Introduction to Filmexplorer's Focus
Online streaming is not simply an interesting possibility in order to distribute moving images. It is today a reality, or the reality, being more and more the most used and effective format to look at moving images. Even if Filmexplorer acknowledges that the cinema theatre, when in good conditions, can be the best way to appreciate a filmic work, we should also recall that certainly not all the films that are usually shown in cinema theatres really deserve to access this expensive format. Moreover, the overproduction of films reduces the life time of films, and therefore inescapably push them onto the online streaming channels, at least in order to guarantee them a longer access to the public.
A platform for film discussions like Filmexplorer, which is largely dedicated to the discovery of films that are often only (too) shortly screened during the Swiss film festivals, cannot avoid having a natural propensity for collaborating with the platforms that provide online streaming, the so called VOD platforms (all modalities included – transactional, subscription-based, free, partially free, etc.), and VOD platforms are naturally oriented to collaborate with film magazines, for they provide a curated selection and a critical discourse, which appear to be increasingly an essential feature to cope with global internet competition.
Why has Filmexplorer not established a clear and stable VOD interface yet? The reason is simple and quite instructive to understanding the main problem of online streaming today. It is a juridical reason, for the online streamers depends on a system of right-holders that was born and actually works for offline distributors. Regional restrictions and exclusivity can be positive aspects for the market of offline distributors, but make no sense for online streamers, which should take advantage of worldwide streaming of, and non-exclusive access to, films.
Now, Filmexplorer’s public is global, and we could have done more than 20 different contracts of collaboration with online streaming platforms in order to curate an interesting selection for our public. A very demanding task for cultural initiatives like Filmexplorer, that cannot but keep light structures. Yet, we are welcoming the proposal of a new VOD platform, eyelet.com, whose commitment to worldwide streaming and the focus on art films seem to correspond to our profile. Their tiring work to convince each and every regional distributor for a deal on the rights remains an element that exemplifies how the dynamicity of this emerging market is heavily hindered.
Filmexplorer dreams of a world where online streaming rights would be non-exclusively treated directly by the international sale offices of film production companies, bypassing the regional-based distributors. Therefore, it would be a perfect goal to have an international law that unblocks these rights, thereby giving to the VOD platforms the proper role of online distributors.
In order to achieve this goal, one should finally overcome the unfounded and unreasonable common place according to which online streaming would be a direct competitor of cinema theatres and of film festivals. Even more in general, we are convinced that analogue and digital filmic worlds have to explore the many possibilities of a win-win alliance, instead of looking each other as enemies. This is why Filmexplorer has decided to address the question of online streaming to professionals in the field of cinema theatre – here Edna Epelbaum, leading figure in the Swiss cinema theatres – and film festival – here Giacomo Hug, project manager of the Locarno Shorts Weeks, who by the way is a media partner of Filmexplorer. A highly informative essay, by Anna Bohn, that maps the series of problems that online streaming is facing today, and a general reflection by Jacqueline Beck, who has also curated this focus and conducted the interviews, complete Filmexplorer’s critical survey on the much debated topic of online streaming. This is only a first step: open discussion is welcomed.