Newsfrom the floor of the European Film Market as it wrapped for another year:busier than ever before. While there were no headline-grabbing North Americanor multi-territory deals forged by the classics divisions of Hollywood studios,serious business was done. One seller alone reported over 500 deals completedhere.
Non-English-languagecommercial fare and art-house pictures were snapped up. And the big-ticketdeals on genre fare traded between Korea and Japan - one deal reportedly sailedclose to the $7m mark - comfortably compared with prices paid by US buyers.
"Berlinhas clearly benefited from the absence of the February AFM," Francois Yon,co-chief of Film Distribution, said. "It started slowly but really pickedup speed. Distributors have needed to buy now for their end of 2005 slates.Cannes is a little too late for that and there is nothing between now andCannes."
"Thishas been great on all fronts; in terms of sales, meetings, territories sold andacquisitions," added Hengameh Panahi, president of Celluloid Dreams."With over 500 deals signed, we've had our biggest ever market." Thatwas a refrain echoed at numerous other sales outfits including leading indieoutfits Bavaria and Fortissimo.
Admittedly,Berlin was quiet in terms of US grabs - especially compared to Sundance, whereParamount Classics, Miramax and Warner Independent each made multipleacquisitions.
But,said Fortissimo's senior executive Nicole Mackey: "Everyone who shouldhave been in Berlin has been here, though some people came a bit late. It wasas if they had not realised what a large and vital market this is. The absenceof films being sold by the likes of New Line, Miramax and Focus did not affectus at all."
Ina new trend, Sebastian Kiesmueller, sales executive at Bavaria FilmInternational, noted: "We have seen more Asian buyers at this market andthe arrival of video products at the EFM."
However,sounding a note of caution, buyers, and sellers in particular, have ongoingreservations about the physical structure of next year's EFM when the marketwill shift to the regal Martin Gropius Bau building on the other side ofPotsdamer Platz. "Next year will be more centralised," said Mackey."But it must have a constant stream of shuttles between the market, the festivalsand hotels. And I mean constant."
ReikoBradley of Australian seller Becker Films echoed her concerns : "This yearwas my first Berlin and it points to a market that could be the equal to theAFM next year," she said. "But we all want to know how good thescreening rooms in the market building will be and what will happen to buyersas there is no direct route between the festival and the market.
ClaudiaLandsberger of Holland Film pointed out that "there were a lot more peoplecoming here and coming earlier. There could be an argument for extending themarket screenings." She also worried that since the market moved toPotsadamer Platz, there has been a disconnect between the press and theindustry and this could worsen next year. "The press are our naturalallies. The market organisers have to come up with a way of bringing buyers andsellers and the journalists back together."