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One couldn’t imagine a deeper crisis for promotion of independent films: one that has erased the real world. The festivals being cancelled one after another, and the cinemas wide closed.

Towards the beginning of March everyone felt shacked and stunned. In a matter of a fortnight, the future was paused. How can we think forward? How can we plan the next 24 hours? The next month?

At The Film Agency, we had the chance to have scheduled in this apocalyptic March, a workshop for EFP European Film Promotion (team about digital planning in the future. The future? We were stuck. However we rapidly adapted the original idea of the contents to the current crisis, and decided to work together using design thinking tools to plan the next six difficult months.

We came up with an 8-points action plan allowing EFP to have a central role in this new era of film promotion. We dedicated 8 hours and we used five exercises we would like to share in case they are inspiring for you to do strategic planning in coronavirus times (or any unpredictable futures that may arise).

Exercise 1: ERAF SYSTEM

This exercise allows to draw the industry “solar system” and realize where is our company or institution and what are the existing connections between players. We draw green lines when the digital bridges were already created; and red lines where the connections were only happening in the real world. It showed that EFP has quite a few digital connections already and that those that happened already in the real world, were possible to transform. We had a system where everyone trusted each other already so we could use digital to build up. We could take all those connections as key opportunities.

Exercise 2: SCENARIO PLANNING

We often use this useful matrix when facing uncertainty (which we do very ofte). By identifying the two more important tensions in a specific stressed or jeopardized system, one can build 4 scenarios and imagine “a future”. In times of COVID-19 there are two main tensions affecting us: PANDEMIA VS SOCIAL ENTERTAINMENT. These were the four scenarios our world could face from now until September.

Description: We don’t know what the future will bring, but whatever it is. We will be prepared. It surely will be a mix of these four scenarios and it’s very likely will get through all these stages.

Exercise 3: THINKING SOLUTIONS

OK, almost none of them look easy, and yet they are all possible. This scenario planning theory suggests that the future will look a lot like the four of them at the same time, at different moments and places. Can we plan a strategy that is compatible with all of this so we can start now before waiting for certainty to be back? We thought ideas and solutions in groups and gathered about 25 ideas in the first batch.

Exercise 4: THE HATS

Are the 25 ideas relevant enough for the industry system? Are some of them more important than others? We tested the ideas from 6 different perspectives asking each participant of the workshop of EFP to wear the hat of a different player: sales agents, members, distributors, exhibitors and VOD platforms.

Exercise 5: THE ACTION PLAN

According to the votes of the different “hats”, we ranked the ideas and just kept those with more than 3 thumbs-up from the various industry’s “representatives”. We also discussed and enquired those players that were reticent. Where is the fear to change? You are anyhow out of your comfort zone, if that concept ever existed in this industry…

The final action plan is published by Variety and Screen and now being carried out by EFP accompanying loads of other players in their fields:

Regarding EFP’s role as central European networking organisation

  • EFP planes to organise a “crisis committee”, getting together every week at a given time involving promotion bodies, sales agents, probably festivals and other relevant industry partners and associations, in order to generate quick and real time best-practices exchanges.
  • EFP can become a central contact to palliate this crisis – in order to accelerate communication and transparency.
    Decisions have to be made extremely fast in this extremely difficult situation. Promotion bodies and sales agents are dependent on decisions of the festivals, and festivals are partly dependent on the support of the promotion bodies and sales agents. An exchange between all players would be necessary and useful, but can’t always be guaranteed because there are too many parties involved to help with fast decisions. Some members have their own contacts with the festivals, but in addition/for everyone else, EFP can offer to become a central contact, a kind of ‘barometer’ and ‘collector of different views/opinions’ for the relevant festivals on behalf of its member organisations, and maybe (together with Europa International) for the European sales companies.
  • EFP will offer its member organisations and other relevant partners to organise immediate online training to embrace the digital shift in all promotion areas as quickly as possible. Subjects like social media, digital advertising, traffic, b2b digital tools, awareness and VOD will be the center of our challenges and we need more skills.

Regarding EFP’s programmes

  • EFP can  organise PRODUCERS ON THE MOVE digitally, and plans  to do that in May regardless of the Festival de Cannes taking place in June/July or not. It will not only be a “normal” digital gathering, but EFP will boost POM’s  potential by offering  a variety of digital tools for meetings, match-making, best practice-exchange, scouting and generate digital social gatherings for participants. Plus of course a dedicated digital international promotion campaign.
  • In order to keep the visibility for EUROPE! Films. Talent. Spirit. (at least by digital means), EFP plans to pro-actively backup, participate in, boost, collaborate with all partner festivals/markets which become virtual markets due to the pandemia by creating relevant digital tools such as chat rooms, zoom meetings, corners, chatbots, whatsapp plug-ins, match-making and waiting rooms with line-ups and trailers.
  • EFP will still keep on boosting PR and social media strategies. The goals and briefings will shift to digital.
    The plan is to reallocate the budget lines for social gatherings, networking cocktails and physical market presence that are cancelled or about to be cancelled to digital promotion to generate a similar effect for the European films promoted.
  • EFP will try – in accordance to the MEDIA guidelines – to make Film Sales Support more flexible so that it can be specifically useful to sales agents for digital promotion/pitches in the current situation and is not necessarily linked to the sales agents presence at a festival or market.
  • EFP plans to set its EUROPE! Umbrellas at festivals outside of Europe digitally, with pitchings, presentations and maybe screenings (also to introduce works-in-progress) within the potential virtual markets or digital festival facilities that are held.

Follow EFP on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to continue checking updates and results for this action plan.

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