Out with the old and in with the new
Danny Meaney, Managing Director of New Media Partners, provides an insight into new models in distribution and the future of film festivals ahead of his appearance as a panellist at EIFF
Distribution is an industry in flux. New media platforms provide an opportunity for more people to distribute their work, but Danny Meaney points out, “it’s about thinking in a non-traditional way, not forgetting about the old model, just making use of the new opportunities arising.” Innovation comes not just from technology, but from individuals: “I think there is change in attitude needed almost all the way through the production process. Technology is not the panacea. Although it brings opportunities it also brings restrictions.” He concedes the transition requires that people “take a realistic view that they will perhaps have to give some things up on some occasions in order to get the benefits of distribution.”
However attitudes towards business need reassessment: “People will have to see that business is okay. It doesn’t necessarily mean the ‘filthy lucre’ argument applies.” In essence, if filmmakers are astute about the model they adopt, there will be less impact on creativity: “A few years ago we curated a download channel for Nokia. A number of record labels and filmmakers were keen be a part of it, what they didn’t want was to have their work juxtaposed with advertising from certain brands. They had control over which brands were advertised alongside their content.’
Admittedly, the studio model has its place, “there’s nothing wrong with the American model, it gets people into the habit of going to cinema.” What is important is diversification: “There’s certainly room for a greater range of smaller independent films targeted at niche communities. There’s opportunity to develop a more culturally representative film industry.” It is a question of access where “more people are learning the trade and learning how to get it wrong as well as how to get it right in a more affordable manner. I think will be a good thing for the skill base of the industry in the UK.”
For Scotland in particular, Meaney views the French film industry as a good model: “They are just so open about it being their culture and representative of their culture. And it does drive a very different type of film from US box office. I just like that French confidence. I think we have enormous talent and it would be good to see more of that, whether it’s in Scotland or the UK.’
Does he see film festivals adapting to these changes? "For most festivals it is true that it is difficult to make them stack up financially. Festivals are having to look for new business models and other ways of sustaining themselves throughout the year. I think it’s inevitable that the technology model will be seen more and more. But I don’t think it will kill the actual watching of a movie in dark room any time soon."
Edinburgh is certainly at the forefront of developing such media platforms, Meaney has collaborated with the University of Edinburgh’s Informatics department and predicts a bright future, both creatively and technologically: "The mix of people has changed over the last ten years. I think there’s a much greater confidence about Edinburgh as a creative place. Edinburgh in the past has been guilty of not shouting too much about itself and that's changed. It is, I think, one of the next important creative cities certainly in the UK, probably in Europe."
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Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) today unveiled details of its celebrated Black Box programming strand. Showcasing the best in experimental filmmaking Black Box combines thought-provoking new works with retrospectives and special events.