There was a glimmer of optimism at this year’s European Film Market, according to director Beki Probst who said she was “agreeably surprised” buy this year’s edition.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily on the EFM’s last day on Friday (February 20) she said “it was difficult to predict what would happen. At last year’s market, people were all very depressed, but when I walked around the market this year, there was more optimism in the air. Alison Thompson [of Focus International] said to me that [the situation] is slowly turning to a sellers’ market. The buyers have been very cautious in not buying, but now everyone needs films.

“After a year of difficult times, people are perhaps starting to think that it’s not always good to just act negatively,” she continued. “In a way, it may be that a healthier situation is coming back, although that’s not to say that everyone is bathing in roses. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel which has been 365 days long.”

Berlinale festival director Dieter Kosslick added: “Even those people who always say that the glass is half empty were happy. I made some spontaneous visits to the market and the reactions of the people I met there were very positive. The Danes said that they had never sold so much as at this year’s market.”

Probst promised to investigate the question of access for EFM non-buyer badge-holders to press screenings for next year. It follows problems early in the market, where non-buyers were barred from competition press screenings although the festival later reneged. Technically only press and buyers are allowed admission in press screenings but, for many years, there has been an unspoken agreement that other accredited guests could take available sears shortly before the screening begins. Staff at cinemas were instructed to be “more accommodating” after following rules too assiduously.

“The press screenings are for the press, but we have an arrangement with [Berlinale press officer] Frauke Greiner that people with the non-buyers badge can wait before a press screening at the Berlinale Palast. If there are seats available 10-15 minutes before, then the cinema staff will let them in.”

Probst said that she would ensure that the Berlinale Palast cinema staff are informed of this “flexible” arrangement head of next year’s festival. “These people should get an instruction from our side as well as from the festival organisation because it is our clients we are sending to the screenings,” she noted

Indeed, in an era where competition between the festivals and markets is becoming harsher, the service aspect and meeting customers’ needs becomes paramount. “I had a note from one of our market participants last year thanking us for the staff’s polite treatment at the Berlinale Palast and saying that it was ‘not like the bulldogs in Cannes’,” she said.  “I don’t want to have that being something happening here.”