Interview with Matthijs Wouter Knol, EFM Director

Matthijs Wouter Knol was born in the Netherlands in 1977 and studied contemporary history at Leiden University and at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome. He worked as a freelance journalist until 2001 before joining Pieter van Huystee Film, a renowned and internationally award-winning production company in Amsterdam.

After becoming head of development in 2004, he focused on developing, financing and internationally co-producing documentary film projects.

As the associate producer of various documentary films, he worked with acclaimed filmmakers, such as Heddy Honigmann and Mani Kaul. With Arte he also co-produced the DVD edition of Johan van der Keuken’s digitally re-mastered works, which was awarded the Prix “Cahiers du Cinéma” in 2006.

In 2007, Knol started working for the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), spreading his activity between the co-production and sales markets, and the IDFAcademy training programme. As head of the latter, he initiated the IDFAcademy Summer School.

From 2008 to 2014 he was programme manager of Berlinale Talents.

Matthijs Wouter Knol is director of the European Film Market since June 2014.


CFM: To celebrate its 30-year anniversary, what are the highlights of 2018 EFM? What special events and programs are planned?

MWK: We will be celebrating the 30 years of the EFM with offering our industry professionals the best possible service and infrastructure. With redesigned and upcycled formats such as the “DocSalon” and the “Producers Hub”, with extended platforms like the Drama Series Days, EFM Horizon and the Berlinale Africa Hub and last but not least together with Canada, this year’s “Country in Focus”, we wanted to make sure that the 2018 birthday edition of the EFM will be a memorable one.


CFM: From your experience, how to maintain the film market’s professionalism for EFM? Compared with other film markets, what is the uniqueness of EFM?

MWK: The European Film Market is the first film market of the year acting like a seismograph for the industry what to expect in this film year regarding both content and technological developments. As such the EFM has become a standing date in the calendars of the film industry. Furthermore, the film market as integral part of the Berlinale is the only film market happening during a major audience film festival. The sellers and buyers of the film market have the unique opportunity to experience how audiences react to the film.

For us it is also important to adapt to the current development and changes in the film industry due to the digital and technological transformation affecting all aspects of film making. The EFM aims to be an innovation hub for the industry with initiatives such as EFM Horizon offering opportunities to discover the newest relevant technological developments, for example in the field of virtual reality, regarding artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technology, future of sales and distribution and other relevant trends. Other initiatives such as the Berlinale Africa Hub or our “Country in Focus” program – this year Canada is our focus country – aim to highlight the developments of the respective film industry and to create a platform where the EFM visitors can get in touch and network with film makers from there. The Drama Series Days once again focus on high end drama series and offers screenings and panel discussions.


CFM: Could you give us a brief introduction on the participation of Chinese films and companies at this year’s EFM? How do you think of the attendance of Chinese companies in EFM in recent years?

MWK: Every year we have many participants and exhibitors coming from China as well as from other Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand to the European Film Market. With Chinese and Asian films being selected for the line-up of the festival, the overall attendance of professionals from the Chinese and Asian film industry has certainly increased during the last years. As from time to time the EFM is taking place around the same time as the Chinese New Year, it is not always easy to entice the Chinese film industry to come to Berlin.


CFM: What are the international buyers and markets looking for in Chinese and Asian films? How do you think of the performance of Chinese films in European film markets these years? What programs and events are designed to facilitate Chinese and Asian films in this year’s EFM?

MWK: Together with the organization Bridging the Dragon, the European Film Market hosts the Sino-European Production Seminar. This program gathers European film makers with a specific interest in China. Chinese experts will give an update and overview of the Chinese film market and help them to increase their knowledge on this very complex as well as more and more relevant film market. As the European Film Market strives to offer programs that are open for all participants of the Market, Chinese and Asian film makers can participate in all other programs and formats the Market has to offer.

Regarding the presence of Chinese films, we noticed that animation films  have become more visible at the Market during the last years.


CFM: At this year’s EFM, how would you suggest Chinese films and companies to get prepared for international communication and make use of the platform EFM provides?

MWK: Information is the key to success – our EFM website gives an excellent overview of all programs and formats the Market offers its particpants. If they want to receive up-to-date information the easiest think is to subscribe to our newsletter. Market Badge holder also have access to our exhibitor, buyer and participant data base giving them the possibility to contact other participants and schedule meetings beforehand. I also recommend the above mentioned Sino-European Production Seminar because it brings Chinese film professionals together with the European film industry and gives both of them valuable information about the European Market and how to best approach it.