are highly competitive international sellers.
What is your personal motivation in working on CEE Animation Workshop?
Linda Beath: When I first started in the industry, I was at the National Film Board of Canada doing a low level, part time job during high school and university. The NFB was probably the world's most electrifying animation producer at that time, winning numerous awards, including Oscars. So my love of animation started very early in my career.
In my second job in the industry I was a part of a large Canadian group which lobbied the powers that be (the broadcasters and the national Ministry) for more support, in fact for any support. Despite most of our lobbying taking place in January, in Winnipeg on the bitterly cold, windy Canadian prairies, we had a great and surprisingly active group of producers, directors and distributors, which banded together. Our victories did not come quickly, but they were remarkably successful including opening up a closed national TV network and the setting up of Telefilm Canada's precursor, the CFDC.
When I met with the organisers of this event, I felt the same power and pull as I did years before. A good cause, vibrant and talented participants and my favourite form of the arts ... how could I not support it?
Coproduction between producers from the CEE countries is still rare. What could help to improve this situation?
Linda Beath: The situation will improve radically with one big hit. That's all it will take. Until then, all of the efforts of the industry, from producers to funders, broadcasters and distributors should be to facilitate coproduction. It will allow animators to work more, spend more time on the quality of their projects and reach more audiences. At a lower price to each of their funders and buyers. While the motivation is clear to all, unfortunately the CEE animation producers have to keep pushing their will to coproduce through artificial barriers and contrary policies.
With your experience, what is the key for a successful international coproduction?
Linda Beath: For me it is always the most basic issue and that is: how will the audience react to your project? It is not about all of the intermediate steps, like who is the best coproducer, was it made on time, did it get the best funds. It is just what will the audience like? How will your project find its audience? How will the audience talk about it to other potential viewers? Word of mouth is still the best sales tool for film.
What would you advise to a film producer from the CEE region?
Linda Beath: Based on a study I did several years ago for a former MEDIA programme, it is to work with creators repeatedly. Your third or fourth or fifth project together will be the most successful one. Not the first or the second.
The corollary is that the animators, directors, writers need to be paid better than they are. Across the industry - all genres and all sectors - very, very few artists are able to earn enough to work adequately on their long term careers and their shorter term projects. They have to take other jobs to live. It is becoming a crisis aggravated by low budget production, the move to internet distribution and policies like the Digital Single Market.
The CEE Animation Workshop is a one-off networking and training event co-organised by the Creative Europe Desks – MEDIA offices from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Georgia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine and the market access platform Visegrad Animation Forum. The local partners are the Slovenian Animated Film Association and the Motovila Institute in cooperation with the Animateka International Animated Film Festival.
LINDA BEATH set up Ideal Filmworks in Canada 25 years ago to raise development and production financing for international coproductions of high quality feature films and television programmes. It was incorporated in Italy in 2000, adding Business and Strategic Planning to its core business of entertainment industry financing.
Linda Beath annually works with producers to find funding for five or six projects, which range from features to documentaries, animated features and prime-time television dramas. She trains producers and other practitioners in Europe and the South Mediterranean in project financing and strategic business planning for their companies. She consults to public funders on policy issues, especially with respect to the industry’s need for new business models.