In connection with the Association of Czech Animation Film’s long-term strategic focus on increasing the competitiveness of Czech animation and the economic performance of individual subjects, an excursion to the Animation Media Cluster Region in Stuttgart, Germany, took place at the end of last year.

Stuttgart is one of the most industrialised areas in Europe. Thanks to Mercedes and Porsche car manufacturers, many tens of thousands of people work in the automotive industry and employment in the area is predominantly dependent on this industrial commodity. The government of the German state of Baden-Württemberg is therefore trying to develop other industries too and, similarly to economists in places like South Korea, are turning their attention to the “leisure economy”: the development and production of audiovisual works, especially animation and digital postproduction.

Representatives of the creative industry in cooperation with the public sector (government of Baden-Württemberg) aim to set up a cluster of companies that will offer high-quality animation and visual effects services to clients from all over the world.

The idea to visit the cluster in Stuttgart (AMCRS) stemmed from a growing need to bring new impulses and trends to animation in the Czech Republic, particularly from developed markets. As the analysis of the animation sector in the Czech Republic shows, a limitation of our competitiveness on an international scale stems from the fragmentation of our creative capacities into a great number of small studios; therefore, it is logical and necessary to think about how to improve the situation and establish closer cooperation between the studios and producers.

Ten Czech producers and representatives of studios took part in the excursion at the end of November 2018. It was the first visit of its kind not only for the ASAF members, but also for the AMCRS itself. “We approached the Cluster Manager Stefanie Larson in the matter of a visit and exchange of experience. We met Stefanie at FMX in 2017, and the following year we agreed on the basic outlines of the visit and our mutual expectations in Annecy. We were wondering where the idea of ​​combining the forces of the various players in the field was born and how this connection and synergy works among companies that are, in fact, competitors. We also wanted to know how the involvement of other institutions, schools and the regional fund, which are also part of the cluster, works “says Marek Toušek, Vice-Chairman of ASAF.

At its foundation, the cluster set out simple goals: to raise the quality and volume of work done in the region to increase the economic potential of this popular sector of the knowledge economy.

At the beginning was the idea of ​​founding a school. FILMAKADEMIE Baden-Württemberg is now among the best in the world not only in the preparation of its students for specific positions in the audiovisual industry, but also in the development of new technologies, postproductions and animation applications. Together with the Filmakademie, other schools belong to the group as well – e.g. the Faculty of Music.

At present, AMCRS has around 20 members, mostly post-production studios and a few purely animation-oriented studios, and 4 schools. Membership is selective. Member companies employ about 650 workers and have an annual production volume of about EUR 30 million. 90% of the cluster is funded by public funds (the Ministry of Culture and Science through the Film Fund) and 10% by membership contributions.

A member of the regional fund MFG Filmförderung Baden-Württemberg (MFG) is also among the bodies in the cluster, which is an important element for sharing the needs of the field and listening to the public and private sector. Thanks to the fund’s presence in the cluster, there is quick feedback on the demands of the industry so that it remains competitive. The outcomes achieved show that this pragmatic setup brings economic results. There’s annual support of about EUR 15 million from MFG Local available for production and studios. Both the federal government of Baden-Württemberg and the local public service broadcaster SWR are represented in the fund and the objective is to stimulate audiovisual production in the region through various forms of grants and incentives.

The idea rests upon building a strong brand for the cluster in a global context. We wanted to know whether companies are connected in organisational and technological ways too so that, for example, the work of two or more studios on one project is as effective as possible. The connection is, however, only on the basis of an umbrella brand, which makes sense. Great efforts are devoted to marketing and PR. Cluster representatives promote the services of their members around the world. An excellent accelerator is the global FMX conference held annually at the end of May by the Filmakademie Baden Württemberg.

The mentality of the German economy is directed towards small and medium-sized enterprises. But these are inherently unable to solve huge orders, especially those from Hollywood studios. A cluster of smaller companies is thus a logical solution for bigger orders. It should also be mentioned though that studios are global players – they are often global companies with branches on several continents.

The promotion of the entire region as dynamic and visionary goes hand in hand with the promotion of the cluster and its individual members. The cluster’s PR activities within the region are highly interesting and take place in the form of meetings of representatives of creative interdisciplinary dialogue to raise awareness of the animation field and VFX among other industries and vice versa. This has two levels of benefits. On the one hand, it leads to the improvement of mutual trade relations; on the other, it promotes the sharing of common themes in business activity in the region. It is a great example of the creative world meeting traditionally industrial fields.

Germany is also a potentially suitable country for co-production with Czech producers. “Our visit was therefore intended to present our productions and studios as potential partners. I think this initiative was perceived positively. German colleagues appreciated that each of us introduced at least one of our own projects. This is not so common with their productions and studios, which focus mostly on offering services. The aim of the event was not only to get to know potential German co-producers, but also to find inspiration and models for the development of this area of ​​the audiovisual industry in our country. Baden – Württemberg is in many ways comparable to the Czech Republic in its population size, industrial orientation, and culture. There is even some similarity to our field, i.e. film schools and the number of workers in the industry. The cluster’s strategies are in fact not far from the strategy defined by ASAF for the development of the animation industry. Our visit to the cluster brought inspiration especially in the area of cooperation with state institutions, communication with potential partners abroad and, last but not least, the emphasis on talent development. This inspiration will be further developed by ASAF and applied to its strategy,” – Michal Podhradský, Vice-Chairman of ASAF.

More about the Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart: