Netzwerk Filmkultur NRW publishes opinion on the impact of digitization on film culture institutions
Netzwerk Filmkultur NRW has published a paper titled “Filmkultur 2.0″ on how digitization is affecting the work of institutions for film culture in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Although the study focuses on the specific situation in the federal state, the account of the current challenges faced by film culture institutions and the recommendations for action are for the most part transferable to other states and countries as well.
Film festivals, workshops and other film culture establishments and initiatives in North Rhine-Westphalia provide services including screening, distribution and production promotion for films, as well as doing educational work and endeavouring to preserve NRW’s film heritage. Digitization has created new tasks for these institutions in all of these areas, in some cases entailing substantial investments.
The authors of the opinion conclude that these institutions, usually working with meagre budgets, can hardly respond adequately to these changes. Significant deficits are evident in the areas of screening, production, archiving and communication. Due to the variety of digital formats, for example, film festival organizers must today shoulder tasks that were once the province of film laboratories and cinemas. In the key area of film education, which is the focus of a major portion of the work in the film culture field, the resources and means that would be required to reach the target group in a professional and appealing way via the appropriate digital channels are already in short supply today. In the area of archiving, the available funds are insufficient for adequately preserving the film heritage of the state of NRW, let alone ensuring that it remains accessible.
Fundamental investments must be made in the state’s film culture if suitable concepts are to be devised to deal with the rapid developments in this sector. The authors suggest two strategies: first, the establishment of an investment allocation within the state’s culture budget and secondly, the joint acquisition and use a pool of digital devices. Furthermore, the report also recommends greater integration and cultivation of social media and Web apps in the work of the film culture institutions. For the long term, a state-funded online “film culture portal” is proposed.
The majority of the twelve concrete recommendations for action serve to support the state’s film festivals – in particular the proposal to purchase a shared equipment pool for DCP screening. Open-air and mobile cinemas might also benefit from access to such equipment.
The needs of the stationary screening initiatives and cinemas devoted to film culture are not at the centre of the study or the recommendations. However, most of the member cinemas in the Netzwerk Filmkultur NRW have already invested in digital technology or make do out of necessity with lower standards (DVD, BluRay) than the study recommends for the state’s 30 festivals (DCP). With respect to cinema facilities, the opinion notes how problematic but important it is for the future of film culture to maintain and preserve analogue projection technology, at least in selected cinemas. The fact that even film culture institutions that have already gone digital still need to acquire new equipment from time to time to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation is a problem that remains to be solved.
In particular with respect to film festivals and the integration of social media, the opinion presents a whole series of proposals that are worth considering. The study (in German only) can be downloaded as a PDF file using the link provided below.
Background info: The members of Netzwerk Filmkultur NRW are: Documentary film initiative in the Filmbüro NW, doxs! – documentaries for children and youth, Duisburg Film Week, Filmhaus Bielefeld e.V., Filmothek der Jugend NRW e.V., Filmwerkstatt Düsseldorf e.V., Filmwerkstatt Münster, IFFF Dortmund | Cologne International Women’s Film Festival, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, KINOaktiv Cologne, Klack Zwo B e.V. / Blicke Ruhr Film Festival.
The authors of the study are Oliver Baumgarten and Volker Köster. Oliver Baumgarten works in the area of film culture as well as film journalism. Volker Köster is a freelance filmmaker and media educator. He is technical director at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and Duisburg Film Week.