Markus Duffner • Head, Locarno Pro
“This year, we expect mass participation, even higher than pre-pandemic levels”
- Three weeks before the beginning of the event, the head of Locarno Pro told us about the new industry initiatives being planned by the prestigious Swiss festival this year
Three weeks before the start of the Locarno Film Festival (3-13 August), Cineuropa met with Markus Duffner, head of Locarno Pro, the industry section of the prestigious Swiss gathering. During our conversation, we talked about the various activities planned for young talent and industry professionals.
Cineuropa: How did you prepare for this edition of Locarno Pro? What will be the focus this year?
Markus Duffner: We had eight months to prepare last year's edition, amidst doubts and uncertainties. The 2021 edition was hybrid for the first time - ie, with an online component. This year we are approaching the event much more serene, having worked 12 months and without the threat of Covid being too present. We have been able to concentrate more calmly on our content. The festival is 75 years old and is a driving force for the industry. This year we expect mass participation, even higher than the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. With regard to the focuses of this edition, I can tell you that while last year we decided to take a step back from our usual focuses, in particular through the StepIn think tank, where international professionals meet and discuss behind closed doors, this year we are fully going back to discussing current issues in the film market.
This year, the topic of the social impact of the film industry will be limited to one table out of four. Then we will focus on more pressing issues, including the transformation of audiences, which, directly or indirectly, is transforming the entire industry. Players are structurally changing and marketers were already in the pre-pandemic period starting to offer themselves as co-producers and financiers, just think of MUBI's acquisition of The Match Factory... [...] We know that it is increasingly important to understand how exhibitors and distributors can change their model and dialogue, finding a direct line with this new, fragmented and diversified audience.
Of the four keynotes – in addition to the one on social impact and the one on industry transformation processes I just mentioned - one is by NEON, one of the most interesting players in the US, and yet another focuses on streaming.
In addition, through panels and roundtables, we will analyse various issues related to the sector, from the financing of films to their distribution in non-original language in cinemas. For Heritage Online, we will organise a panel on options for the distribution of classic films, talking to specialised operators. We will also analyse the sale of NFTs and how they can support the limited edition of a classic film. Finally, for the first time ever, we will propose our own restorations. In particular Our Private Lives by Denis Côté, presented at Cineasti del Presente fifteen years ago and restored by the Locarno Film Festival together with Cinegrell Post-Production [...] The other titles are O dia do desespero by Manoel de Oliveira [restored by Cinemateca Portuguesa], Das geschriebene Gesicht by Daniel Schmidt and Les derniers passementiers by Yves Yersin [both restored by Cinémathéque Suisse]. In addition to being screened in Locarno, they will then be available for professionals on Heritage Online. The idea is that there, they will be able to find other possible distributors, festivals or programmes where they can find a new commercial life.
What industry activities are planned for the development and discovery of new and young talent?
The activities for young people are diverse and growing. We obtained a record number of 32 producers from 12 countries with Match Me!, so it is a developing and expanding initiative. The areas in question are particularly interesting and diverse. The Industry Academy involves ten young people from different countries around the world with a maximum of two years of industry experience. Participants are shadowed for a week and will hear industry veterans speak on various topics such as distribution, international sales, programming, marketing, VOD and more. Similarly, 10 participants of the U30 initiative will take part in sessions with experts, organised in the form of think tanks where they can dialogue and exchange ideas.
What have you prepared for Open Doors and the Co-Production Hub?
It is a three-year plan on new markets and from this year and for three years we will focus on those territories in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, which are still not very visible internationally. Although these are small industries, they are interesting territories with talent of enormous potential, who will come to Locarno to get advice, show their work and find potential partners for their projects. Each year Open Doors will host around 40 producers and directors with films and projects at various stages of progress. Open Doors is therefore part of the development of talent, usually from territories where the film industry lacks support. Thus we give them the opportunity to start navigating the international industry and find partners they would otherwise find difficult to intercept.
(Translated from Italian)
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