An undercurrent at this year's Berlin International Film Festival was an uneasy feeling of a business in flux. It did not stop strong sales being made nor did it undermine the expansion of the European Film Market (EFM). Indeed, Wild Bunch, which had shunned the refurbished Martin Gropius Bau for its own makeshift HQ, boasted record sales.

It is more that there is a sense that the rules of the game are being rewritten but we are not yet playing by them. There is widespread acceptance, for example, that digital rights - video-on-demand, download-to-own etc - were for the first time a serious part of business negotiations this year.

So serious, in fact, that not much business was actually done. Given the uncertainty about how much digital rights might actually be worth, how to partition rights, or what their legal standing might be, many sales companies simply decided not to sell.

It is not that the value is not recognised. Mark Horowitz, of H20 Motion Pictures, told Screen International: "This is the future. Theatrical distribution could become a promotional window and video on demand could become more important."

Gregor Pryor, associate at global law firm Reed Smith, told the Screen-backed Arts Alliance Media digital debates series at the EFM that the industry is in the middle of a "land grab". "Everyone wants to experiment with these new platforms but they want to do it at the expense of the content owner," he said.

That is unquestionably true but it is a peculiar kind of buying frenzy in which most participants seem to be saying 'give us the future, but not now'.

Digital, of course, has moved from the world of The X-Files into the mainstream because it is becoming increasingly critical to find new revenue sources as TV and DVD money begins to slow. There is now general understanding that digital changes are not about technology but about finance. And it is the economics of the business in its broadest sense that unsurprisingly causes most concern.

There is growing recognition that European film is not going to be bailed out by some undiscovered tax loophole. Indeed, public subsidies that are available are merely a chip in a global game in which tax support is taken merely as a nice add-on.

It is perhaps interesting that one promising avenue that did open up - Dresdner Kleinwort's proposal to suck in some of that institutional investment awash in the US - was treated with some caution (see In Focus, p6).

There are a number of reasons why. One is that embracing the future is not simply about a quiet adjustment to the existing models, but is truly disruptive to the status quo.

Another cause for concern for film-makers is that there has been a lot of talk recently about handing them control and cutting out the middlemen. However, most film-makers did not enter the film business to take charge of their financial destiny but to express themselves creatively.

But there is no option to disengage. This is surely the last EFM where one can realistically hold back digital rights. And it is surely the last EFM when we talk in the abstract about major slate finance schemes and other finance schemes to capture the US private equity boom. Such funding will either benefit Europe or it will be hoovered up elsewhere.

It is not too much of a stretch to see that sense of being at the crossroads in this year's Berlinale films. There have been lots of competent films, and the occasional compelling one, but you get the feeling that we are waiting for a renewed burst of energy and ideas.

Perhaps too many people think we are holding a wolf by the ears, with the dangers of letting go overshadowing the prospects for the future. But what is interesting when one analyses the potential for change is that the dangers are generally beyond the control of film-makers, while the opportunities can still be won.