Filmgoers will no doubt be tossing back popcorn and Milk Duds throughout the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) this fall.
But Jacqueline Dupuis figures filmmakers will be tossing around a new buzzword throughout industry meetings hitting the annual festival September 29 to October 3.
VIFF’s executive director says “discoverability” is the latest term to capture the attention of filmmakers trying to make their projects commercially viable.
Digital equipment has made it cheaper to create digital content while online platforms like YouTube and Vimeo make it easier for those creations to be viewed.
“With so much content out there these days, how do you ensure that your content’s going to find an audience?” Dupuis said.
Organizers are tackling that challenge with the introduction of the VIFF Industry Exchange (VIE) during the festival’s industry conference.
Local producers behind film and web series meant for online consumption will be meeting with distributors to get their content out to the masses – or at least the right niche audiences.
Executives from YouTube, Yahoo (Nasdaq:YHOO), Vice Media and Vancouver’s BroadbandTV, among others, will be descending upon Vancity Theatre to meet with local producers trying sell their content.
“There’s a huge explosion of growth on platforms for online,” said Nancy Mott, the Vancouver Economic Commission’s digital entertainment and interactive manager.
“Vancouver’s always had content creators, and we’re on the leading edge of web episodes and creation, and we thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring our content creators and buyers together for online.”
Mott, who is facilitating the industry exchange September 30 to October 1, pointed to locally shot web series Sanctuary as one of the models for Vancouver’s success in this realm. After originally running as a web series, the science-fiction show was picked up for broadcast on the American Syfy channel.
But Mott said the goal is to expand VIE from an exchange between local content creators and big online distributors into an international marketplace that would draw global producers.
A June report from PwC estimates Canadian entertainment and media revenue will rise 5% from $47.9 billion in 2014 to $61.2 billion by 2019, just a point behind the global average of 5.1% growth.
“Overall, what’s emerging is an environment where consumers regard any distinction between ‘digital’ and ‘non-digital’ as irrelevant,” said PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook.
“Instead of favouring one or the other, they’ve taken on board the proliferation of content and access options enabled by digital and are exploiting it to seek more flexibility, freedom and choice in what, when and how they consume.”
But the report forecasts non-digital media – such as live concerts or trips to the cinema – will account for 88% of Canadian consumer entertainment revenue in 2019, notably higher than the 80% expected from global peers.
That puts a greater burden on Canadian filmmakers to get their projects distributed to and discovered by global audiences more friendly toward digital consumption if these homegrown projects are to be economically viable.
“The Internet now is the great equalizer,” Mott said. “You don’t have to be a big studio now to create really high-level content and get it out there.”
But if the Internet is the new Wild West, then discoverability is like drawing attention to a specific saloon on the frontier, according to VIE creative director Amy Davies.
“Change is afoot in the broadcast industry. There are a million more players coming to the forefront alongside some of the well-known players like the Netflixes,” she said. “That has opened opportunities for the production community to get their content funded, commissioned and developed not by just the traditional broadcast system.”
But Davies added that too few producers are developing a discoverability strategy early in production.
“You now have to think about who your audience is right from the onset, and if you can engage with that fan base up front, then of course you’re building advocates who are going to set you up for discoverability further down the line,” she said, adding that producers have to begin leveraging social media to get an early buzz going for projects.
“If you’re not on Twitter or Facebook or YouTube, of course, then you’re really missing [out].”