The great city film festivals exist of course as important events in their own terms. Without the pressure of a major market and often of competitions, they often succeed in their core mission to public celebration of film and film-makers.

'We can just invite what we think are the best films without worrying so much about world premieres,' says Sandra Hebron, artistic director of The Times BFI London Film Festival.

But from London to Rio, the lovingly constructed programmes are increasingly including industry events, some of which are grabbing precious time in the business calendar.

As the sometimes acrimonious relationship between Rome and Venice demonstrated last year, competition for industry attention can add tension to the festival scene.

The festivals have since moved dates to try to alleviate some of the disagreements. But Turin has recently entered the fray and looked like it would be the one to watch having appointed Nanni Moretti to a major role, only to see him pull out after disagreements.

The tensions within the city scene have now spilled over to Berlin: in remarks yesterday, its festival director Dieter Kosslick expressed unhappiness about the financial muscle Rome was able to wield. Some of the most interesting competitions these days are between festivals rather than as part of their official events.

The obvious question is why these niche industry events attached to the city events are growing and what's in it for the business.

Gaps In The Calendar

The simple answer is that the international business is expanding and the current infrastructure of global markets cannot accommodate the change.

Certainly that's a big part of the thinking at Pusan, which last year hosted the inaugural Asian Film Market.

It had always had a strong industry role but its aspirations now are clearly to become an A-list market with a pan-regional and global focus, filling a demand that could not be matched at the European and US based markets.

The flowering of internationally-recognised Asian films and the continuing emergence of China in the business are the driving forces.

That growth was matched, albeit less dramatically elsewhere and logically one would expect more product to drive the creation of more markets.

What's interesting is that, despite the talk, no one has stepped into fill the gap left by the demise of the Milan-based Mifed in 2005.

Rather it seems that the buyers and sellers of film are finding homes appropriate to their specific product areas, ranging from the grand ambitions of Pusan to much more tailored local services.

The international market has not so much fragmented as specialised.

Given the cost of flying and staying at festivals, finding a gap in the current flow of business and meeting buyer needs is important. Considerations like the right place in the calendar vital.

The new Rome Film Festival filled an important gap in the packed timetable for someone like Francois Yon, CEO of international sales agency, Films Distribution.

'I think there's a demand and a need for an intermediary European market which is not the AFM - what used to be Mifed and I think we are getting into a potential new Rome-AFM war,' he said.

Regional Focus

In fact, the battles may turn out to be rather smaller scale skirmishes and that's because the specialist industry events at the major city festivals have tended to have a clear geographical context.

The Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, for example, has seen a big expansion over recent years by building on a niche which has been expanding fast in recent years - the growing global and local interest in Latin American film.

Its three industry sections have become a core part of the festival programme.

'We need to have a market that is focussed for buyers on local product,' says the festival's executive director Walkiria Barbosa.

'The international markets and festivals around the world are too widely focussed.'

That specialisation is equally important now at festivals such as Copenhagen and the Flanders International Film Festival at Ghent.

But the term local almost always needs to be seen in international context.

The idea is to showcase product that will find markets beyond borders.

Donostia-San Sebastian's popular completion financing initiatives Films in Progress and Cinema In Motion illustrate the point.

This year will be the 11th edition of the Films in Progress programme which aims to attach financiers to Latin American and Spanish films currently in post-production. Cinema in Motion, launched last year in collaboration with festivals in Amiens and Fribourg, targets both new projects and nearly-completed films from the Maghreb and Portuguese-speaking Africa.

International Profile

That desire to play on the world stage also points to a rather more obvious industry benefit - global marketing.

'Rome opens people's hearts but not their wallets. We want to bring the international players to Rome to do business,' says Teresa Cavina, the International Programme Manager of the Rome Film Festival.

A festival has already bee successful in promoting the idea that Italian film is on the up, and that's no small matter to the industry now.

Italian film has been in the doldrums in recent years with cuts to public funding leading to the 2005 nadir in which just 14 publicly funded feature films produced compared to an average of 48 films each year since 2001.

So a shiny new festival in the capital is intended to send out a valuable marketing message.

Rome was insistent its industry event, The Business Street, dedicated to screenings and meetings, with over 300 international players is not planned as a real market.

But distributors enjoyed to The Business Street.

'After all, it is the only other European market after Berlin and Cannes,' points out Andrea Occhipinti of Lucky Red. It will be a great opportunity for the Italian industry to meet the buyers and sellers who have been invited, on their home ground.

City heat

There's an obvious change in the way that markets work and that films are boughtr an sold, agrees, Sheila De La Varende, director of Montreal-based Digimart, dedicated to digital trends.

The underlying trends are more profound than suggested by relatively small changes in the way that business is done.

'Right now we are in a transitional period.'

'Those on the cutting edge will have more people attending than traditional markets.'

'It's trying to address the gaps but those gaps in time are not really gaps at all. It's not about whether there is a gap in the November calendar for a deal. It will be a constant flow with business going on more fluently throughout the year.'