Banff World Media Festival: Where Ideas Are Born

Jenn Kuzmyk, Executive Director of the Banff World Media Festival, spoke to ttvnews about the event’s 2021 edition, which stands as the go-to market to meet with commissioners and decision-makers from the US and Canada.

On June 14 and for the following three days, a new edition of the Banff World Media Festival is taking place in a virtual format due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

To find out more about the event, its international reach and its virtual edition, ttvnews spoke to Jenn Kuzmyk, Executive Director of the Canada-based festival focused on production and co-production.

How would you describe the Banff World Media Festival?

The Banff World Media Festival is exactly that. It is a global and international media festival that happens to be based in Canada. We have people coming to the festival from over 50 countries around the world and although its based in Canada I would say that there are three parts: the Canadian piece of the festival, the US piece to the festival (with a lot of Hollywood) and European and international participants at the festival.

So it’s kind of becoming together of the industry side of making screen content. And I say that because it’s traditional television but also, increasingly, there’s a mix with feature film, podcasts… It is a media festival and it is global in its nature and scope.

Is it a production or distribution market?

Banff is very focused on the origin of content, so people who are pitching new shows or coming together to make co productions, where shows are financed with international distributors, where broadcasters and streamers come to fin new content to invest in… that’s the real focus of the festival.

There is finished program sales that take place at the festival but our real focus its on the creation of new content and partner meeting with writers, producers; directors meeting with executives in order to make new content. That’s the real focus, different to Mipcom or some other international markets that are quite heavily centered around distribution and selling content. Banff is absolutely the place where new content is born.

What type of executives usually attend the market?

People interested in attending Bannf are either people looking to commission new content: broadcasters seeking pre-sales, or to get in the projects early, broadcasters, streamers and distributors looking to pick up projects at an early stage for international distribution, but also producers, writers, directors who are pitching new content.

A really great thing about Banff is that there are a lot of US broadcasters and streamers, studios and commissioners at the festival. So really Banff is kind of an entry way or a portal for international producers to be reaching the Canadian, UK, and US broadcasters and streamers.

Are Hispanic executives usually in attendance?

We do have participation from Latin America, and Hispanic territories around the world, for sure. It’s absolutely a territory we would like to grow and some of the best and biggest hits of the world have come from there. Money Heist is one of the biggest shows around the world and hits like that have really put a spotlight on Spanish language content. For us, being an international media festival, it’s important to have representation across the world and to have Spanish content, Hispanic content… that’s definitely something we would like to do.

If for instance you’re a Mexican or Spanish producer, would this market be interesting for you?

If you are a Spanish production company I think it’s a great place to come and meet with Canadians for potential co-productions, it’s a great place to come to meet with Canadian broadcasters for potential financing but also US broadcasters and streamers and UK. So when you are looking to create content for a global scale, you want to go somewhere where you can find global partners and I think that’s what Banff is.

This is the second year the event is taking place virtually. What’s in store for this new edition?

This is the second festival that’s running on a wholly virtual platform. Last year with the onset of the pandemic we had to cancel the festival just a few weeks before and we did a pivot like everybody else in the world to make sure we could continue what we do and we did and it was very successful. We had attendees from over 52 countries taking part on the virtual program last year.

Since then, we’ve been working on building an all new virtual conference platform. It’s actually really exciting. We’ve put a ton of works into it and we really do think it is the best virtual platform for doing business online. We focused it very much on connecting people, on getting them together so for the festival this year we have over 5000 individual opportunities fo preset meetings and interaction. We have special events, get together networking all video based for producers looking for distributors, showrunner and director of some of the biggest shows in the world who you can actually sign up to meet with in small groups. There will also be specific meet ups according to your interest to meet with other interest in the same things.

We will have a virtual lounge, conferences, panels and keynotes. We will have Ted Sarandos from Netflix, Greg Berlanti, Kaley Cuoco, Kevin Feige from Marvel…

Banff is a really great place to understand where the industry is and where it is going. We are going to have discussion about AVOD, coproduction, deals, content trends… It’s really a place to get a good feeling for everywhere the industry is going.

What participation are you expecting?

It’s hard to say because people are still signing up, but we’ll have well over 1.000 already registered and we expect it to at least double.

And what percentage will be international attendees?

We usually have a good mix of international participants. Its hard to say in this virtual world but maybe at least 25-30% or even more. The remained its made of US and Canadian.

I think that for and international production company it’s a really great place to have a portal to that Us market in a way that maybe isn’t that possible in some of the bigger events.

One thing is important to know is that Banff it’s not a huge event. It is small by comparison to Natpe or Mipcom, Miptv because it is a gathering of people that are at the pinnacle of their career. Its not a lot of people but we like to say its the right people.

In the physical market at Banff usually around 1.500 people attend the festival and those people are at a level of the industry that are all decision makers so it’s a really great place to get access to others who can actually decide on things.