Berlinale Talent Campus 2007

Presented by the European Film Academy in co-operation with Berlinale Short Film Competition and Berlinale Talent Campus, this session took a look at the short film genre, analysing themes and problems, looking at the conditions in production and distribution and watching the short films of the participating short filmmakers. The discussion then quickly focused on the possibilities and challenges of the internet:

ASTRID KÜHL: There are short films to be found on iTunes but at the moment in terms of distribution as far as I know it’s quite difficult to approach iTunes directly. There are a few distribution companies that are acquiring rights for iTunes. The problem with shorts is that you have to do contracts, it’s a lot of work, it takes a lot of time. But iTunes is definitely one of the interesting ways to distribute your short and to get some payback.

KEN WARDROP: It’s extremely interesting. I live in a shared house of three lads. And my mates come home and watch their computers, they’re all on laptops in the living-room. They’re not putting on the television anymore. It’s all become very individual viewing. It’s an interesting new audience - average people who aren’t going to film festivals, who aren’t going to iTunes specifically for films, are now discovering these stories on the web.

ASTRID: There are many very different internet sites where you can see short films. Like Atom Films for instance, they were already big in the first wave of the new market. Their business model is that you have to see a little 15 second advertisement in the beginning of the film and that’s how the filmmaker gets some revenue. Then you have where you watch the film and you have a little advertisement in the end. You have to click on it and after 30,000 people clicked on the ad, the rights holder gets some revenue. Those are only two examples for how it starts to get interesting, also in terms of the filmmaker getting some money back for what you did.

KEN: I have a film on Atom Films and obviously I got paid for that. But you can actually see the same film on YouTube, someone recorded it off the television (laughs). It doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, I presume I can say that’s illegal, get it off!

ASTRID: You can and there was a guy from Google at the short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand. He wasn’t there to acquire rights, just for information purposes, to inform rights holders what they can do when someone else uploads their film. It’s definitely illegal and you don’t have to accept it.

PHIL ILSON: I think the online explosion has been great for promotion and MySpace has been great for filmmakers to put their profiles up and to showcase their films. Most festivals have MySpace sites now as well so it’s a good way of linking with other people. But as a festival we believe in the whole idea of bringing people together to events like this for networking and actually meeting other people, for showing your film to an audience and getting that reaction from the audience. I think that’s most important for us.

DEEPAK NAYAR: I think YouTube has changed the entire face of entertainment as we see it. It has 750,000 hits a day, they download 2 billion videos a month, you’re talking about a lot of content being watched. It has definitely changed the way entertainment is going to be watched and perceived. It is a fantastic phenomenon because it is democratising the authorship of intellectual property. If you as an individual have a voice, you have access, you can say I’m here, I’m going to put my stuff up on YouTube, somebody might watch it, they will send it on to another person, and another person, and suddenly you find yourself in the limelight. And there’ve been examples of people getting deals.

QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE: Doesn’t the internet’s massive amount of content make it even harder for creative short filmmakers to find an audience?

KEN: I think it’s a really complicated story. It’s very depressing as a filmmaker, there is so much stuff out there and the things that my friends are watching are the silly clips.

DEEPAK: The problem is that there is a lot of unfocused content that is thrown up in the air hoping to be discovered. And that’s what prompts filmmakers like myself to actually go out and approach them. You have to take a medium for what it needs to be utilised for and not be depressed. Let’s face it - that’s the way the business and the entertainment is going.

RALITZA PETROVA: I don’t see the internet as something that scares me because it doesn’t look good yet - once it gets better, maybe we’ll be scared. But for the moment, if you’re good, you’re going to get exposure and interest. I mean, the YouTube people who go on shooting films with cats and stuff in their kitchen, fine - if it’s good, great. But it’s not going to really happen for them.

PHIL: I just don’t think that the amount of content on YouTube is a threat to filmmakers. I think at the end of the day it’s about coming together with the others and watching films in the cinema.