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After Cannes, are movie festivals about to take control of the Internet?

The laureates of the 67th edition of the great French festival have just been announced. Some of the rewarded films will meet their international audience mainly, if not exclusively, thanks to others festivals. And why not online festivals? These are already making films more famous and profitable. 

Did you know it? Just a few days before the Cannes film festival, on Thursday 21th of May, the JAMESONNOTODO festival revealed the official selection  for its 12th edition. The Spanish festival, dedicated to short movies, differs from most film festivals for being exclusively organized online. Distinguishing feature of the Spanish initiative: there is no selection ruling the inscription of the works on the festival platform.  Everyone is free to seduce the virtual audience, and more than 1000 short movies per edition are available online. By a viral effect typical of the Internet, the most viewed movies are put forward and gain popularity on the platform.

Who can top that? More than 10 000 short movies, coming from 38 countries, were presented in the frame of the JAMESONNOTODO festival since its creation, gathering around 30 000 spectators. A Jury composed by professionals and journalists rewards the most promising works in several categories: classic (best movie, best actors, best scenario) or more specific (best web-series). The 2014 laureates will be given a reward (a grant or a contribution to production and diffusion of their works) during an official ceremony organized at the Cineteca Matadero (Madrid) on June 16th. Unlike a platform exclusively controlled by algorithms or virality, the Jammesoonoto festival  in fact aims at conciliating the best of both traditional and virtual festivals: to be a media covered heading event of the world cinema agenda, able to prescribe and promote new talents (on line).

Unifrance, the precursor. The public organization in charge of exporting the French cinema abroad launched the first significant online movie festival, called My French Film Festival, in 2011. 4 million spectators have been captivated by its fourth edition, with a 20 French movies selection, between January 17th and February 17th of 2014, thanks to its online platform, accessible from more than 200 countries, and via the VOD websites partners of the event, which include Itunes and Dailymotion.

Compete with the bests. The selected movies of My French Film Festival are in competition for several awards: the filmmakers Award, the audience award, the social network award and the international press award. Not only the professionals, but also the public are involved in the forums and virtual networks to distinguish the best movies. Except that the prize list and the awards are given without ceremony. But the laureates yet receive a precious reward: the diffusion of their work on board on the Air France’s planes and other foreign companies.

A winning-formula for the French movies?  While the online diffusion follows an uninterrupted growth at a European and global scale[1], Unifrance seems to have found an efficient recipe to highlight the French movies:  conciliating the flexibility of a VOD platform, the gathering of a fan community (cine lover & Francophile) and event planning.  “The future of the cinema is now online, where there is a really demand… and also a real market” Isabelle Giodarno (Managing director of Unifrance) declared, after the 2014 edition in an article of le Monde evoking the exponential success of the festival.

A twofold challenge: rejuvenate the French cinema global audience and seize an opportunity. The first issue it is about renewing the public of the French movies overseas, whose average age is about 50 years today, thanks to a strong media potential event, in phase with new consumption practices. In this respect, the e-festival à la carte perfectly matches with the immediacy and individualization requirements of the younger cinema-goers generation. Furthermore, My French Film Festival permitted to many French movies to benefit from a global exhibition, unhoped-for, like for the short movie I feel the beat growing inside me (“Je sens le beat qui monte en moi”) by Yann Le Quellec (laureate of the Jean Vigo’s price), triply rewarded during the 2013 edition of the festival, and then sold to many diffusers in Europe and in Latin American.

The failure of the European attempt. Since 2010, the VOD platforms’ network named Eurovod has tried, in vain, to reproduce a similar success at a European scale.  The reasons for this failure may be seen in the fact that there has been a lack of investment on the advertising and communication’s campaigns that are essential  to create the virality and media exposure of any festival (real or virtual) - without talking about the difficulty of the European platforms to access to a European works catalogue on the same territory or at the same time.

While waiting for the next edition. The exceptional audience and respect dynamics for the French and European productions My French Film Festival and other European initiatives gained constitute the proof that VOD is a valuable way to support the diffusion of the French and European authors today and everywhere.

Margot Beck.

[1] VOD services on the Internet increased by 76,4% between 2011 and 2012 in Europa, with a turnover of 202,7 million euros (Source: CNC, Video’s market, feature n°329, March 2014.) In the United States, this result goes up to 1,1 billion euros (Source: NPA Council quoted par the Figaro’s Blog, “Bouillons numériques”)