Three key themes for producing successful projects emerged from this year's edition of the Atlantic Film Festival's Strategic Partners: understanding and adapting to rapidly changing audience needs; focusing on strong business models and sustainable corporate financing.
Ultimately, realizing that making films, television and multi-platform fiction is still all about telling wonderful stories that capture and hold audiences.
"For me, it's co-production, co-production, co-production," said Rebecca O'Brien, renowned producer of 12 Ken Loach films, including the AFF's opening gala film and 2012 Cannes Jury Prize winner, The Angels' Share. O'Brien appeared as the Strategic Partners keynote – in conversation with award-winning Canadian producer, Thom Fitzgerald – addressing 200 senior industry delegates from 20 countries who converged on Halifax September 13 to 16.
When asked how many partners on a project is too many, O'Brien responded, "We had 21 partners on The Wind That Shakes The Barley. So, really, if it makes the film, there's never too many." No matter what else, she added, it really comes down to telling the story: "The story is the main thing, always." That sentiment was echoed throughout the weekend's remaining panels and presentations as well.
Transmedia guru Brent Friedman (Star Trek Enterprise, Star Wars, The Clone Wars, Halo 4) gave the Saturday keynote, focusing on the audience as a moving target. “I'm a story-teller first," said Friedman. "It's our obligation as storytellers to understand what is going on in the audience's head." Audiences today are a hybrid, according to Friedman: "They are the movie-goer, TV watcher, gamer, mobile user all wrapped into one.” He added that people want instant gratification for their efforts when they are engaged in the experience and must be able to move through the content seamlessly, regardless of the format.
Delegates – including producers, financiers, broadcasters, and agency representatives – were also inspired by stimulating panel discussions that highlighted the importance of designing collaborative, sustainable business models. "We as producers don't have a lot of time to think about business development, but the key is focusing on accountability and all those things that other businesses sometimes take for granted," said Christina Piovesan of First Generation Films. "We sit down with our team, build a plan and are accountable for results." Panel conversations also explored the recent migration of feature film concepts and talent to television and the web, as the options for in depth story-telling become more rapidly available both for content creators and the audiences.
The co-production market of the Atlantic Film Festival, Strategic Partners is widely considered one of the world's best places to co-produce and co-venture with Canadians. Strategic Partners selects delegates from across Canada and around the world, looking to meet key players, pitch their projects, and expand their knowledge.
"We are very lucky in Halifax and Nova Scotia to have this extremely important international meeting place for filmmakers. I've met with people from Mexico, France, Germany, England, the US, and other parts of Canada," said Michael Donovan, Chairman and CEO of DHX Media, who won an Academy Award for the documentary feature Bowling for Columbine. "It's great because it's very relaxed here. There's no tension and I think where there's very little pretension, or very little tension…that creates the proper environment in which deals can actually get done.”
Producers in Trans Atlantic Partners, the intensive co-production training and networking program presented by Strategic Partners, the Eric Pommer Institut and IFP – which kicked off in Berlin in June and continued during Strategic Partners and the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax – head to New York for the third and final module, set amidst the IFP Independent Film Week.
The Atlantic Film Festival is an eight-day celebration of film, video and music from around the world. It is a festival that turns Halifax – a charming and historic seaside city – into an international mecca for the arts, abuzz with filmmakers, industry types and film lovers. What began in 1981 as a tiny, grassroots operation in St. John’s, Newfoundland has blossomed into one of Canada’s premiere film festivals. The cornerstone September Festival includes year-round industry and community events for every taste.
For interviews, or more information, contact:
Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, publicist Strategic Partners/Trans Atlantic Partners Atlantic Film Festival on FiPR@ymail.com