The Unifrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, which wrapped in Paris earlier this week, was roundly lauded by participants for the opportunity it provides to sales companies and distributors to meet in a relaxed atmosphere.
While there were some deals concluded, many sales companies were either as-yet-unable to announce details or waiting to make a splash entering Berlin.
Striking a high note, however, was Films Distribution's announcement that it had begun financing on the Audrey Tautou-starring Coco Before Chanel. The film is to be directed by Anne Fontaine on a $22m (Euros 15m) budget. Philippe Carcassonne and Haut et Court are producing with Films Distribution handling financing and international sales.
Films Distribution's Nicolas Brigaud-Robert told ScreenDaily.com that his team had been approached by large companies and is in the process of negotiating multi-territory deals which will soon be announced. 'As soon as we opened the door to say we were ready to start discussing money, we were flooded,' says Brigaud-Robert. The company plans to announce Coco's international financing by the start of Berlin. Script supervision on the film, which is in French, is being handled by Atonement's Christopher Hampton.
Films Distribution also concluded sales on Gilles Legrand's The Maiden And The Wolves, which premiered during the Rendez-Vous, in Greece, Switzerland and Belgium. 'The market is very useful for buyers who get to see something when it's new and it's a great moment in good conditions without buyers being troubled or seduced by the competition. Here, they concentrate on the French line up. It's very practical before Berlin for buyers and for ourselves,' contends Brigaud-Robert.
Spanish distributor Enrique Gonzalez of Alta Films says that one of the titles that buyers were buzzing about included TF1's Female Agents directed by Jean-Paul Salome and starring Sophie Marceau. The film had its world premiere during the event. Further, folks were talking about Celluloid Dreams' Fear(s) Of The Dark which has a berth in the New Frontier section at Sundance.
Gonzalez says that overall the event was a success although he lamented the lack of Spanish journalists on site. Unifrance invited 350 distributors and 140 journalists from 29 countries this year with the journalists being granted access to talent in order to stockpile interviews for local release dates. According to Gonzalez, not enough journalists from Spain were invited, though.
He did say that while the screenings were not full there were a lot of attendees and that Films Distribution's Chanel project indeed created strong buzz amongst buyers.
Eliane Dubois of Belgium's Cineart echoed the sentiment that Female Agents had struck a chord but her company had already pre-bought the film. Dubois remarked that she rarely does business at the event because Belgium is so often the first to pre-buy French titles. Indeed, for Dubois the Rendez-Vous is a good place to get 'a compete view of all sales companies for the next months. Even if it's easy as we are neighbors it's still not bad to see each other,' she says.
Pape Boye, co-principal of sales company Coach 14 says that buyers in general were very happy but that some said the selection of official screenings was a bit weak.
Meanwhile, A record $1.47bn (Euros 1.009bn) was invested in French film production for 2007. In total, 186 films of French initiative were produced for the year while 228 films were eligible for the CNC's subsidy program. The figure is higher than last year's 203 but still falls under the record of 240 films in 2005.