European Audiences: 2020 and beyond
by Birgit Heidsiek
Who is afraid of the audience? : the European Commisson dedicated a two-day conference to audience development
"Engaging the public with European culture is a paramount priority for the European Commission, and it is why we have decided to focus on audience development in the proposal for the Creative Europe Programme", emphasized Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, at the conference European Audiences: 2020 and beyond in Brussels. At this two-day event more than 800 participants got an inspiration about audience development strategies and techniques. European representatives from more than 20 cultural organizations of different sectors such as film, art, opera, theater or interactive technologies presented projects with diverse approaches to deepen the relationships with audiences.
"The digital revolution has opened up limitless possibilities for cultural operators – everything from museums exhibiting some of their treasures online, to webstreaming concerts and performances that bring a worldwide audience to events that would otherwise only be seen locally, as well as reaching audiences in places with limited cultural infrastructure", states Ann Branch, Head of Unit ‘Culture Programme and Actions’ at the European Commission. "Creative Europe has made a priority of audience development and its links to how people create, produce and distribute their work."
Among the selected conference speakers in Brussels was Savina Neirotti, Director of the TorinoFilmLab that supports filmmakers with Script & Pitch workshops. "Many films have a festival live but rarely circulate", underlines Neirotti. One of the key issues is that the filmmakers don‘t think about the audience before the film is made. For this reason the TorinoFilmLab has started an audience designer programme. Young people with a marketing or distribution background who are really engaged with social media, and have a passion for independent film, are brought in at the script development stage, so that they can get an early understanding of the project.
"The audience designers are working closely with the filmmakers on the Script & Pitch projects", explains Neirotti. "It is not about changing the content. We are creating a dialogue that is based on content. The filmmaker can accept that." But there is no one right way of identifying and attracting audiences. "We are exploring innovative ways of using the media – and particularly new media – to involve the public, to entice them into diving into the storyworld of a film in development."
There are also a lot of possibilities what cinemas and exhibitors can do to link what they are showing to the interests of the public. "Every screening should be a special screening", stresses Ian Christie, President of Europa Cinemas. "Many exhibitors using skype to bring the filmmakers in their cinema." New audiences and particularly young people can also be attracted by Upload cinema which allows people to bring their own content.
"We have an explosion of event cinema", comments Christie. In Great Britain the secret cinema concept is huge success and brings 30,000 people to a secret venue to see a surprise film.
"There is an audience out there that wants to engage with film." For this reason Popup Cinema becomes more and more popular. "People like to see a film in unfamiliar places", summarizes Christie. "The enemy of a film is routine."
The conference was rounded up with a detailed q + a session on Creative Europe. "Audience development is a term", concludes Branche, "that leaves room for the creatives and all kind of projects."