A Look At Europe's Cartoon Forum with John Bullivant
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HK: Definitely not at MIPCOM, MIPTV where you see booth after booth.

JB: Exactly and there is a definite advantage to having a room full of 100 to 180 people. For it to go incredibly well in that 30 minutes and get a standing ovation at the end, then there's a buzz on the show. It's very rare that that happens anywhere else. Everybody feels that buzz. The producers feel the buzz, the distributors do, as do the broadcasters. I'm not aware of any other forum that achieves that. That's a distinct advantage. Alternatively, you can kill your project in 30 minutes. It is a double-edged sword. If you stand up and make a dog of a presentation and everybody comes in with an enthusiasm, but leaves thinking that the presentation wasn't really good, you'll have a very hard time. People will walk out talking about your project and what they're saying is, 'No, I don't think so.' As a result it can be instant death because you've exposed it to so many people and effectively killed it in front of them.

At the Happy Life press conference: Anita Simovic, Frederik Zandér, Peter Gustaffson and Torbjörn Jansson.

HK: Can you see the Cartoon Forums having a real impact on business in Europe?

JB: Yes! There are a number of shows that have been financed through Cartoon Forum. I think it's made a significant contribution to supporting and developing a strong European animation industry and will continue to do so. It's got to evolve because Europe is becoming much more of a significant player. You know there are strong independent media companies like Hit in the U.K., or as we have now in Germany EM.TV., IGEL Media, Greenlight International. France has strong producers but hasn't got those big integrated companies because they haven't had access to the French stock market yet. Therefore their industry is evolving from the small studios that came together say seven or eight years ago and tried to collaborate in order to gain financial independence. But every year there are new people at the market, who are benefiting from something that was set up a few years ago. I've been to a number but I'm not by any means the most long serving attendee. Cartoon Forum will survive and if people bring good shows, there's more strength now in the European market to make those happen. It is kind of leveling the playing film between Europe and North America.

HK: What is the most effective part of Cartoon Forum?

JB: The most effective part of Cartoon Forum is probably the bar. The nicest thing about Cartoon Forum is the one thing that everybody rails against; they always choose some God-forsaken remote place that takes you a whole day to get to! You can guarantee the hotel doesn't have email points and has faxes that turn into some sort of scroll when they finally get them delivered to your room. But basically you're obliged to focus on animation from the European point of view exclusively, with 70 to 90 percent of the key people in Europe who can make things happen. It is quite nice actually that we're just doing that exclusively for 2-1/2 days. It has a very different atmosphere to MIPCOM. It's much more sociable, much more relaxed. It is still fundamentally sort of business-orientated and a lot of good projects are seen and picked up, but it's the bringing together of all the key people within Europe in what is actually quite a collaborative, as well as competitive, atmosphere. There are debates about shows -- from how people contribute, to how a show should be developed -- even if they have no vested interest in it. They do it willingly and constructively. That's one of the nicest elements, that people are prepared to do that rather than just say, 'Why would I want to help one of my competitors?' It's not an issue. It's a very small industry, we all know each other and, especially in the U.K., we all socialize with each other as well as compete with each other. I think that's one of its strongest credentials. The more it turns into a MIPCOM the more it loses its uniqueness.

HK: Is there anything you'd like to see changed?

JB: The biggest debate is whether we let non-Europeans into the Forum.

HK: That was my next question and the sort of million dollar question -- perhaps literally.

JB: I would like to see non-Europeans allowed who are in the position to invest money in projects. There aren't that many projects that happen purely on European finance. We need money from the rest of the world. No non-European, however, should be able to finesse it to be allowed to present a project. You'd have to toughen up the criteria on which projects get presented, otherwise you'd find that people would shove the work into a European company just to get it exposed. I think you'd have to be quite rigorous in scrutinizing the origins of each project. It's naïve to maintain "fortress Europe" in terms of not allowing anybody else in when I'd say maybe five out of ten European shows need international financing in order to happen either from distribution companies, potential co-productions or broadcast sales internationally. We should be really keen to use other people's money. We should just make sure that the money which Cartoon invests, which is European money, is going to support the generation of European ideas, that originate within European companies. I know that people are very reluctant about that, but people are also very keen to have non-Europeans in. For the first time I think Buena Vista Video was allowed to attend. Again on a pre-school show Buena Vista is in a position to offer a significant source of production revenue. It's naïve to think that they don't find out about the projects, and it's actually healthier for the growth of a project's development and financing for that person to be there at its inception and put a card down saying, 'I'd be very interested in this. I could offer this kind of money if you can cover three out of four territories.' It empowers the producer. I think it's commercially short sighted now. There were good reasons in the past but now that we're secure and established in what the event is we should move forward [on letting non-Europeans in.]

HK: Companies are naturally getting more global now.

JB: Absolutely.


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