Flexibility has been the key to preparing the 2010 edition of the European Film Market (EFM), according to market director Beki Probst.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily, she admitted: “It hasn’t been an easy ride. When things are going well, people make decisions very quickly, but this year is a special one in the sense that [the exhibitors] needed more time to decide about booking a stand. That’s why I put a notice on my office door saying ‘flexibility and patience’.

“When I look at the numbers, we are doing quite well. People are trying very hard to put the trauma behind them and are looking optimistically to a vision for the future. They are saying that it can’t get worse,” she added.

According to figures on January 7, with four weeks to go before the beginning of the Berlinale and EFM on February 11, 394 companies have registered for the market (compared to 408 in 2009). Exhibitors are coming from 48 countries, with the bulk from the USA, France, UK and Germany.

There is a significant increase in the number of stands at the central market venue in the Martin Gropius Bau (MGB) from 77 to 90, while the number of stands or offices in the Marriott Hotel currently stands at 42 (compared to 71 last year).

Probst’s motto of flexibility has also extended to allowing people more time to apply for accreditation and stand space. “We have not been holding strictly to deadlines,” she said.

Another challenge for EFM has been the number of exhibitors that have gone into bankruptcy or have ceased trading since last year’s edition. Around 30 companies have disappeared since last February.

Nevertheless, over 120 new companies (including 69 as part of the MEDIA Programme umbrella stand) will be taking a stand or office at the EFM for the first time. This will include a new umbrella stand for the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA), which covers 13 US companies, five of which are new to EFM.

In addition, around 12 Japanese companies will be visiting Berlin for the first time including Nippon Television Network Corporation and the Toei Animation Co, and US companies including The Little Film Company, Rex Media, Cinepro Pictures International and Entertainment 7 will be setting up shop with offices or stands in the Marriott.

Meanwhile, the number of buyers visiting this year’s edition is already up on last year from 878 to 913. So far a majority are from the US, UK, France and Germany.

At present, it appears the Berlinale will be a Weinstein-free zone. Probst said: “We don’t have any films from the Weinsteins at the market so far. Focus Features, on the other hand, will be in a hotel this year and they are still part of the market: we will have them in the catalogue and be showing their films.

“Times are changing and flexibility gives you a chance to adapt yourself. It was important for me at the time to have [The Weinstein Company and Focus] in the MGB, but we have now used these spaces for other companies.”

Probst revealed that she is lining up a raft of innovations for this year’s market. This year will see EFM collaborating with the Astor Film Lounge to offer market screenings in 3D using RealD technology. This will be supported by a special shuttle service will be available to ferry market participants to the cinema, which is a 15 minute ride from the MGB at Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm.

There will also be increased space for delegates to work, hold meetings and network through a new EFM Lounge, which will be situated on the second floor of the MGB. This space, which had has been used by Arts Alliance Media for screening lounges in the past, will also serve as the location of daily “Meet the Distributors” sessions organised by the Meet the Docs platform.

In addition, the EFM has entered into a partnership with festival and market database Cinando, which will include a EFM section on the site and free access for registered delegates.

While festival director Dieter Kosslick has been preparing numerous events and initiatives to celebrate the festival’s 60th anniversary, the EFM did its bit by offering a $145 (€100) discount on the market badges until the end of November. Provisional figures suggests the move was welcomed with EFM accreditations up from 5,585 in 2009 to 6,256 so far; while Market Badges have risen from 2053 to 2,249. The number of EFM Screening Passes has also risen to 279 from 215 at the beginning of January last year.

Probst said the discount was meant as a sign. “Times are tough and we are with you and trying from our side. After all, we are in the same boat.”