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Interview on The Spiral for Flanders Image Magazine

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Miss Homeless: cold vrs warm start

Miss Homeless premiered in 53 premieres in 13 countries on October 17th, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Through our website www.misshomeless.eu we turned the premiere of the film into an international event of solidarity. In this article, I give some background on the project and some thoughts on the do’s and don’ts. We consider our project a nice success but I’m convinced it had more potential if we took a ‘warm start’ in stead of a ‘cold start’…. Hopefully your project will benefit from our lessons learned.

SEE MISS HOMELESS

Miss Homeless is a docu-fiction feature film directed by Daniel Lambo and was shot without a budget. Most of the actors are homeless who improvised scenes taken from their real life. The film portrays women struggling in the margin of society and their fight to be heard in a world that doesn’t seem to care.

Daniel started shooting the film with actress Tracee Westmoreland (Nicole) without a script but a simple concept: Nicole, an American actress, decides to live amongst the homeless of Brussels in order to get the lead in the movie of her husband.

When mingling with the homeless people in our neighbourhood in the centre of Brussels, they told her about the Miss Homeless pageant competition. This was an innitiative by a small organization (Chez Nous) to bring attention to homelessness and the weak position of women in particular.

So Tracee ended up helping to organize the event (in reality) and Miss Homeless became a major storyline in the film. It even became the title of the film! A beautiful example of how fiction and reality blend.

An alternative distribution

When a first cut of the film was screened last April, the feedback was simply great. Not only where the homeless who participated in the project very proud, the various filmmakers who attending the screening were also enthusiast. We understood this project had some potential.

We asked for support to enable us to post produce the film a professional way and we started thinking about a unique way to launch the film. You simply know that this little film, this labour of love, wouldn’t survive in the traditional distribution model. Even with a theatrical release, we would hardly reach a couple of hundred people. A couple of thousand at best. Internationally probably the festivals and then what? With Small Gods, the first Potemkino feature film, we followed this traditional path which is very nice indeed, but you’re just one of those many small, but great films. How to stand out? How to find our audience? But mostly, how use this film in a context of solidarity and help to bring this issue to the attention of a broader audience? We didn’t want to preach to our own choir.

Also, as a producer, my focus has been shifting toward the potential of internet and the innovative ways of storytelling and distribution it offers. For more on this background, see Where is Gary? and The Content Circle.

Call to action

The first idea was to launch a European competition for street musicians. The winner would deliver the soundtrack of the film and win the ‘Miss Homeless Soundtrack Award’. It  would be awarded on October 17th, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty at the Ghent Film Festival. It was a perfect match because the festival has an international reputation for it’s focus on soundtracks. It seemed like a solid plan but then came the reality check.

In practice the whole concept was quite complex. It needed a lot of explaining and organisation. The idea was to activate organizations who work with homeless people but the call to action was simply to complicated. It wasn’t ‘sticky’. Also, it would require too much effort from our side and we simply didn’t have the time or the means to do so. So this plan was a no go… .

Still, October 17th seemed like the ideal date to have the premiere. So, why not simply invite anyone to organize their own première that day as an act of solidarity? ‘Organize your own premiere’ is a simple call to action and with a title like ‘Miss Homeless’ the context of solidarity and subject are obvious. Both the call to action and the title has a strong ‘stickiness’ and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty offered the ideal context.

Controversy

Here we need to note that both the pageant competition and our film got a lot of opposition from organization who though Miss Homeless is exploitative. Of course I respect their opinion and understand the sensitivity. Personally, I agree the film could have gone much further content wise. On the other hand, because a heavy subject is treaded ‘lightly’ and with humour, the film open to a broader audience. Our plan was to offer a tool for organizations to discuss the issue, to bring it to the attention of the audience and press. We wanted to ‘empower the communities’ to set up events around the film.

Whatever our good intentions were, as a result of this sensitivity our film was not supported by the international network of organizations on poverty. Nevertheless, we also had received very positive feedback, so we were confident to continue. But it was all grassroot from here on. The website was launched on August 20th, 8 weeks before the premiere.

It was a simple website with the trailer and a intro-film showing Daniel who explained the call to action. We also added a map showing the confirmed premieres. Three was an application form for people who wanted to see the film. We would send them a link and password so they could see the film on Vimeo. This way they could choose to premiere the film or not. The Miss Homeless Facebookgroup was linked to the site and of we went.

Growth

The growth was slow but steady. We quickly had about 150 friends in our group, but these were mostly people in our own network. To make the news about our project travel, we needed at least 150 friends more. Only this way we could connect to the network of social and socio-cultural organizations. So we went email harvesting on website  about homelessness and poverty. This was time consuming but efficient. We reached 300 friends in 2 weeks but more important: 1500 trailer views, 87 application to see the film and 15 confirmed premieres.

At that moment we started to inform the press through the press agent we always work with (and who did it for free). The press wasn’t interested at all. Nothing! Homelessness is not a relevant subject when it is still warm outside.

But we continued. One month after the launch of the Facebookpage, we had 366 friends. Apparently good friends because we also had over 2000 trailer, 229 film requests and 39 premieres. Most of them were in Belgium and the Netherlands because that’s where we aimed our mailings at. But the news started to travel and it went faster.

The premiere

By October 17th we had 500 friends, 3000 trailer views and 53 premieres. Finally we also got the attention of the press. In the week running up to the premiere, Daniel and Tracee where invited to the most popular talkshow in Belgium and had interviews in two major newspapers. On the day of the premiere there was also a lot of press coverage from the local press, not only at our main premiere in Ghent, but also many of the 52 other premieres got good press.

In total about 3.000 people attended the premieres. The film had also been subtitled in 7 languages through our site. On the Facebookpage many pictures and even video’s of the local events were posted. We were all very proud of what we achieved but still, we could have easily doubled these numbers.

Cold start vrs warm start

The biggest problem was the lack of ‘hubs’. Together with ‘stickiness’ and ‘context’, these are the three main building blocks to reach the tipping point as described in the book by Malcolm Gladwell. I think this model applies really well on viral marketing and communication. He defines hubs as people that are well connected and/or who’s opinion is respected in a community. We definely found many of them because that’s how it was possible to have so many request to see the film and so many confirmations of premieres. But connecting people takes time and we had a ‘cold start’.

A‘cold start’ is launching your call to action without any community yet (mostly Facebook friends). Your first Facebookpage is the call to action and this is simply not very efficient. You can not solve this by starting much earlier, because then you miss momentum. You need a ‘warm start’ by building a community around the subject that your call to action will be about. Definitely when it’s hard core grassroot and you hardly have press or large existing networks backing you, a warm start is essential.

During the production of the film, the director should have started a Facebookpage. The news of the progress of the film would have been the heartbeat of the page, slowly bringing a community to life. This community could then have been activated when the call to action was launched. Hence, a warm start instead of a cold start. This is the essential lesson we learned.

In the next article I will write about a new project Jean-Baptiste Dumont and I are launching in a couple of weeks. The hub will be the small but cool TV channel ‘8’. The stickiness will be the interactive search for the Flemish identity by a Walloon and the context is the fundamental political crisis in which Belgium finds itself today.

For the non-Belgians, this might all sound a bit bizar, but sorry, you’re not the target audience. But no worries, we have other stuff in the Potemkino-pipeline…. .

The Content Cirle, an introduction

Over the last year, I’ve been working on three projects that have fundamentally changed my approach on production and development of stories. You could say Where is Gary?, Miss Homeless and The Artists have transformed me into the now official category “transmedia producer.”

But what is it that I’m doing different then before? When talking about and pitching those three projects, I asked myself if what sets them apart from my previous work and what do they have in common?

Over the last few months, I did a couple of case studies on these projects. I needed to answer the questions I asked myself, in needed to come to some sort of a conclusion. The model of the Content Circle grew out of this search.

The model turned out to be a useful way to communicate what I’m doing different then before, to explain what I can offer as a service to traditional producers and distributors. How old and new can be combined. The Content Cirle is a tool to communicate what transmedia producers sell and is maybe useful for the creative process of story architects.

3 times audience involvement

Where is Gary? started in December 2009 as an interactive search for the con artists Gary. This 10-week online experiment was an intense and eye-opening experience which we recently edited into a 52 minute documentary. The most surprising thing about this project were the accusations that it was all fake, that Gary wasn’t real. Even when showing the documentary, still some people doubt the veracity. My response is they simple overestimate me as a producer to build such an illusion with a tiny budget and underestimate the potential of the internet.

Miss Homeless is our new project that taps into this potential. We just launched the website www.misshomeless.eu through which we invite all organization to set up a premiere of the feature film Miss Homeless on October 17th, the  International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. When I write this, 15 premieres in 7 countries have been confirmed and it feels like this is just the start… .

But our most ambitious project is The Artists, a 5-part participative TV drama series. It’s halfway its financing. On the same day, in 5 major European cities, 5 major artworks disappear from 5 major museums. This kick of our story, both on TV and online with the audience searching for the painting.

These are 3 very different projects. A documentary on con artists, a film with homeless people and a TV series about stolen art. But they have a fundamental feature in common that sets them apart from all previous project I was involved in. These stories allow audience involvement.

The Content Circle

In this article I would like to present a model which helps to analyse the characteristics of these projects and any project, interactive, multi platform or not.

The first step is to look at the content of your project as a set of all the content which is created as part of your story. The format of your content and the platforms where it is ‘consumed’ is not relevant at this stage. This helps to avoid thinking in buzzwords like transmedia, crossmedia, multiplatform and so on, because this ‘terminology used by advocates and opponents can sometimes serve to divide and confuse, rather than clarify’.[1]

So we simply start with a circle which represents the set of all your content. This is your content circle.

This content circle has three subsets.

At the core we have the cash content. This is the content producers and financers are most interested in. That’s where the return of investment can be found. Therefore, the subset of cash content is defined as: all content and line extensions that generate cash revenue.

People open their wallets for this cash content when they pay for cinema tickets, games, subscription fees, soundtracks, T-shirts, etc… but also producers credits like we sold with Where is Gary?. The cash content can take the form of any material or digital products as long as it has a value because it delivers an emotion to the buyer. In short, the value lies in the emotions.

The second subset is inform content. To attract buyers to your cash content, you need to inform the audience by offering free content in an enticing way. Therefore the subset of inform content is defined as: all content that travels freely to inform and attract the audience.

In fact, this content is all the direct and indirect marketing to sell your product, your cash content. It’s the trailers, stills and posters of your films, but also for example the interviews with the director and cast. It’s all part of the information (promo) you strategically spread in all media, including the internet.

The third subset that completes our content circle is the involve content. This is the content especially designed to tap into the potential of the internet. It is fundamentally different from the previous subsets because it allows a two-way interaction with and within the audience. This content invites the audience to share and create. Therefore the subset of inform content is defined as: all content to generate audience involvement through sharing & creating.

This is the most innovative subset. Audience involvement has always existed in simple forms like premiers or concerts (events) and competitions (games). It has proven to be a marketing tool. But today’s media allow to involve and connect with anyone anywhere and create a community.

The involvement of a community increases the emotional involvement, thus the value of the (cash) content. The return of investment is twofold: by sharing, your free content builds a viral marketing effect and by co-creation, your content grows for free.

These sets are not strictly split. Some content can be in more then one subset at the same time.

The content circle doesn’t float somewhere in an abstract emptiness. No, it is embedded in the context of media and reality. The context is the background of your content. Successful content always has a strong connection with its context.

Today we can imply all media to build this connect. Because “what’s so powerful about transmedia implementation is that it maximizes the potential of your story or message, while both building intense brand loyalty and opening up multiple revenue streams.”[2]

From product to process

The traditional media have perfected the relation between cash content and inform content because at that level it is a push model. Now and then they spiced it up with some involvement. The content is delivered for free to inform you, and you’ll probably want more so you need to pay. The exchange with the audience is a cash exchange, making them passive consumers. This is not a problem at all of course, most audiences, including me, just like to consume content. Something with a beginning, a middle and an end: a finished product.

Digital technologies have fundamentally changes this old model so much cherished by the traditional media. In their view, web 2.0 and ‘user generated media are destroying our economy, our culture and our values’[3]. They are correct about the first part, the old economic model is crumbling, but culture is thriving which is a good thing. We can talk about values in an other article…

Defining the ‘cult of the amateur’ as a threat shows a lack of vision and a lack of respect for your audience. We need to embrace the audience that generates content and shares information. We should invite them to join our story, to get involved[4]. This is what the involved content is designed for. We don’t just push content, we also pull it in. We exchange more then money. This involvement transforms our content from a finished product to a process. Its even a good remedy against piracy.

Looking at our content as a process in stead of a product also helps to see our audience in an other way. We don’t see the audience as those who have consumed our content and those who didn’t.

A process allows various levels of involvement. Form passive consumer to active co-creator (‘prosumer’), any member of the audience can choose it’s own level of involvement. As the 1-9-90 rule says: the higher the involvement, the lower the amount of people involved. This results in the so called ‘participation pyramid’. That’s good news because this keeps audience involvement manageable.

The shift from a product to a process requires a new creative function. Someone who knows which content should be placed where to obtain a certain effect. This is similar to a film editor who creates a story by putting together shots, snippets of content. In the converging media, the relationship between the producer and the distributor becomes like the relationship between the director and the editor: which (snippet of) content comes where on the timeline (and platform). This is where the story architect comes in.

The language of the story architecture

I love the concept of ‘story architecture’ for two reasons. Personally because I was in architecture before rolling into film. But it also grasps the idea of ‘building’ a story over various platforms. Creating a structure through which the audience can move freely, discover new areas and cross paths with other people. Story architects even invite the audience to help build, rearrange and extend the world he/she has created. In short, architecture is a cool metaphor.

The story architects creatively organises the content inside the content circle. Just like a film director organises images into a film or a composer organising sounds into music, the story architect builds an experience.

A film, a music composition and a game can be part of this experience (and are probably part of the cash content) but they are building blocks. Why not pull in elements from the context around your content circle? This enhances the connection between content and context, increasing the experience. Everything can serve as a building block. It can take any form: material, immaterial, in the media and/or in reality. The media becomes one big playing ground open to anyone to live their own story.

This ‘own story’ is no longer simply projected on a screen. Your ‘own story’ is constructed out of many stories you have seen, heard, played, read through various media or imagined/remixed/created yourself. It doesn’t even matter where you have seen it because all building blocks merge into one story. The story is communicated through numerous media and converges into ‘your story’ on your mental screen, only for your mind’s eye to see.

This ‘mental screen’ is as new as the silver screen over a century ago. Just like the pioneers back then, we need to experiment and learn how we can use the characteristics of this new medium to communicate a story, an emotion, in the most powerful way.

This is not an abstract fantasy or idealism. The development of a new language for the converging is simply matter of time. Kids are already using it unconsciously.

Conclusion

The model of the content circle was developed so I could communicated in a simple way what it is I’m trying to do. I’m trying to add a level of involvement to the traditional way of story telling.

In Where is Gary? you could get involved in the search for Gary or share the websites; for Miss Homeless we invite you to organise a premiere and show your solidarity; with The Artists we challenge you to find the paintings and become part of the story.

Invite the audience into your story, because they want in. And they’ll get in, with or without your permission.

This article is my first modest step to join the vivid and vibrant debate. I simply hope to learn from it so I’m looking forward to your feedback.

Peter De Maegd

[1] Power to the Pixel Think Tank report  2009. To my opinion, the best definition of these words is given by Michel Reilhac in his Into The Future speech.

[2] Lance Weiler explains why filmmakers should expand their films into a “storyworld.”

[3] The Cult of the amateur, Andrew Keen

[4] a must reed on this subject is Remix by Lawrence Lessig

Comment on EU Green Paper on cultural and creative industries

As an independent film producer who is turning his focus on the new opportunities of the converging media, I applaud the Green Paper: Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries.
The text shows a fundamental understanding of the challenges CCI’s are facing and I much appreciate the opportunity given to all parties to answer and comment on the many issues raised in the Green Paper.

I have been in touch with our local film fund, the VAF (Flemish Audiovisual Fund) concerning this Paper. Together with the Creative Industry Platform of Flanders, they formulated the text Green Paper CCI’s: input from Flanders.
The text I hereby send you, was first written as feedback on their text. This is why my text is written from a Flemish angle. As the situation in many other regions is similar to ours, I believe this text might still be relevant outside of Flanders.

The Creative Industry Platform has received my comments on their text. They welcome it but because of the short deadline and the holidays, the timing did not allow to amend it to their own text. We will continue our constructive dialogue in the months to come.
Since all parties are allowed to give their comments on the Green Paper, I though I might use the text I wrote for the Creative Industry Platform as a basis for the letter to the European Commission.

The comments and propositions in this letter is my personal point of view. They result from my research of the converging media and my experience in developing and producing innovative content. The interactive documentary Where is Gary? was a successful experiment. I have been invited to give case studies on this project for EAVE, the Erich Pommer Institut, the Multi Platform Business School and various universities. The participative TV drama series The Artists is now halfway its financing and has received support from Media Interactive Works.

This letter has three main subjects.
The first chapter sketches the context of Flanders and comments the short term vision of the text from the Creative Industry Platform.
The second chapter describes the characteristics of the converging media and what opportunities e-culture offers for the CCI’s.
The third part formulates three main drivers for the innovation. This part of the text is mostly written as a direct answer to the Green Paper itself.

1. The innovation train

When it come to the creative and cultural industries, Flanders has and had very much to offer in cinema, music, art, architecture, design, fashion, etc… . As the Green Paper mentions “Europe’s long tradition and vast assets (…) clearly have a positive contribution to make to the EU’s relations with the rest of the world.” The same goes for Flanders.
Moreover, the media landscape in Flanders is quite unique because of its concentration of press groups, telecom operators and cinema’s that are locally owned and operated. This offers great opportunities for efficient networking, to create synergies, partnerships with educations, … in other words the ideal conditions to ignite innovation.

The economical crisis and the fundamental change in media-consumption should be seen as opportunities, not threats. These opportunities should be met by fundamental innovations.
“If Europe wants to remain competitive in this changing global environment, it needs to put in place the right conditions for creativity and innovation to flourish in a new entrepreneurial culture. ”
These conditions can be created by cultural labs, multidisciplinary project and new experimental funds but this is not innovation. These conditions should already be in place in Flanders if we simply want to keep up with our neighbouring countries.
In the Netherlands, the Mediafonds supports both development and production of e-culture. In France, Imaginove is actively supporting multidisciplinary education and building synergies in the Lyon-region. London has the conference Power To The Pixel and Durtmund the E-culture Fair . And the European Media programme grants development support for interactive works linked to film, documentaries and TV drama.
In Flanders we don’t have any of these programs or events. As mentioned, our region has a strong potential but we need to jump on the innovation train because it is leaving the station. Those who are ‘impatiently waiting for concrete actions and measures’ will be left behind.

This ambitious Green Paper needs to be understood in paper results from the goals set by “Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, a text by the European Commission. The text written by the Creative Industry Platform does not grasp the spirit of the Green Paper because is written solely from today’s CCI’s concerns.
I also share its general concerns about copyright infringement and the role of telecom operators. Of course I also applaud the will to exchange knowledge and to sensitize the society about illegal downloading. These issues are indeed fundamental and pertinent for all players in the CCI’s.
But these concerns only looks at our current challenges. The text fails to look into the future and ask what challenges and opportunities lay ahead.

2. Converging media

In 2020 today’s teenagers will enter the professional market, also in the CCI’S. What will be produced in ten years time? How will our projects be financing and how will they be consumed? We can’t answer these questions today but they offer a frame of mind for the issues raised in the Green Paper.

The concept of media convergence offers the best technological and cultural context to look for answers. In Henry Jenkins’ words: “media convergence, can be used to describe the kinds of technological and economic changes which are fostered the flow of media content across multiple delivery technologies, cultural convergence describes the new ways that media audiences are engaging with and making sense of these new forms of media content.”

For today’s teenagers this convergence is already common practice. Their way of media consumption is where old and new media collide. Three characteristics from new media are at the core of this conflict. Digital content can travel from on platform to another, it can be copied and distributed at a near-to-zero cost and it allows participation.

Free to share
In the introduction to his book Free, Chris Anderson writes “This is the Google Generation, and they’ve grown up online simply assuming that everything digital is free.” Because digital content can travel so freely and is copied at no cost, it feeds the assumption that content is free. You can share it for free.
Internet piracy has become such a big threat to the old model because of the first two characteristics of the new media. Piracy is a threat, but the technical opportunities of near-to-zero and cross-media distribution are not. So how monetize on this? Where are the revenues when we make content travel freely?

Participation
“Sharing is the nature of creation” . These words from musician and former Brazilian Minster of Culture Gilberto Gil link the two first characteristics to the last: participation. The new audience interacts with content in numerous ways. From simple comments to remixes and parodies, people take copyright protected content and unleash their own creativity on it.
Strictly speaking this user generated content is a copyright infringement but do we need to resist it? As long as it is not used in a commercial context, we should stimulate our audience to share and create. Copyright protected content therefore needs to be mixed with ‘copyleft’ content. But what is the return of investment?

Content for the converging media needs to be (partially) free, shared and allow participation. We need to develop and produce content for consumers who are looking for new and enriching “experiences”.
As a result, Jenkins concludes “Convergence requires media companies to rethink old assumptions about what it means to consume media, assumptions that shape both programming and marketing decisions. If old consumers were assumed to be passive, the new consumer is active.”

3. Propositions

A new way of consumption goes hand in hand with a new business model. The old model is getting under increasing pressure but the new model hasn’t been established yet. Innovation is essential to make the transitions from the old to the to-be-defined new model. And it will inevitably come but who will take the lead?
This brings us back to the questions of the Green Paper and the particular opportunities for our region. How to create the right conditions for creativity and innovation?
In my suggestions I refer to the current situation in Flanders, but the general idea can probably be applied in other regions as well. I see three main drivers for the innovation:

1. Networking and training to bring together a new mix of skills and create partnerships
2. Innovate existing funds and create new streams of revenue
3. Tax shelter to support the spill-over effect

3.1. Networking and training to bring together a new mix of skills and create partnerships

What set of skills are needed to develop and produce content for the converging media? Storytelling is as old as language itself and will always be at the core of any content. What changes are the tools used for communicating stories. Oral, print, music, opera, radio, film, television, internet,… each tells stories using their own conventions, their own language.
As discussed before, the old media is confronted with an audience that wants to share and interact with their content. They want to get involved. This creates a new opportunity for storytellers.
Because the audience shares, the content/story starts to travel, building a viral effect. Because the audience produces, the content/story grows and feeds the viral effect. Communities are the engine of this mechanism.

Therefore, we need to bring storytellers together with the creative talent that works with communities (social media), viral (marketing) effect and interaction. This talent can be found in advertising, gaming and internet companies.
But they can also be found in schools and universities because the Google Generation is often more skilled in social media than media-professionals. This also brings us to the subject of training offered by university and schools. But I won’t go into this matter at this time and focus on how to bring together the above mentioned people.

MediaNet Vlaanderen is probably the most relevant network because of their broad scope of members. Other existing (eg. Mediarte) and new networks like the Creative Industry Platform can definitely also play a key role.
These networks should shift up a gear and receive the means to do so. The network of MediaNet Vlaanderen brings together the people from the business side of the media companies. Apart from some (recent) initiatives, there are no networking events specifically aimed at the creative talent inside these media companies.
As both networking and training is time consuming and only results in the long run, the necessary stimuli should be offered to attract a broad range of creative talent.

In short, the existing networking and training programs should involve and attract creative talent from various backgrounds.
In concrete, a yearly conference on the converging media should be set up bringing the international pioneers and experts to Flanders. Can this be linked to an existing event or festival?

3.2. Innovate existing funds and creating new streams of revenue

In Flanders three funds could play a key role in the innovation of the CCI’s: IWT, IBBT and VAF.

IWT (agentschap voor Innovatie door Wetenschap en Technologie) offers support for technological and scientific innovation in the broad sense of the word. For example, they are one of the financers of MediaNet Vlaanderen.
IBBT (Interdisciplinair Instituut voor Breed Band Technologie) focuses on ICT innovation. Various culture project in which ICT played an important role have been granted support (theatres, libraries, …).
But the structure of these innovative funds and their applications are clearly tailored for technological companies and hard to access for content producers. Moreover, companies based in Brussels are not eligible for IWT. This is a problem since most content producers are based in Brussels.

VAF (Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds) is aimed at audio-visual storytelling. Though its FilmLab it offers a modest budget to project that experiment with storytelling. These experiments are mostly artistic, only a few are innovative in the cross-media sense. This fund lacks the means but not the will to invest in innovation in the media. Because of their good relationship with content producers and other funds in Europe, they have the potential to create the necessary conditions for innovation.
The creation of the VAF and its very positive effect on the Flemish film industry also demonstrates the role a fund can play for emerging industries. Not only is it a source of financing, it’s a policy maker, build networks, exchanges knowledge and builds brands (Flanders Images).

Extra budget need to be made available for innovation immediately. The EU set the ‘Barcelona target’ of increasing the investments in research and development (R&D) to 3% of GDP by 2010. In Flanders we hardly reach 1.5%. With extra budgets, these three funds can be motivated to team up and maybe set up a shared program.
Content innovates together with the technology that distributes it. The demand for new distribution technologies grows because of the content that feeds it. Therefore a closer relationship between a content-funds and two technology-funds seems a natural thing to do.

The same goes for telecom operators. 75% of all their revenues come from products that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Many of these new products are distribution platforms that need content to feed them. Like suggested in the CIP-text, telecom operators should do a contribution to the creators delivering content.
The motivation should not be negative (to compensate for the lost income) but positive. Interaction and sharing content generates more traffic. So the operators benefit more from content designed for the converging media. Their contribution should be invested in the innovation of content so it offers them a return of investment. Could this be a way to finance a VAF-innovation fund ? This fund could be similar to Media Interactive Works or E-culture of the Dutch Mediafonds.

Advertising agencies can also benefit from innovation in other ways than exchange of knowhow as mentioned above. As part of the content in the converging media needs to travel for free, it is ideal to be packaged with brands. In this concept of branded content, it is the advertising that pays for the free content just as adds pay for free services on for example Google. To make this work efficiently, brands, advertisers and producers need to team op already in the development phase.

To conclude on this subject one last remark: as the media is becoming more fragmented, sources of financing (and revenues) are becoming increasingly fragmented as well. As a result, the business model is shifting from few sources with large income to many sources with little income. The business model of crowd financing applies this to the extreme.

3.3. Tax shelter to create a spill-over effect

Similar to the arrival of the VAF, the Tax Shetler was a major step forward for the Belgian film and television industry. The effect was also double. Of course it created new financing opportunities, but it also brought the captains of the film industry in touch with captains of many other industries.
By extending the tax shelter to investments in innovating project, an extra source of financing is combined with networking with other branches of industry thus stimulating a spill-over effect.

Other fiscal levers of warranty claims as suggested in the CIP-text can also encourage investors and bank institutions to invest in creative enterprises.

The 3 suggestions bring together various partners with different backgrounds. Education, government, companies, creative talent,… they form the cluster around the ICC’s. Further research and planning should allow to develop a strategy to strengthen this cluster and to launch various incentives for innovation.

4. Conclusion

In Googled, Ken Auletta comments “Most old media companies were inexcusably slow to wake to the digital disruption.” Google took almost 4 years to find its business model and to start making profits. Today it has more revenues then the five major US broadcasters combined.

Where will our media-companies be in 4 or 10 years? Will they be flexible and innovating enough to explore new ways of communicating and distributing stories? And what will the new business model look like?
To my opinion, just as storytelling itself will become more layered and increasingly complex, so will the business model. Converging media suggests converging sources of financing.
The aim of the suggestions made in this text is to create new and increase existing sources of financing to enable the transition from the old model to the new, more complex model. The old model will stay at the core of the new model, just as traditional formats will be the core content. The digital disruption challenges us to take content and the CCI’s into the 21st century.

Miss Homeless – homeless cinema premiere on Oct 17th

On October 17th, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the film Miss Homeless will have its premiere during the International Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium.

The premiere will be held on a square under the open sky, a ‘homeless cinema premiere’. This event is set up as an act of solidarity with the homeless because October 17th is their day, because the winter is coming and because 2010 is the European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion.

But this event can be organised anywhere in Belgium, Europe or in the world. We invite all organisations working with homeless people or combating social exclusion to organise their own ‘homeless cinema premiere’ in their city or neighbourhood. The event can help to create awareness, to recruit new volunteers and just have a great evening of solidarity.

It’s easy to organise: find a white wall or use a white banner and just aim a projector at it. We send you the film for free if you subscribe with your organisation on www.misshomeless.eu.

The film

An American actress decides to live amongst the homeless of Brussels in order to get the lead in the movie of her husband. When things go wrong she ends up in the unique Miss Homeless pageant of Brussels.

Miss Homeless is a docu-fiction, black comedy. Most of the actors are homeless who improvised scenes taken from their real life. The film portrays women struggling in the margin of society and their fight to be heard in a world that doesn’t seem to care.

Daniel Lambo wrote, directed, edited and produced the no-budget film.

The premiere

The premiere of the film offers to all organisations an opportunity to set up a socio-cultural event aimed not only at the homeless people, but also reaching out to a broad audience. Everyone is invite to the premiere under the open sky. It is an act of solidarity and of support on this international day against poverty. And why not use the occasion to raise money or recruit volunteers?

The filmmakers want to emphasize the social dimension of the film by providing Miss Homeless to all organisations active around the subject of the film. The film can be used to strengthen the organisations in a positive, entertaining and cultural context.

This initiative is based on ‘community empowerment’, a method applied by the Obama-campaign. Internet also played a central role in his campaign, and so it does for this project.

The website

www.misshomeless.eu is the central hub of the project. All events related to the premiere of the film are accessible here. Everyone who hears about the film through the press or social media, can see if something is organised in their town or neighbourhood.

To amplify the impact of the premieres and to make communication more efficient, we want to build a community around the website.

You can also participate on various levels. Do you want to set up a premiere yourself or contribute in any other way? Let us know. Or simply become a friend on Facebook, stay tuned and maybe meet other friends.

The goal

Miss Homeless wants to contribute to create awareness about social exclusion.

Thanks to the events, the organisations get themselves and their issues in the media spotlight in a positive way.

Thanks to the internet, the organisations, ‘communities’, can get in touch with each other.

This new network can creates a strong dynamic that might result  into new projects.

About the filmmaker:

Daniel Lambo (Lambo Films) is a social engaged filmmaker who explores the boundaries of filmmaking. His first short film Dju! won the audience and jury award at Belgium’s most renowned shortfilm festival. Three more shorts followed, each building a strong festival career. His middlelong film Brusilia premiered at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival in 2008. Daniel is currently working on two feature films with the support of the Flemish film fund and is directing Duts, a comedy series for our national broadcaster.



Drama 2.0 concept text

Together with Eric Taelman I am developing the participative TV drama series The Artists. This text was written to offer a theoretical frame of mind for future development. It turned out we came up with a new format which we named Drama 2.0.

If you want to have more information on The Artists, just send me an email.

ART drama 20 concept text

Case study Where is Gary? for EAVE

EAVE invited me to give a case study on the interactive documentary Where is Gary?. It offer me a great occasion to reflect on this experiment that resulted in a thriller 52 minutes documentary.
A transcription of the presentation will follow….

To see the video, click here
If you are requested to give a password, just send me a quick email