Above: a still from one of OTO's virtual production shoots
As one of the most established and progressive production companies in Poland - in operation for 31 years - OTO Film Group has weathered just about every local and global production storm. With expertise in commercial, feature and online content, OTO has always looked to the future to stay ahead of the competition on a global stage.
Paying attention to trends in the region and beyond is essential to knowing what to plan for and the last few years have especially proven that expecting the unexpected is a necessary business strategy. Market volatility, a pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and now rapidly evolving AI technology means that we can all expect more shifts in the production landscape at any given moment. That’s why LBB asked the OTO Film Group - which houses seven companies under its umbrella - for a trend report.
AI, AI, AI
AI, unsurprisingly, looms large with multiple companies already reporting changes to their workflows or foreseeing the changes in due course. Under Ski Tower, a new long-format production company launched last year, is already seeing a lot of demand for music videos and TV shows, pre-production on its first feature started in July. “Every day we come across solutions supported by AI, both in the pre-production and post-production stages of project creation. This will become increasingly prevalent. More creators will take advantage of this technology and the way we seek to partner and produce with creators is rapidly changing too,” says Pawel Jozwik, MD and EP.
At VuFinder Studios, a virtual production studio, AI is already having a huge impact. “In the last few months, we’ve been fully taking advantage of the rapidly evolving capabilities of AI technology by creating storyboards, reference pictures, and animatics, almost effortlessly, thanks to AI image generators,” says Melania Kulczycka, VuFinder’s client services director. “We will see the industry experimenting more with MetaHumans from Epic Games to explore how to incorporate these virtual humans into projects. We believe that soon MetaHumans will help to reduce production costs and improve efficiency,” she adds.
Anna Oldak, MD, at Cafe Ole, a sound studio, echoes these sentiments. “The hottest topic right now is AI and its capabilities. Until now, everyone has been observing from a distance but now it has become a real tool for work. Next is actually applying AI and taking care of the legal aspects of creators' copyrights.”
The director and DOP agency Jugglers foresees using AI to cut down on administration and to focus on finding Poland’s next generation of film talent. “AI will take over some parts of talent agencies' jobs. With AI’s ability to quickly analyse huge amounts of information, we’ll be creating reels, presentations and gathering references in just a few clicks. Checking, combining, and adjusting talent schedules will become way simpler which will give us more time to focus on finding new talent,” says Lana Artemenko, MD.
The war in Ukraine
With war in Ukraine ongoing, OTO Film is privy to the effects its having on the country and neighbouring regions creative industries. “The war forced Ukrainian directors and other crew to move all over the world, looking for new opportunities. While supporting Ukraine, they’ve opened offices abroad and engaged and collaborated with international companies. We’ll see more Ukrainian names in big international film productions this year and beyond,” says Lana.
ORKA, which specialises in VFX and post-production, welcomed several Ukrainian VFX artists to its team following the start of the war. “We grew and developed our team of experts further with help from some very talented artists from Ukraine,” adds ORKA’s Magda Zimecka, MD.
As the cost-of-living crisis unfolds and multiple European countries teeter on the edge of a recession, production has understandably been affected too. “The last six months have seen a recession of sorts and hesitation from brands to spend budgets. Work has been slower than anticipated but the board flow is picking up and we’re seeing a more fluid pipeline in terms of where our jobs are coming in from, not just geographically, but also within the traditional hierarchy of commissioners,” explains Andre Troubetzkoi, OTO Film’s head of development.
ORKA is tackling the tricky market conditions head on by “establishing a new reference cinema hall with the latest technology available.” This will serve as a point of connection between the feature and commercial markets with the company foreseeing an increase in demand for long-form content.
Diversity will continue to be a sticking point for global brands and D!fference, a casting agency with a focus on diversity, knows this all too well. Victoria Okonkwo, D!fference’s CEO, is working behind the scenes to shift the perception of casting in Poland. “We’re constantly recruiting new talent and extending our portfolio to get more recognition and to be seen as an inclusive place in the commercial acting area.”
Andre says that “as technology and business models rapidly change, fewer people are saying “no” to getting things done differently.” Change often begets more change and if doing things differently means doing things better and more efficiently, OTO welcomes that change with open arms.