FNE AV Innovation: Cutaway


    The story: Cutaway has been around for 10 years. From the outset, we wanted to be original and to explore new territory for narration – from production through to distribution – using digital tools. We started as a distribution and production company and started to develop our own VOD branch in 2015 thanks to the support from Eurimages and the North Macedonia Film Agency.

    Three years ago in April 2017, we launched our own VOD platform (Cinesquare). This window is important for us, so we always take it into account when buying a film for theatrical distribution. It’s a film-based service with a focus on arthouse films, even though since 2019 we started to expand our catalogue with TV series. Most of the big services tend to revolve around series, and we deal in films. We curate and handpick our films with a focus on Balkan and European films and we work with local partners to acquire local and European film content. Cinesquare provides possibility for films from the Balkans and for the European independent films for a second life beyond their theatrical exposure, which we believe is extremely important in an environment where the other players do not acquire local arthouse titles at all. Also it develops exclusive cross-marketing operations with festivals and events in order to promote the European content. 

    The challenges

    We are focused on 13 territories in Southeast Europe (Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus). One of the biggest challenges are the diverse territories and languages, with different rightholders and different holdbacks on other territories etc. The number of options available to exploit a film is increasing, which is obviously challenging but also brings opportunities, as several business models will coexist.

    Our primary goal as a platform was to build infrastructure (technical and logistics) and to establish our brand presence in the markets. Operating on a multi-country scale means dealing with a diversified target audience with diversified preferences. To deal with this issue, we have utilised a localisation strategy as part of the business strategy, beginning with Romanian, Greek, Serbian and Albanian this year. This does not only involve translation of the platform, but rather different tailor made curation for each country.

    The three pillars

    Since the beginning we have believed in pragmatism and greater flexibility in terms of windows. This is why we have experimented with day-and-date and festival-to-date releases, which proved very successful in our countries. Our main goal is to get the films out to audiences. And now more than ever it shows how important it is to find new ways of doing things, staying relevant and healthy. One of our three pillars is the flexibility in development. That is why we have three business models – TVOD, SVOD and AVOD, that provide better flexibility and opportunity to reach each of the 13 markets. 

    The creativity in marketing and promotion is very important to reach new audiences and film lovers as much as possible. Cinesquare has an ecosystem with many different ongoing online events, which gives us opportunity for marketing promotions; apart from the SEE ONLINE film festival, we have also many other campaigns such as Country in Focus, Kidsquare, Online channels etc. We always tend to make tailor made campaigns depending on the titles and the country. However, still content is the king. We are planning to diversify and widen our catalogue with more exclusive and niche content, which cannot be found in another place. We want Cinesquare to become a hub for quality, independent European film in this region, and to expand the content with series as well. Our third pillar is the transparency and trust. We are trying to build a reputation of being incredibly transparent and we want to build a trust not just with our partners but also with right holders.

    The crisis

    When this crisis got to us in March and the cinemas closed, we felt the need to offer free content. So, we’ve recorded a two-to-threefold increase in traffic. This was mostly due to our solidarity mission to make more than 200 films available online, free of charge to all the users in the 13 countries for the whole month of April and extended the offer to 15 May. We’ve passed our message on to many distributors and producers, that we`re prepared to also release online the films whose theatrical release was interrupted, but also to promote them. 

    Additionally, we offered all the films selected for the 5th edition of our own online festival established in 2018 - SEE Online Film Festival, free of charge as well. The festival is focused only on Southeastern films divided into 4 categories: feature, documentary, short and animation.

    Obviously it’s a tough period, but we are trying to make the best out of it. Our team remained working at full speed in all segments and we have a team working solely on developing the service. We`ve had requests to put on other festivals online as well and from a technical perspective, our site easily accommodates the demand. We've even acquired a few VOD titles in the last few weeks and have also been recruiting. We spent a lot of money on publicity and put a lot of work into it.

    Probably in the next few months we will be hosting more festivals and online events and film premieres and extend our catalogue even further. It is important to remain relevant, and to build our brand at the same time with expanding the number of users.

    www.cutaway.mk media

    Supported by Creative Europe MEDIA programme of the European Union

    About the Author: Sasha Stanishik graduated in comparative and world literature in the Faculty of Philology, as well as graduating as a film director at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, both in Skopje where he also received a masters degree in film and TV directing.

    His research field of interest is narrative forms of visual expression (video games, VR etc) arising from new digital technologies as well as new alternative ways and platforms for distribution of content.

    He is the founder of the production and distribution company CutAway which deals with preproduction, production of films and distribution of content. The company is a pioneer in the Sasha Stanishikdevelopment of new distribution models in this region. The company developed and launched SEE Cinema  – a database of all films, festivals and film professionals from 13 countries of Southeastern Europe, including a social network and news aggregator, and developed and launched the first regional VOD platform Cinesquare available in 13 countries.

    Sasha has participated in several seminars and workshops dedicated to new ways of production and distribution of content. He is the author of several short films and TV formats. He is also a professor at the Department of Film and Digital Media of the University of Audiovisual Arts EFTA Skopje.