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Buyers to descend on UK for LUFF

Around 200 European and international distributors and festival programmers are expected in London next week for the 10th edition of the London UK Film Focus (LUFF), running June 24-27.

Premieres include Exclusive Media’s Formula 1 doc 1, StudioCanal’s horror thriller In Fear, the Damian Jones-produced Powder Room starring Sheridan Smith, Metro International’s raucous comedy The Stag and Altitude Film Sales’ The Hooligan Factory.

uConnect, the London-based sales outfit run by Peter Rogers, will be screening Summer In February, starring Dominic Cooper and Dan Stevens.

“The timing is very good for us. We did think it would stand out at LUFF,” said Rogers. The love triangle tale was released in the UK earlier this month by Metrodome.

LUFF will return to the BFI Southbank to showcase features.

Natalie Brenner, EVP of international sales at Metro International, said: “You have the best screening rooms in London. You have an invited list of really good distributors who sit and really watch films. It’s not that awful market situation where they’re half looking at their Blackberries, running in and running out.

“We always felt the Cannes marketplace was chaotic and really hard to get distributors to focus on films if they weren’t part of the festival.”

Last year’s event is understood to have generated more than $8.5m in sales.

Good timing

Regular attendee Timo T. Lahtinen, CEO of Copenhagen-based Smile Entertainment, said LUFF’s place in the film calendar increases its appeal.

He said: “LUFF has found the perfect slot. Vacations have not really started anywhere in Europe and at the same time, there isn’t very much else happening.”

In recent years, Smile has snapped up such titles as Swinging With The Finkels and From Time To Time.

Helena Mackenzie, head of inward investment and bsiness development at Film London, has overseen the event from the outset.

Edinburgh overlap

LUFF overlaps with the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June 19-30) but Mackenzie said that relations between the two events are cordial.

“We try to make that situation work as best as possible,” she added.

There are no plans for a formal partnership at this stage but LUFF organisers have not discounted the possibility that the events may find a way of working more closely together.

International sellers

In recent years, an increasing number of British films have been sold by international sales agents. LUFF has addressed this by showing up to five of these films - and, at the same time, allowing UK sales agents to show a similar number of non-British titles.

This year, French sales powerhouse Wild Bunch will be screening Ken Loach’s Spirit Of ‘45. Swedish outfit Yellow Affair will be screening A Long Way From Home. Meanwhile, British company Hanway will be screening US director James Toback’s Seduced And Abandoned.

Emerging talent

Alongside more established names, LUFF will also showcase emerging filmmakers seeking sales representation in its Breakthrough sidebar.

This year, Breakthrough will include MJ Delaney’s Powder Room and Good Morning Karachi, directed by former Golden Leopard winner Sabiha Sumar and produced by Sarah Radclyffe.

Speaking of LUFF’s established place in the film calendar, Film London chief executive Adrian Wootton pointed to “the mess that was the London screenings and all the incoherence of people coming (to London) in the autumn and then going to Mifed (the autumn market in Milan)” before the event cemented its position.

“It’s not just a talking shop or networking opportunity,” Wootton added.

“Every year, people have watched and bought films and spent money with UK films….you know what acquisitions executives are like. They are pretty brutal about their attendance at things.

“The fact they have come back each year indicates they think it is a useful business event at which to spend time.”

The event costs an estimated £175,000 to stage.

In spite of the financial crisis, the event’s supporters - which include the BFI, Mayor of London, Film Export UK and UK Trade & Investment - remain staunchly behind the event.

“The thick end of 200 grand can generate $8 million - that’s a very good return on public investment,” Wootton added.

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