Panel participants included Soon-Mi Peten, head of the Promotions Department, Continuous Education and Festivals in the Executive Agency for Education, Audiovisual Politics and Culture (EACEA), and low production capacity country representatives: Kamen Balkanski, head of MEDIA Desk Bulgaria and deputy director of the Bulgarian Film Centre, Arben Papadhopulli, head of MEDIA Office Albania, Una Domazetoski, Department for International Relations coordinator at Film Centre Serbia, and Jeanne Pierre Borg, Executive Director of the Malta Film Commission. The panel’s moderator was Martina Petrović, head of Creative Europe Desk – MEDIA Office in Croatia.
In her introduction, Petrović elaborated on the current position of countries with low production capacities in MEDIA Subprogramme. “Some countries are on the margins due to their geographical and language positions. In two application categories, the development of individual projects and festivals, where small countries are successful, may see a change in direction, that is, application conditions, and so we need to discuss this today. These categories are important to us because they allow for easier access and that is why current directions need to remain within the context of small countries. This is especially important because we can’t even register in some categories due to the infrastructure in our countries,” Petrović explained.
Soon-Mi Peten, after presenting a statistical analysis of fund distribution in the past, announced an increase the MEDIA Subprogramme budget because the European Parliament favorably views the increase in the number of applications over recent years. She also noted her personal delight with the growth of the MEDIA family, especially since she’s been a part of the programme from its beginnings.
“Small countries are unique, they have a lot of advantages. One of them is the beautiful and profound stories you can tell. A good project with a powerful story may be selected even if it doesn’t fulfill all the conditions for co-financing. Application preparation is very thorough, from seeking from the producer, for example, detailed distribution plans, but these also serve to learn lessons that can be later applied to all their films. Producers have learnt a lot participating in our application system because we demanded from them long-term and comprehensive plans,” said Soon-Mi Peten, noting that the conditions of each category help small countries, which is their aim.
Participants then commented on potential application scoring system reforms in the MEDIA Subprogramme, expressing a wish to retain existing regulations for countries with low production capacities, and asking that conditions in some categories be improved. Speaking of the challenges small countries face in the application process, head of MEDIA Office Albania, Arben Papadhopulli, emphasized that Albanian filmmakers still do not know how to prepare good-quality applications and are not familiar with the European film scene in the industrial sense.
Kamen Balkanski offered successful examples from Bulgaria and the positive impacts the MEDIA Subprogramme has had on the local audiovisual industry, which helped adapt the local legal framework to that of Europe, and that MEDIA Subprogramme greatly helps in securing funding for films. He explained that the challenges in Bulgaria are categories for which there are no applicants, for example, sales representatives, which are non-existent in Bulgaria, as is the case with videogame production companies.
“Categories relating to television screenings are also a challenge because the conditions require three partners from three countries, which is very difficult. From a practical viewpoint, some of the conditions are not available, though they technically may be,” he said.
Una Domazetoski noted a significant increase in the number of Serbian filmmakers and videogame producers who, in December, 2015, received support for five projects. “Currently, there is a lot of interest, but many of those expressing interest do not fulfill the requirements which state that within the next two years, their project must be distributed beyond their own country,” she explained.
Malta’s representative, Jeanne Pierre Borg, emphasized a series of facts which make it very difficult for Malta to fulfill the conditions. “Malta is so small. We only have six multiplex theatres and not one distributor, we’ve made three films in the last six years, 10 percent of the population viewed our best film, and we’ve only distributed one film internationally. We have a Film Commission which has a budget of 250,000 EUR per year, while private financing does not exist. We really want to tell our stories, but because of everything said, it is extremely difficult to receive MEDIA Subprogramme financing,” said Borg.
Closing the discussion, Soon-Mi Peten announced that changes will be made in the next European Union budget talks, and there will be an attempt to find balance between encouraging the principles of diversity and stimulating competitiveness.