European Genre Forum Touts Tech as the Future of Film

The Invitation Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Fantasic Fest

Initiatives like the R/O Institute, which announced Guillermo del Toro as an instructor, will teach filmmakers to develop properties across multiplatforms.

The Fantastic Zagreb Film Festival may hold screenings in a 13th century castle, but it is clearly looking toward the future.

During the second European Genre Forum, two days of discussion nestled during the 10-day film fest that brings producers, directors, sales agents and film fund executives together, key panels addressed the future of the industry as business models for independent and genre films drastically change.

“Platforms, they keep coming and coming and coming, and for the first time in history the tech is more advanced than the content,” said Domenico la Porta of Belgium’s soon-to-be-launched R/O Institute. “The tech is good, but the language of storytellers, they haven’t mastered it yet,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

The R/O Institute aims to instruct storytellers on the convergence of multiple platforms in a six-month residency training program. La Porta announced that Joss Whedon, Robert Kirkman and Guillermo del Toro will all take part in the program, with del Toro bringing a team to Belgium for the duration to develop his own IP through the institute. That deal was closed in Annecy, he said.

La Porta compared the future of video games and other media to the current migration of actors and directors to television: “Why? Because there is room for the story to be expanded and you’re not limited to two hours.”

As mid-budget indies slowly die, it opens up an important new revenue stream. He pointed to Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, which was released the same weekend as Jurassic World. The video game made $550 million worldwide on its opening weekend, topping Jurassic’s $525 million global debut.

“The video game model mixed with the film model is the next generation of storytellers — how the story will be told and how it will be consumed,” said La Porta.

It’s these same digital natives which are harming indie filmmakers, according to writer-director Milan Todorovic, whose The Rift screened during the festival. “They don’t even know it’s stealing because they are so used to being able to download whatever they want,” he noted. “I get emails all the time asking if I can ‘send over’ the film. I send them the Amazon link and they’re surprised.”

Netflix, which launched in January in the region, does not have good market penetration and is not yet widely used, Todorovic added.

His first film, 2009’s Zone of the Dead, was distributed on DVD in Wal-Mart in the U.S. Now that the DVD market has dried up, budgets are half of what they were, he said, and panelists agreed that filmmakers will need to look to video games and other media for additional revenue streams.

A panel titled "Gaming of Thrones" — a clever nod to the hit HBO show that shoots in nearby Dubrovnik — discussed the growing integration of the film and video game industries as a new revenue stream as well as an artistic outlet.

“Media’s changing because right now, if you are doing marketing for any movie, you have to be on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter," said Helen Lohmus, producer of the Tallinn Black Nights Festival. "People have done comic books, board games and books — video games are the next logical step.”

She said filmmakers will have to come to see it as part of the creation process: “It’s not just a marketing tool because there are totally different people who are into games, and you are just broadening your idea and appealing to a wider audience.”

New types of trans-media producers will emerge, Lohmus predicted, that can oversee an IP and envision multiple story streams.

“It’s a normal step, because movies are short and develop a story over time,” said Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrator and Gulliver director Zdenko Basic. “The major problem is that there are film festivals and there are video game conventions and the two are separated.”

Black Nights also is launching an accelerator program this year to link together filmmakers and tech developers to create and discuss how to monetize IP across platforms to bring the industries closer together.