Producers, distributors suggests paths to a better future for region’s short films at Gulf Film Festival panel discussion
Hosted by the Doha Film Institute, event draws filmmakers, industry representatives.
The Gulf region’s leading distributors and producers stressed the need to create stronger and more reliable distribution platforms for short films in the Middle East during the Gulf Film Festival’s (GFF) forum ‘Short Films: Between Filmmakers & Distributors’ hosted by the Doha Film Institute.
One of the most vocal sessions to date in the festival, several short filmmakers in the audience made strong cases for greater support from the industry, while distributors urged filmmakers to be more realistic and pragmatic when it comes to the commercial viability of their films.
Moderated by Samr Al Marzooqi, Manager of the Dubai Film Market, the panel featured Albers Frank (Producer – Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH); Andy Fordham (Technical & Digital Cinemas Project Director – Gulf Film); John Chahine – General Manager, Italia Film Company); Michel Kammoun (Producer/Film Director – Roy Films); and Mahi Golchin-Depala (Managing Director – Phars Films).
The participants observed that despite over 1,000 short films being produced in the Middle East every year, barely a fraction of these make it beyond the first stage of screening at festivals. Panelists and audiences also considered how the region’s short filmmakers could progress beyond this stage.
Mahi Golchin said that one of the reasons why short films do not get wider distributor networks is that they are mostly made through government funding. “The subjects these films tackle, while being impactful, are not necessarily of commercial quality, which makes film festivals their only platform for exposure.”
Filmmakers were asked to look beyond their immediate geography to narrate stories that appeal to a wider audience, which elicited mixed response from the directors, who vociferously defended their choice of subject and treatment.
Presenting a realistic sketch of the commercial viability of short films, Albers Frank observed: “If a short film makes significant news in the international film circuit – that is where its progress stops. The only way that the short film can be seen by an audience outside of a film festival is if it is sold to small television stations, which makes the idea of making money off of these movies next to impossible.”
Director Michel Kammoun put forth a suggestion to overcome the challenge that is intrinsic in the format of the short films – their length. “People would much rather pay for films that are 90 minutes long, than pay the same amount for a film that is three or four minutes. This can be overcome if short films are screened before the start of a feature film or in between two feature films.”
Andy Fordham pointed at the prevailing market acceptance for big blockbusters, and suggested a digital route to promote marketability of short films. “Most short films made in the region are of the arthouse genre, which do not tend to make money in the region. I personally believe that filmmakers, especially short filmmakers, should consider embracing the digital age, as it provides one of the lowest-cost platforms for wide exposure.”
John Chahine said that the challenge before distributors is that there are no dedicated platforms for the short films to be screened in the region. “Even if there are cinemas that screen independent films, these screens have not opened their doors for short films as yet.”
The panelists observed that partnering with cultural institutions and educational institutions to promote screenings could also help generate the buzz that will in turn promote distribution potential.
The Doha Film Institute also hosted an industry luncheon at the fifth Gulf Film Festival, which ends tomorrow.
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