The 29th Short Film Market at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival closed on Feb 7.

Clermont-Ferrand has long been established as the most important market for short films and the end of its 29th edition indicates that the short film industry is starting to weather the storm that also hit the markets of its feature length cousin over the past few years.

Indeed, things looked rather bleak a scant few years ago with financial constraints meaning that the Short Film Market felt a little sparse, with the British stand being a notable absentee. But the past couple of years has seen confidence return.

Full figures for the 2014 Market have yet to be confirmed, though the announced accreditation figure of 3,500 is roughly equivalent with 2013, a year which saw more than 3,300 industry delegates including 46 TV buyers, 92 distributors, 85 theatre exhibitors and 505 festival curators.

2014 included attendance from sales agents and distributors including Shorts International, KurzFilmAgentur Hamburg, Studiocanal and Ouat Media alongside festival programmers from Cannes, Lorcarno, Palm Springs, Encounters, London FF and many others.

“It’s the biggest short film festival in terms of making both sales and acquisitions,” explained Simon Young, head of film sales and acquisitions at Shorts International and a programmer at the London Film Festival, to Screen.

“All the buyers come, all the festivals come and it’s a key event. It’s been pretty busy here this year I think. There’s a big Chinese presence now. A big Latin American presence. You can see there’s a lot of money being spent here [by the various film organisations].”

Clermont-Ferrand’s Roger Gonin is optimistic about the current state of the Short Film Market

“Last year the British came back. It’s been difficult to accommodate the Spanish because they have needed more room,” he said speaking exclusively to Screen.

“We have more people from Eastern Europe. There are people from the likes of Madagascar, the West Indies and Latin America. There are people from China here. Anne [Parent, head of the Short Film Market] was dealing with the fact that we didn’t have enough space.

“We had the International Short Film Conference and there were over 70 festivals there. We have Video Market which is all online and you can see the films [more than 7,000] nine months after the festival. But we’re still having plenty of market screenings.”

Rimanté Daugélaité, the head of Lithuanian Shorts, an organisation which began to attend the Short Film Market last year, also attests to the importance of the market. Before Clermont there was little visibility for the Baltic country’s burgeoning short film industry. But during Clermont:

“We got a massive amount of interest from festival organisers and TV programmers all wanting to know about Lithuanian Shorts. Last year we made more than 20 special programmes of Lithuanian Shorts at international film festivals.

“We had a market screening with five Lithuanian shorts and these also got many, many invitations to festivals. I remember with Liza Go Home [a short doc which would go on to screen at the likes of London FF and Leeds] everyone came out of the screening and asked me ‘How can we find that filmmaker and screen that film?’”

This year’s market saw many examples of the stabilising – perhaps even growing – industry. The Euro Connection Co-Production pitching forum occurred for a second time with filmmakers from across Europe pitching for help and support from a number of the sales agents and organisations in attendance.

The British Council also launched the UK Shorts Portal, an online screening platform (created by reelport) for short film professionals which contains films from the BFI and Film London amongst others. It replaced the usual myriad of DVDs that fly around Clermont something that was also evident with the likes of Swiss Films and the New Zealand Film Commission who had also moved to online platforms to showcase their new films to professionals.

Gonin is confident about the future of the Short Film Market

“We need to have more space as we need to accommodate more countries. It will be a problem, but it’s a good problem to have,” outlined Gonin. 

“We also need to find a place for film schools. But that means there are more and more people in it. People realise that in the industry it’s important to put some energy into the short film arena. We had people from New York University and they said ‘Oh we need a booth here’.

“Also, there are still plenty of people trying to figure out different kinds of distribution. There’s a lot of platforms for short film and there are more short film festivals. If you think of 36 years ago when we started here, no-one knew what short films were about.

“Things have changed tremendously. There is the place where the young ones get into the industry. The wealth of the short film industry is in its massive diversity.”