CANNES NEXT 2016: Prototypes and the future of film

Big data, the agile method and incubation: startup fever hits La Croisette.

Imposing, sprawling and community-building, NEXT, the Cannes Marché du film pavilion for innovative business practices and technologies in the film industry, is poised to become a marketplace in and of itself, according to Jérôme Paillard, the money man of the world’s biggest film trade show.

With just three editions under its belt, NEXT is now a must for all Marché participants, from distributors and investors to up-and-coming tech wizards. The space dedicated to new narrative, industrial and digital creation has tripled in size and is now home to a dedicated conference room and two rooms for demonstrating virtual reality projects. Virtual reality is THE format of the hour, and NEXT devoted the biggest part of its program to it.

Demystifying Audience

After ten days of conferencing, discussion groups and presentations, what emerged this year was a drive--backed by platforms and algorithms--to deploy ever more resources toward “finding the audience” specific to each film, critical in an industry in which distributors, broadcast platforms and rights holders often differ on digital marketing goals and strategies.

Here, Deloitte led several discussions on using Big Data in researching and monetizing audiences from the very start of developing a film project. Data granularity and methodology are essential to producing conclusive findings, although the proliferation and logistical incoherence of sampling and interpretation tools still have not won over many industry decision makers.

The most skilled and fervent users of Big Data will have to be on the qui vive faced with the erosion of choice as a result of VOD platforms’ systematic use of recommendation algorithms, which, over the long term, limit consumers’ potential interest in a wide array of films that do not match the characteristics of their viewer profile.

Deloitte’s Paul Lee suggests that it’s a matter of constantly “beating the numbers” while privileging audacious approaches and exploring new avenues, like data aggregation, such as is practiced by Cinelytic, a decision support platform that offers producers, investors and distributors a predictive box office performance tool developed using NASA risk management techniques. Founder René Bastian used the opportunity to call for greater financial transparency and externalization of results by the studios, describing cinema as “one of the world’s most opaque industries.”

Creative Europe’s Martin Dawson deplored European producers’ lack of interest in investing in and developing their own knowledge of market intelligence technologies. In his opinion, they prefer to simply rely on the expertise of their broadcasting and marketing partners.

Amazon v. Netflix, The Sequel

After Netflix, in 2015, it was Amazon Studio’s turn to steal the show at this year’s Marché du film, among other things by lining up five titles selected for official competition, including the opener, Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, wiping the floor with its competitor after fierce negotiations initiated during the Sundance festival, earlier this year.

The Neon Demon

Amazon’s approach contrasts with Netflix’s, however: Jason Ropell, Worldwide Head of Motion Pictures, strove to reassure producers that Amazon did not want to disrupt the cinema distribution chain, saying the firm wants to work with festivals and resellers to maximize the impact of films on all broadcast platforms.

For example, Amazon Studios will handle distribution to U.S. theatres for Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (also in competition at Cannes), then make it available to subscribers over its Amazon Prime platform. The studio will work with local distributors for other territories.

Startups at Centre Stage

NEXT is also an opportunity for many young digital entrepreneurs to show off the advantages of their latest technological innovations. A dozen next geners set up around the pavilion with the goal of disrupting several traditional film industry components.

Cinemathon is one of the new incubators dedicated to innovative businesses that are striving to model the future of film dissemination environments. The Berlin organization presented a series of open source code prototypes developed by commercial strategists, architects, festival organizers and transmedia artists at the conclusion of an interdisciplinary design workshop. Cannes delegates were invited to have a look at and comment on the experiments; one of these, COLLAB, a daring hybrid film multiplex project, which is both collaborative and multi-functional, could be the template for what independent 3.0 theatres could become in the near future.

For its part, Timetonic is a smart project management platform for producers and their partners. It brings together a set of practical tools that cover the entire production chain, from development of a film to its distribution.

.FILM is a site for registering harmonized domain names, dedicated to film producers, organizations, service providers and promoters. It came on line last October. .FILM only deals with film professionals, in order to ward off domain name resellers.

Domenico La Porta (Credit: Cineuropa)

Lastly, NEXT was the springboard for launching the R/O Institute, an ambitious mentoring and coaching program for creators interested in “progressive narrative,” a trend that requires digital technology and an innovative way of handling intellectual property.

Initiated by François Pernot, president of Media Participation BE, sponsored by Wallimage and headed by Domenico La Porta, it consists of a three-month bootcamp followed by a six-month residence in Belgium focused on creating narrative worlds, designing audiences, Tech/Art crafts, multiplatform architecture, business plans and marketing. The first call for international projects is now underway, to conclude on August 31.

In the wake of the PXN group’s first public outing at Cannes last year, the unveiling of the R/O Institute’s mandate and ambitions on La Croisette confirm NEXT’s status as a strategic showcase for launches and announcements, at the intersection between the international festival schedule, technological conventions and key trade shows.

Charles Stéphane Roy
Charles Stéphane Roy is a multiplatform producer and innovation lead at La maison de prod since 2013. Before that, he was the editor-in-chief of the daily Qui fait Quoi. He also carried out research and strategic analysis mandates for the Observatoire du documentaire du Québec and and Evolumedia Group. His projects, which incorporate filmtech and innovative business models, were selected at Cannes NEXT and the Cross Video Days and by the Storytek accelerator, in addition to earning the POV Hackathon Award and the HackXplor Liège TV5 Monde Award.
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