What made MIFA, the Annecy Animation Festival’s international film market, so amazing this year? Well, you can start with the brand new additions: 3 panels called MIFA TALKS as well as the 20 SHARE WITH sessions, which hopefully will become annual traditions at the world’s largest celebration of animated features, shorts and TV series.
High powered executives from around the world were recruited by MIFA organizers. All networks have unique needs. However, after attending these presentations, it became apparent there were universal themes across sessions. FUNNY is in highest demand. A close second is for producers to make plenty of “series extras” meaning, companion marketing and entertainment products to support the TV series such as games and other activities for kids to use on their tablets, mobile phones and game consoles.
MIFA TALKS and the SHARE WITH(s) – these sessions contained the rubies, sapphires, and diamonds of business tips in this year’s MIFA. Mixed in with the usual jewels of info/insights, the traditional Territory Focus panels and events remain as staples, attracting much bigger crowds than the new sessions.
So with plenty of seats to spare, I was one of the lucky few to absorb what these key TV executives are seeking from animation suppliers.
MIFA TALKS panel highlights:
FRANCE - broadcaster TF1. Panelist Natalie Pinguet said her broadcast channel is very much into being “multi-platform.” Internet, tablets, smart phones, TV screens - for preschoolers through 10 year olds. Gender neutral preferred. Each series has a specific [TF1 network] launch strategy. Per the executive “We have no educational series… Our first job is to entertain….so we like HUMOR, COMEDY.”
UK - broadcaster BBC. World-renowned and they know it! This means the bar is set super high. If you’re aiming to get into business with this powerhouse channel, here’s what Sarah Muller summed up: “We [BBC] want special, unique, risk-taking, content under the radar, compelling and different stories. Pre-schoolers have their own dedicated channel Cbeebies, older kids 6-12 see the talent-led entertainment shows on CBBC. Whatever you see on the main BBC channel for adults, the mix of content is the same (but for kids), on the children’s channels. [We are] Looking for compelling content that doesn’t feel educational!”
USA/Worldwide - cable satellite network NICKELODEON. Jules Borkent, based in New York City, presented a powerful Powerpoint presentation interspersed with show clips. Most memorable moment of Jules’ talk? Nickelodeon wants “Smart & Heart & Fart!” How does Nick find these Rootin’ Tootin’ Toons? Using a competition model, one for US-based creators and a UK-based Shorts Program competition scheme for the rest of the world. Jules explained, “How we do it in the States, about 900 shorts were submitted. We took six, and developed them (assumption: series pilot). Of those six, only one is going to series production.” OK, now for the good news? The earlier the better for your pitch to Nickelodeon, no matter where in the world you’re based. Nickelodeon’s new series with Marathon Media of France, started with a one-pager!
SHARE WITH session notes:
FINLAND - broadcaster YLE Finnish Broadcasting Company. Vicky Schroederus couldn’t have made it anymore clear. Today’s animation series must satisfy the online demands of kids. YLE previews new series via their site, and supports the series via brand-building strategies of apps, mobile phones, tablets. Statistics about kids’ usage was rife in Vicky’s presentation! Weekly figures: 190,000 devices - 40,000 PDA downloads, 50,000 website unique, 30,000 apps, etc. So her network needs producers to come with more than just a series. Games, shorts, apps and as many other bells and whistles as possible, for today’s digital kids. Creatively speaking, keep in mind that Finland’s a country of design, so they’re always on the lookout for unique and distinct visual styles.
COLOMBIA - broadcaster RTVC Senal Colombia. Claudia Rodriguez Valencia wants high quality, with three key attributes: educational, cultural and entertaining. Her net has theme months, is willing and interested in coproducing, and can commercialize (“sell”) to neighboring countries. One of the few channels that looks for animation for all ages, besides programming for pre-school and 8-12 year olds, they’re into cartoons for grownups, which are educational and entertaining at the same time. Be sure to bring along your business plan if you’re pitching for a coproduction. RCTV looks for a return on their investment beyond the obvious airings on their own channels.
NORWAY - broadcaster NRK. Elin Raustol is not dissimilar to her fellow Scandinavian network YLE. The key question these days center around what activities (for the kids) are supporting your TV series? “In November 2012, 6% of our audience was also using other platforms. In May, 2013 - over 35% of traffic on tablets and mobiles. SO WE NEED CONTENT THERE - ON THOSE APPS!” Luckily she didn’t forget the most essential ingredients for a successful series - “good character-driven stories with believable protagonist(s) that the audience likes, who they want to root for and care about.”
BRAZIL - cable satellite channel GLOOB. Paula Taborda dos Guaranys explained that Brazil’s newest dedicated kids channel has a core audience of 4-5 year olds, with a channel focus on content being very entertaining. A mix of live action (they acquire a lot from the BBC) and animation from all over the world, all of it in high definition.
Yes indeed, MIFA 2013 was buzzing even more than usual with these attractive additions of SHARE WITH and MIFA TALKS - don’t miss them next year! It’s a worthy challenge to attend all that MIFA has to offer. 2013 also included the Territory Focus sessions which show off particular countries, covering their skills, talent base, funding entities and more. Territories highlighted this year included Poland, Russia, Japan, South Africa, and the U.K. As stated in the press kit “Year after year MIFA has anchored its leadership roll….. [and] in tough economic times, the MIFA must serve as an opportunity booster.” Certainly the importance of MIFA wasn’t missed by the top brass from the French government - this year, the Minister of Culture and Communication paid a special visit the MIFA market. A charming reminder that in France, animation has value beyond business. It’s an art form with substantial cultural importance too - Vive la France!!!
Catherine Morrissey writes regularly for AWN about the international animation industry.