The abrupt change is already evident in almost all walks of social life since the outbreak of Covid-19. Some experts around the world suggest it may take five years to make up for the changes that have taken place in five weeks.
Like any other industry or field, the film industry is also hard hit by the pandemic. With all planned film releases postponed, film festivals cancelled, movie theatres closed and almost zero production of new projects, the industry has already started undergoing a drastic change.
Further with social distancing and the switch to digital platforms, the entertainment industry experts foresee a long lasting, may be permanent, paradigm shift in the industry. The animation genre of the film is however, at an advantage as the bulk of production works is carried out through computer technology.
To have an expert opinion on the impact of Covid-19 on the global film industry and prospects of animation films, Community interviewed Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, Chief Executive Officer of Doha Film Institute (DFI).
Alremaihi was born and raised in Doha where she earned her degree in English Literature from Qatar University. “I started my professional career working with the Amiri Diwan. In 2009, I joined the organising team of the first international film festival in Qatar. In many ways, the move fuelled my passion for film, storytelling and the industry at large. Contributing to the development of local creative talent and building key relationships with the regional and global film industry felt like my calling.”
Alremaihi was appointed the CEO of the DFI in 2014, a capacity in which she oversees the strategic direction of the institute and work to strengthen Qatar’s position within the international film community. “It has been a rewarding experience for me as CEO of the institute to meet and interact with the world cinema’s finest creative talent, promote cross-cultural exchange, and see the bold new energy of filmmakers in the Arab world and beyond.
“I also get to do what I love most — supporting new voices and taking our stories to the world through our diverse initiatives, including Qumra and the Ajyal Film Festival. I believe in the power of film in bringing about real change and empowering underrepresented voices to share their perspectives through the medium of film.”
The CEO foresees a long lasting impact of the pandemic on the film industry. “All global industries, including film and arts, are bound to feel the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic long after the day-to-day risk subsides. Cinemas and film theatres have been closed, festivals have been cancelled or postponed, film releases have been delayed, and the global box office dropped by billions of dollars.”
The film enthusiast also sees a change in movie screening platforms and consumer behaviour. “We are also witnessing a lot of experimentation around new formats that have raised questions in the industry such as:
• How to best manage conversations online?
• Which digital platforms to use?
• Is it preferable to create an intimate experience or community-wide initiatives?
• Should we replicate existing screening platforms or create something entirely new?
“Exploring new formats will always bring its own challenges and the initial delivery may not be perfect, but we are all part of this experiment and, I believe, it has given us a more forgiving and open-minded perspective on each other’s and our own work.”
Regarding film festivals and events, the DFI head said: “Film festivals and organisers around the globe are faced with questions on how to cope and circumvent the current circumstances. A shift to an online format may be sensible, but must be weighed against the core mission, objectives and nature of the event. We will assess all options for the institute’s upcoming Ajyal Film Festival later this year, which is primarily an audience-driven festival, to preserve the nature of the event.”
Looking to the future of film industry further, she said: “We should never forget the lessons that this time will undoubtedly imprint within our society and in the way we create films in the future. From an industry perspective, lasting change is inevitable, but I believe that we are witnessing a global spirit of collaboration and solidarity in finding solutions, particularly amongst cultural institutions such as DFI, who share a common goal to help and support creative talents and filmmakers, while keeping audiences engaged and connected during times of isolation.
“We have continued to collaborate with like-minded institutions and friends of DFI, who are spread around the world but inspire us with a common spirit of collaboration that we hope to carry into the future.”
When asked if the health crisis offers an opportunity for animation films to boom, the CEO said: “Animation and motion capture, the new frontiers in cinema, highlights the evolution of this rapidly-evolving technology which has opened doors to new and unlimited possibilities in content creation.
“Animation filmmakers are still able to continue their productions since location is secondary when the bulk of the work is delivered via computer technology. I think the current situation has offered a rare opportunity to animation films to outrace their live film counterparts – as long as social distancing measures prevail – and we are witnessing an interesting creative shift towards animation as a film form that continues to inspire filmmakers and live on during this time of crisis. It will be interesting to see how this will impact upcoming film releases in the coming year and the industry at large.”
In response to the question about how DFI can help the creative individuals who are interested in producing animation films, Alremaihi said: “Even though the Qatari animation industry is still in the formative stages, the interest the medium has gained from local filmmakers signals strong growth over the coming years and we are confident they will pave the way for a major presence in the global market.
“DFI’s initiatives and programmes are geared towards developing Qatar’s film industry. As a very young nation in terms of filmmaking, we are open to greater creative freedoms and possibilities that may not be present in more established national industries. Through our funding initiatives of DFI Grants (Waves 98 won the Palme d’Or for Short Films at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival), co-financing (Academy Award nominated Loving Vincent; Salma Hayek’s The Prophet) and Qatari Film Fund (1001 Days won the Distinction Award for Short Films at the 2019 Athens Animefest), we have supported 22 local and international animation projects to promote, strengthen and expand animation as a cinematic art form in Qatar and the wider region, and help support the development of a dynamic animation community.
“We have also partnered with leading international establishments such as GOBELINS and the VIA University College Denmark’s premier animation school — The Animation Workshop (TAW), to provide the best in knowledge and resources to the Qatari community, and to strengthen their skills in an industry that is undergoing a fascinating transformation.”
She added: “Our core mission revolves around offering opportunities to emerging talents through our widespread industry programmes and development workshops to hone their practical skills — including our most recent ‘Stop Motion Animation 101’ workshop, which will be held entirely online and is open to film enthusiasts between the ages of 8 and 17.”
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