Infinite Opportunity: Q&A with Strategic Partners
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Strategic Partners is one of the world’s most established co-production and co-financing markets.
Each year Strategic Partners brings together international producers with financiers, distributors, sales agents, broadcasters and funding agencies. The goal is to foster long-lasting relationships that help projects find co-production partners, financing and distribution in the global marketplace.
In 2017, Strategic Partners’ 20th season, the market focus is feature film, TV and digital fiction content created for new and existing platforms in markets. This year the spotlight will shine brightly on the Nordic Region and the USA.
We sat down to chat with Laura Mackenzie, Program Manager for Strategic Partners, about trends in the industry and the future for Nova Scotia producers.
What’s hot in production markets right now?
The content industry has been through a pretty sizable disruption, and new business models are starting to be established. For the past five years or more, the industry has experienced a shift where a lot of investment is going towards high-end TV drama. That’s starting to change. There are a lot more exhibitors now looking for feature films.
Part of this trend is due to digital majors like Netflix and Amazon, as well as smaller niche platforms, heavily investing in feature film. This changes the game because they now own audiences around the world. The market is truly global. Few distributors are interested in content that doesn’t have a commercial angle and won't sell globally. We don’t live in that world anymore.
What does this mean for Nova Scotia producers?
This means there are as many opportunities for Nova Scotia producers as there are for any other Canadian producers. Producers should think globally in terms of financing and distribution opportunities. Co-production is more important than ever. That means Strategic Partners is more important than it’s ever been. Annually we see Nova Scotia’s most savvy producers at the market. They get it, and they’re taking advantage of the opportunities that come with having a market like Strategic Partners in their hometown. It’s a captive audience and it’s my responsibility to make sure they get access to the right people, which I love to do.
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What does Strategic Partners do different?
Strategic Partners is a co-production market, but we’re a little different. We select and offer a catalogue of between 100 to 120 projects each year. Other markets might include 20 or 30 officially selected projects.
That means not every attendee is looking for a creative co-producer in another country for their project. They could be looking for sales and distribution, investment, or information. There are a lot of reasons why they may attend, but the focus is on building relationships with people from around the world who could become partners in the future. That’s what they get out of Strategic Partners: solid relationships with individuals who can move projects forward.
Why is building relationships so important?
Strategic Partners’ primary objective is export. Co-production means sharing the project’s creative development, financing and distribution between two or more countries. This allows producers to take advantage of the sales, distribution and marketing opportunities that come along with sharing the risks.
Strategic Partners is tailored to ensure attendees have the opportunity to meet everybody. The schedule is designed to foster new relationships and help make friends. Co-production has been likened to a marriage. It's about working with people - people you know you're going to enjoy working with - so it's important to take the time to really get to know those individuals on a personal and professional level before making a decision to co-produce.
What are global distributors looking for?
It’s a really exciting time for content. The exhibition space is infinite. Publishers like Vice, social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, and tech companies like Apple are buying content. Netflix, Amazon and Apple are acquiring content, and there’s huge growth in the niche space.
Producers need to do their homework. It’s important to learn about the opportunities out there and then put together a strong plan based on the project. They need to figure out where their audience is and then decide if they're going to seek out a global distribution deal, which covers production costs but leaves nothing for the long tail, or if it makes more sense to slice up the rights territory by territory.
How can Nova Scotia producers keep on top of trends?
Keep up-to-date on research. Read the trades. I read everything by Digiday, which gives me the publisher and app information, and Screen for real traditional film content. Other reading includes TBI for the television landscape, Playback because it's the most important trade in Canada, Hollywood Reporter because you need to know what the talent is doing, and C21 because it's probably the most business focused.
When developing Strategic Partners, we take responsibility for delivering that intelligence to our industry, not only here in Nova Scotia, but also to the Canadian industry. We've always taken great pride in putting together and delivering strong panels and keynote speakers, as well as helping relationships get off the ground. For us, it's about being relevant and ahead of the game so we can encourage the industry to stay ahead of the game. We evolve as the industry does, so these days we include much more digitally focused financiers and platforms as opposed to just legacy media companies.
What final advice do you have for Nova Scotia producers?
The most exciting thing is that competition for a good story is really strong right now, so you don't necessarily have to target buyers in advance of development. You just have to come up with a great story and figure out what size and shape that story should become based on its audience. If you’re able to demonstrate audience potential, your buyer will come.
Strategic Partners 2017 takes place September 14th-16th. As a proud supporter of Strategic Partners, NSBI looks forward to helping support the film industry in Nova Scotia.
Make your next film in Nova Scotia. Located on Canada's Atlantic coast, Nova Scotia offers diverse and spectacular locations. In addition to breath-taking landscapes, Nova Scotia offers several funding programs that make Nova Scotia a competitive location for local and international filmmakers.