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Revolutionary Road? Looking back at the position of the European film sector and the results of European-level film support in view of their digital future. A critical assessment

Friday, 8 July, 2011 - 12:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculty: Arts and Philosophy
Sophie De Vinck
phd defence

In this PhD thesis, Sophie De Vinck sets out to investigate what "going digital" means in terms of achieving a
more diverse, pan-European, film landscape and to what extent European film policymakers can influence this
potential effect.
While the digital transition has affected all traditional media and cultural industries, the different sectors, of
which the film industry is one, each face a distinguishable set of particular digital challenges. The
particularities for each sector depend on their economic-industrial, socio-cultural, technological and
regulatory background and history.
Taking on a pan-European approach, a prominent observation is that, while European film industries harbour
significant cultural (and economic) strength on a localised basis, they remain largely confined to national and
regional borders. This fragmentation of European film industry structures and markets continues to be a
prominent weakness of the sector, despite the establishment of a number of European-level film support
instruments in the 1980s (MEDIA and Eurimages being the most prominent). Focusing on the European level
and taking on a policy-oriented approach, the main research problem confronted in this dissertation is
therefore whether, looking back on the sector's and these policy instruments' strengths and weaknesses, we
can expect a more economically and culturally diverse European digital film future. In other words: to what
extent will the opportunities and threats associated with "going digital" actually bring about change?

In order to address these questions, the dissertation takes on a "looking back to look forward" perspective. As
such, the research is structured around three building blocks, being 1) a historical-descriptive analysis of the
European film sector, 2) an evaluation of European-level film (support) policies and 3) a prospective analysis of
the impact of digitisation.
To organise the research, the author applies a SWOT approach to outline the sector's strengths and
weaknesses and to confront them with the digital opportunities and threats it is facing. At the policy level,
objectives diagrams are used to clarify the goals of MEDIA and Eurimages film support. From these, a set of
evaluation questions and criteria is derived that guides the evaluation of both funds' results. Moreover, both
the sector and policy analysis are guided by the conceptual notion of 'diversity'.
By combining a variety of qualitative information sources and quantitative data (including literature and
documents, expert interviews and statistical data), this PhD research results in a nuanced overview of this
sector in transition and the results achieved by the European policy instruments targeted at it. Looking back,
there are indications that digitisation indeed offers European film professionals and European film
policymakers the chance to foster a more competitively and culturally diverse European film landscape. Yet at
the same time, there are also indications that inject a sense of reality into the scale of the potential digital
transformations. In a context of continuous prioritising of national concerns at the policy level and a digital
reinforcement of established (Hollywood) market players' power, European sector players and policymakers
risk reinventing the past. Nevertheless, even if technological change is not sufficient to alter the pathdependent
characteristics of the European film sector, it does impose a renewed sense of urgency to address
the challenges and obstacles that are hampering the development of a pan-European, diverse film landscape.
The final conclusions reached at the end of the dissertation thus form the basis for a number of European-level
policy recommendations, including a triple focus on digital cinema, digital distribution and demand
development.

Attachment: 
PDF icon DeVinck_a.pdf