Yesterday (Sunday) in Berlin, young thesps from all over Europe were paraded at a series of events in Berlin as part of the 7th 'Shooting Star' showcase.

They had 'speed breakfasts' with casting directors, met the press at a special lunch in the Hotel Esplanade and rubbed shoulders with directors, producers (and a small army of sponsors) at a swanky gala dinner in the Hotel Adlon.

The event, co-ordinated by European Film Promotions, is fast becoming a permanent fixture at the Berlinale. Many now illustrious names have passed through its ranks (among them, Franka Potente, Rachel Weisz, and Daniel Craig) but who does it benefit and is it really helping kick start a new European star system'. Screen canvassed a range of opinion.

For Rome-based casting director Beatrice Kruger (who has been attending Shooting Stars for several years) Shooting Stars is 'very useful because it's organised with perfect German perfection. Everybody knows why they're there - which is to meet as many people as possible.' Kruger has cast several former 'shooting stars' in major films, among them Maya Sansa (the lead in Marco Bellocchio's Buongiorno, Notte), and Ludvine Sagnier.

Danish casting director Rie Hedegaard was putting an equally positive spin on the event. 'To me, it was great to mingle with other casting directors and agents as well as the Shooting Stars.'

Others argue that the track-records of the stars is too varied to give it coherence. Spain's Elena Anaya, for example, has been working for years and is set to appear this summer in studio tentpole Van Helsing. Others have just made their first films.

Anaya said that she had received one film offer from a director over breakfast, and was meeting to discuss another project in the evening.

Dublin-born actress Eva Birthistle (whose new film Timbuktu screens today in the market) admits that she had never heard of the event before being selected for this year's event. 'They lead you to believe that it's all wining and dining but there's actually quite a lot to do'the best bit about it is that they (EFP) bring agents and casting directors to you rather than your having to go to them.:'

Portuguese/Sao Tome actor Angelo Torres said Shooting Stars organised a very full three days, while Andreas Wilson - star of Oscar nominated Evil - said that it led to good press exposure and 'contacts for life'.

Francine Brucher of the Swiss Film Institute (which brought young actor Michael Koch, star of Swiss box-office hit Ready, Steady, Charlie! to the event) was also striking an upbeat note about the event. 'The press from Switzerland gives it huge coverage, which is very good for us.'

EFP President Claudia Landsberger said that press interest has mushroomed since the event was launched in 1998. 'And for the participants, psychologically, they take a huge step (with Shooting Stars). It's an enormous experience for them.'

The Shooting Stars event is backed by the Media Programme (which picks up 50% of the costs), Volkswagen and by the national film agencies. It will again go 'on the road' again this year. Its ports of call will include Copenhagen and Thessalonikli.