On 16 December 2020, the Federation of audiovisual producers, PROA, and the association of animation producers ProAnimats, hosted a panel on theatrical distribution of European animated films within the frame of the ALICE project. With the support of Catalonia’s animation festival ‘My first festival’ and experts from diverse countries participating, the event gave a European take on the current issues related to bringing animation to the screen and provided valuable tips for ALICE to help build the policies of the future. It was only made possible thanks to the successful collaboration of all the partners of ALICE, under PROA’s direction.

Joining efforts for this particular event appeared to be essential in a context of concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the distribution of European productions. As the co-leader of the promotion and audiences working group, PROA have explored how the development of VOD platforms and online channels have shaped new distribution models, involving changes in production formats, IP monetization, as well as audience outreach and marketing methods. The initial objective of the working group was to study new territorial strategies to help these new business models grow. But with the global pandemic leading to cinema closures and increased online content consumption, PROA considered it fundamental to give the floor to distributors.

The subject matter and the exceptional context led PROA to take an innovative approach on both the organization and the angle of the panel: the initiative was conceived as a collective action to address distribution as a European challenge. “My first festival" actively supported the event, as an opportunity to focus on getting animated production shown on the big screen, share thoughts about theatrical distribution, linear and non-linear distribution models, as well as exchange experiences and inspiring success stories.

With the pandemic ongoing, mobilizing everyone around a virtual event demanded creativity and efforts on the part of the lead organizer. It was all coordinated and managed by PROA, with communication and technical support. As the participation of ALICE partners was essential to making personal connections with key speakers from across Europe (in addition to one from the US), PROA also focused on creating engagement through close communication with individuals, and the setting up of conditions for teamwork. The partners were involved in selecting experts, drafting the agenda and communicating with regional stakeholders.

This collaborative experience turned out to be very beneficial for all of the partners, as it created synergies, strengthened working relationships and left everyone more knowledgeable about an important matter within the industry. Specific proposals and replicable successful experiences raised by the experts will be included in the regional action plans for the next phase of the project. The stakeholders of the ALICE project, in particular animation studios and production companies, gained a lot from the discussion as it addressed their particular role in the changing landscape.

While implementing new collaborative practices, ALICE has accomplished the higher goal of maintaining a stimulating cohesion, bringing the partners closer to the objectives of the project, and demonstrating their commitment to supporting the future of animation in Europe.

As background: the importance of exchanging good practices

The objective of ALICE is to promote collaboration between European countries in the animation industry. In this spirit, collaboration is seen as an answer to the fierce international competition, as it makes it possible to produce ambitious projects while cultivating talents. Therefore, one of the foundations of the project is to practice collaboration by actively learning from, testing and potentially adopting what is being done in other regions/places or other sectors. The result of this collective, active and continuous approach is the implementation of new best practices, which make the lives of the industry players easier, help streamline communications, improve the efficiency of operations, and create new business opportunities.