The inaugural Australian Feature Film Summit has unveiled the line-up of sessions and speakers for its ‘stage one’ virtual event, taking place next month.

Convened by a working group across production, distribution and exhibition, the summit aims to break down industry silos to grow the success of the Australian feature film sector.

The first stage virtual event is designed to ‘set the stage’ for an in-person summit in February 2022, to coincide with the Australian International Movie Convention.

Speakers will include Roadshow Films CEO Joel Pearlman; Event Cinemas general manager content Claire Gandy; Sony Pictures Entertainment EVP Stephen Basil-Jones; Made Up Stories producer Jodi Matterson; Comscore MD Frank Perikleous; Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly, and Compton School executive director David Court.

“The focus for stage one is to really drill down into what success looks like for Australian feature films and what we can learn from this,” says summit convenor Gino Munari.

“Until now, no other forum has effectively brought together exhibitors, distributors, producers, creatives, investors, and screen agencies into the one ‘room’ with a joint focus on building on the success of the local feature film sector. It’s a prelude to the main event in February next year and all filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors and investors are encouraged to join and contribute their ideas.” 

Summit director Sue Maslin AO adds: “Box office data and audience insight confirms that Australian films often behave differently to Hollywood films and usually have far less marketing spend to support the initial launch. Yet the competitive nature of the theatrical market means that in order to succeed, Australian films must open strongly or run the risk of reduced sessions or being dropped very quickly from the programming schedule. It is time to look at how we can all be more collaborative and strategic in finding audiences for local films – from the ideas writers create and the films producers choose to develop, to how marketing is financed and films programmed by exhibitors.” 

The virtual summit will take place October 22 and cost $25. The in-person event will be held February 11, Swissotel Sydney for $150.

Further program details here: www.affsummit.com.au

Stage one sessions below:

WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE? 

Moderator: Lori Flekser 

Speakers: Frank Perikleous, managing director, Comscore; executive director, MPDAA; Nic Robin, general manager revenue and growth, Village Cinemas; Stacey Kwijas, head of marketing and insights, Village Cinemas 

Focus: Over the past 12 months audiences have demonstrated their love affair with quality Australian films when given the opportunity to see them. Australian movies delivered an outstanding box office performance in 20/21 in the absence of Hollywood films. But does this success need to be an anomaly? This session will reveal the detailed demographic, attendance and box office data being collected and provide an overview of audience trends in relation to recent Australian films. Drilling into the hit movie, The Dry, the session experts will analyse what the data tells us about the factors behind its success. 

OVERVIEW OF CORE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES 

The world has changed. Going back to ‘business as usual’ when the cinema landscape fully reopens is not an option given fundamental changes to viewing choices and habits. The exponential growth in content on streamers and audience take up means it is more important than ever that we all – filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors – clearly identify and communicate the point of difference and value that cinemas and theatrical feature films offer. We can best do this when we all understand how films are made, distributed and exhibited. The following three sessions will enable key information and learnings about the sectors to be shared. 

EXHIBITION 

Moderator: Gino Munari 

Speakers: Claire Gandy, general manager content, Event Cinemas; Adrianne Pecotic, CEO Independent Cinemas Australia; Kristian Connelly, CEO, Cinema Nova. 

Focus: Exhibitors know their market better than anyone yet have no say at present in the Australian films they are being offered. What if exhibitors had more buy-in with the films that they will one day be asked to screen? How could exhibitors, distributors and producers work better together to improve the performance of Australian films with audiences? In this session we will ask exhibitors what a successful Australian film looks like and if it is possible to predict; what they know about their audiences; and what factors they use to determine the level of support they give to Australian films. 

DISTRIBUTION 

Moderator: Sandy George 

Speakers: Joel Pearlman, CEO Roadshow Films; Elizabeth Trotman CEO Studiocanal; Stephen Basil-Jones, Sony EVP

Focus: Distributors are the bridge between producers, exhibitors and audiences and largely drive which Australian films are produced and screened in cinemas. They also carry a huge load of risk which is not effectively offset by government support or rebates. This session will explore the process behind the decision to acquire an Australian film or not and the key challenges in releasing Australian films. Marketing will be a central focus of the session and how the risks can be further offset for distributors. Given Australian films often lack the marketing budgets of Hollywood blockbusters, what new strategies and partnerships could be used to improve cut through with small and mid-tier Australian theatrical releases? 

PRODUCTION 

Moderator: Sandy George 

Speakers: Antony Ginnane, producer, FG Films; Jodi Matterson, producer Made Up Stories; David Jowsey, producer, Bunya Productions 

Focus: It all starts with the script and the drive and passion of filmmakers to get films financed and into production. Every producer sets out to make a successful film and the process takes years, yet only a few go on to achieve significant audiences on the big screen. This session will explore the key challenges currently facing feature filmmakers and ask what keeps producers producing theatrical films given the level of risk? How are filmmakers responding to audience behavior, are they developing the kinds of projects suitable for a theatrical release in this new landscape, and do they have enough access to data to support their decisions? How can producers enhance the marketing potential of their films with distributors and exhibitors? And what is the future for feature documentaries on the big screen? 

ROAD TESTING YOUR IDEAS WITH THE MARKETPLACE 

Moderator: Sue Maslin AO 

Speaker: David Court, executive director Compton School 

Focus: David Court, Founder of Compton School for creative entrepreneurs has, over many years, researched models for predicting box office success together with developing a ‘greenlight’ process for testing innovative ideas at an early stage. He will provide an introduction to the ‘Road Test Forum’ that will take place at the Australian Feature Film Summit in February 2022. This will bring exhibitors together with filmmakers in early-stage development in order to test concepts, get early buy in from exhibitors, giving distributors and investor’s confidence if ideas resonate. Projects would be at an early stage and provide filmmakers with real market feedback that would help them recognise if their project has the potential to attract audiences. The Road Test Forum allows exhibitors to provide filmmakers with insights into how they believe a film might perform, or not, in their specific market – from majors to independents, regional to cities. A call out for filmmaker to submit film proposals to “road test” with exhibitors in February 2022 will take place following the Virtual Summit. 

TAKEAWAY 

Moderator: Ian Sutherland (independent producer and Consultant); Sue Maslin and Gino Munari 

Focus: Setting the agenda for the Australian Feature Film Summit in February 2022. Leaning into his production, distribution and exhibition background Ian will invite comment from all attendees, summarise the pressure points arising from the Virtual Summit and identify key issues to cover at the February 2022 Summit. 

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