As part of the first Rome Film Fest, a major forum took place, organized by the Media Consulting Group in partnership with Cinecittà Holding et le Festival de Rome. About 200 European professionals heard presentations by the five guest panels of international experts and discussed and shared their reflections and experiences. They looked at the unique situation of the European film industry, drawing attention to its rich heritage of cultural diversity on the one hand, and the wide-ranging financial and technological changes currently taking place on the other. Participants noted that the digital revolution is first and foremost changing consumer behavior, creating new niche markets that may offer more economically viable conditions for programs that had often struggled to survive in traditional markets.
Other panelists pointed out that although digital technologies add value to the commercial release of works of art, they do not create value. They argued that the film industry has not entered a “low production cost” spiral, and that the cost of making films destined for theatrical release will continue to grow, even without factoring in rising marketing and distribution costs. Production companies are now operating under a transitional model in which traditional sources of film financing (mainstream channels and distribution) are no longer sufficient to cover costs, while new media (VOD et DSL) have yet to take up the slack. These new business models are in the process of developing under the influence of consumer choices in a context where two complementary business models—television and new kinds of individual consumption—can coexist.
In considering solutions for the future of cinema, panelists suggested that the crisis affecting the traditional business model could be partly solved through investment funds and new categories of investors. Representatives from European funding agencies emphasized the dynamic role of public involvement: at the regional level, regional support is part of a broader general effort to support businesses and projects, while support on a national level has been of such importance that without it much of European cinema would simply not exist. The limitations and risks of heavy-handed government intervention were also discussed, as were the mechanisms of professional, cultural, and political synergies which form the basis for collective action as a complement the activity of member states.
In conclusion, panelists expressed considerable confidence in the future of film as specific expression of culture. Yet even if the film industry is not in crisis, the wholesale mutation of its mode of production demands close attention, not merely in the form of political or legislative measures, but in creative ways, if its future is to be secured.
This issue has also been a concern for other governments worldwide. On last November 20, Québec Minister of Culture and Communications Line Beauchamp, tasked an outside expert to draw up a new business model for the Quebec film industry, one that could offer greater financing capacity while ensuring stability and developmental potential. This expert is expected to report to the Minister by the first quarter of 2007 so that the new model can be put in place for the 2007–2008 fiscal year. For Ms. Beauchamp, “It is imperative that the Quebec government get to work immediately to address the challenges facing our film industry.” She is convinced that the expert in question “will bring forward fundamental and innovative proposals that will allow us to resolve the issue of financing for the Quebec film industry,” she added.