Marseille_Behind the Scenes

Blog: Is there money in Marseille for web series creators?

Guidestones creator Jay Ferguson lands in France to find the fast-growing Marseille Web Fest in transformation.
October 17, 2014

jayfergusoncropJay Ferguson is a Toronto-based writer and filmmaker who created the International Emmy-winning series Guidestones.

I just arrived in Marseille, France.

Is this a blessing or a curse?

I’ve heard some say Marseille is a polluted industrial port town to be avoided at all costs. Others have told me it’s a city re-imagining itself into a hub for global culture.

I’m here because the latest season of my digital series Guidestones: Sunflower Noir is competing at the fourth edition of the Marseille Web Fest this weekend. And you know what? Say what you want about Marseille’s past — I happen to like it here, quite a bit.

I first came here two years ago to present the first season of Guidestones at the festival’s sophomore year. The festival was small and awkward, and in many ways, mirrored the state of scripted digital content at the time. However, Marseille really got behind the festival and making it a success, using the opportunity to promote arts in the city as a whole. In fact, I was so taken by their enthusiasm concerning web content that I wrote the city of Marseille into Guidestones: Sunflower Noir and we came here to shoot soon after (pictured).

What a difference a couple of years can make. First off, the city of Marseille is transforming from a shipping port into a town focused on cutting-edge digital artists like web series creators. And it’s exciting to see the Marseille Web Fest at the center of this transition. Even more interesting is seeing the different levels of government and business get behind the festival, speaking to the region’s desire to create a digital hub.

The festival’s president, Jean-Michel Albert, has managed to do something unique in the scripted web content world, bringing together independent content creators with the people who can finance that content. His goal is to make this a place to not just celebrate scripted online content but to make deals happen.

In the last few hours, I’ve met more French broadcasters, American studio reps, and Canadian funding agencies than I’ve met content creators.

Since my arrival a few hours ago, all I’ve heard is talk of deal making. This is an interesting turn, because for the most part, financing scripted digital content is an almost futile endeavor. In the last few hours, I’ve met more French broadcasters, American studio reps, and Canadian funding agencies than I’ve met content creators. And it seems like these “money people” are actually interested in financing new content. The budgets are certainly not going to rival TV budgets, but they are getting better. Certainly better than 2 years ago.

Today marks just the first day of the festival and the participants are still trickling in. Jean-Michel’s vision of a Cannes-style festival that combines content exhibition with a lucrative business hub might just be about to become a reality. And maybe, like Marseille itself, we can figure a way to re-imagine ourselves into an industry with a viable business model.

But let me get back to you on that one.

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