Internet creation still continues, in spite of the deep-rooted difficulties that are threatening producers. Even though Internet films can be found in the Annecy 2003 official competition for the second year running, the online production sector is suffering from a lack of financing since the famous "explosion of the Internet bubble." After the prosperous years, helped along by the certainty of creating something new for a new media, the little world of Web creation began to fade, with many companies giving up or trying more lucrative activities. The hangover is a serious international problem and an enduring one.
"There doesnt seem to be any sign of things picking up, because there still arent any buyers or sites that want to broadcast the products," explained Serge Ewenczyk, producer at Millimages Online and chairman of the Assoc. of Web Producers (AWP), a French structure comprised of 44 companies, compared to 68 in the "glorious years." Most of the surviving firms have turned toward service activities, which give them a better turnover. They are still producing games, entertainment or cartoons, but more from an "institutional communication" point of view. "This stops independent producers from generating something culturally innovating," Ewenczyk continued.
Even though the Internet is now part of our daily life, with an ever-growing number of households with Internet access, the Web remains economically non-viable for producers and creators, except for rare exceptions. "A few portals offer some entertainment and buy licenses for this purpose," explained Dan Sarto, co-founder of Animation World Network (AWN.com) and member of the Internet film jury. "There is a market, but there isnt a great wealth offered. It is going to take time," he said.
"AWPs French producers think that the setting of a "virtuous economic circle" also means involving the main interlocutors, especially access providers (FAI). "They have to take part in the Internet production, whether they like it or not, said Ewenczyk. "Todays system is biased. They base all their communication on their content (music, entertainment), but dont redistribute anything to editors." The idea is to make the FAI contribute to a fund to establish a support system, adapted and managed by the CNC.
Sarto said he remains, "optimistic concerning the future. Like for the musical services where Netsurfers agree to pay for access to content if the correct system is put in place. The same thing will happen for Internet films. But in this case the films have to be good. If they are, everybody will know it. There is no substitute for talent."
For Sébastien Kochman, co-founder of TeamChmAn and jury member for Internet films, the problem is, above all, artistic. "Pioneers are no longer there and still there is no relief," he said. "The Internet is exhausted from a creative viewpoint. Its a pity." TeamChmAn is also engaged in other activities (videogames) as it continues online productions. The company is now turning toward 3D with projects developed with Virtual Tools. "Instead of making bad television on the Net, we have to find applications that truly correspond to this new media," he concluded. He is convinced that the creator, alone in his bedroom in front of his computer, has, maybe more than ever, a role to play.
This article by Virginie Sengès was first published on June 4, 2003 in LE QUOTIDIEN #3, a publication of the International Animated Film Centre, Annecy. For more information on this and other events at Annecy, go to www.annecy.org.