It is a truth acknowledged universally that an international producer in possession of a good project must be in want of a backer.
But as the international market adjusts to a new business reality, producers, particularly those with mid-level budgets, are struggling to find suitors.
Not only is Hollywood awash with cash right now, flooding distribution schedules and disrupting the traditional pre-sales pipeline, but the broadcasting industry is undergoing profound change of its own.
'It's more and more difficult to finance films. There's a need to look for money, for partners,' says Vincent Maraval, co-chief of French mini-studio Wild Bunch.
Stepping into the breach are an increasing number of international co-production events, usually connected to a festival. Two events are on everyone's lips right now: Rotterdam's 25-year-old CineMart, and the inaugural Production Film Market (PFM), due to kick off during this month's London Film Festival.
'We started out as a general market for the buying and selling of films, but we realised there was another need, especially within Europe,' says CineMart chief Marit van den Elshout. CineMart quickly became the place where - as Elshout puts it - 'producers could come together, meet and possibly find co-production partners'.
It is now regarded as the biggest and the best, particularly for smaller European and international arthouse projects.
Since then, similar events have sprouted up worldwide. While all vary slightly, most of the co-production markets are run along roughly similar lines. Projects selected will generally need to have some financing already attached. The organisers will introduce potential co-producers, sales agents, television buyers, distributors and financiers in one-on-one meetings.
'They're a great place to meet new people and to hear about new projects from people you know,' says UK sales agent Hilary Davis of London-based Bankside. 'We've just come back from No Borders in New York. Unless you go to events, you won't meet new people. People are very open at festivals and markets. Once you go back to your office and get behind your desk, it's much harder to meet people.'
Making friends or finding funds'
However, a common criticism is that co-production markets are soft events, more about networking than actual deal-making.
'I don't think these co-production markets are places where you make deals,' says Philippe Bober of Paris and Berlin-based sales and financing outfit The Co-Production Office. 'They are places where you refresh contacts or, if you are a newcomer, make contacts.
'With directors, it can be a pitching exercise that has beneficial side effects with the scriptwriting,' he continues. 'You tell the same story 50 times and you're asked questions - and some of the questions are good questions.'
Bober himself has sealed deals at CineMart on Lou Ye's Suzhou River, for which he screened 40 minutes as a work-in-progress and secured two pre-sales, including one to Uplink in Japan. 'It paid the first instalment the same week on the production account in China,' he recalls.
The PFM has a very different agenda. It aims to be a 'finance' market, not a co-production event, and is pitched squarely at mid-budget UK projects. 'If you look at the European film industry and you look at the London film industry, the huge question that everyone talks about is sustainability,' notes Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London which is helping to stage the event. 'We want to move on from a situation which is based on producers and production companies struggling along from one project to another, scrabbling along in development... lurching onto another project,' he says.
The idea is not just to bring producers together with soft financiers such as distributors and state funding boards, but with private financiers who - in Wootton's words - 'have real money to put cornerstone financing in place'.
He adds: 'This isn't about saying (as a producer), I've got some regional funding from Berlin and a bit of regional money from so and so in the UK and therefore let's do a UK co-production. It's people coming with individual projects and slates and staring into the eyes of some serious financiers.'
What is in the event for the financiers' 'You would have to have an awful lot of time on your hands to be aware of every project in genesis in the UK,' says Heather Mansfield, who is attending the PFM on behalf of Standard Chartered Bank. 'I certainly don't and why would someone based in Los Angeles or New York''
PFM players and projects
The PFM has attracted major international players including Focus Features, StudioCanal, Filmax, Miramax, The Weinstein Company, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. The projects being discussed over the two-day talking shop are not esoteric European arthouse movies made on shoestrings.
According to Wootton, the average budget for projects at the PFM is $7m-$8m (at co-production events such as CineMart, most projects are pitched at a far lower financial level). They include Priority Pictures' The Club, Endboard Films' The Bounty Hunter, First Foot Films' Quiver, Tiger Lily Films' La Chinoise and slates from such UK companies as Dan Films, Kudos, Recorded Picture Company, Free Range, Ealing Studios, Warp, Ruby Films, Slingshot and DNA.
'We intimated to (the financiers) that every major producer in the UK who wasn't making a film, together with key players from other territories, would be there,' Wootton says.
Judging by the international banks, hedge funds, private-equity groups and tax players who will be in attendance, the PFM looks set to provide real opportunities to back the most commercial UK projects available.
UK producer Rebecca O'Brien, who runs Sixteen Films with director Ken Loach, is taking Henrique Goldman's project Jean Charles, about the fatal shooting by the police of an innocent man on the London Underground, to the PFM. It will be the first time O'Brien will attend a co-production event. 'We need a producing partner,' she says.
Free Range Films' Kevin Loader is attending the PFM with a slate of projects. 'Increasingly I think it's a world we all ought to be immersing ourselves in.'
Whether for co-production, finance or networking purposes, the need for events that match partners with projects will not abate anytime soon. The PFM, CineMart and co seem one of the best ways to help the international industry find its own happy ending.
See London Film Festival, p22-23
SPEED DATING: WHERE TO MEET AN INTERNATIONAL CO-PRODUCER
CineMart, Rotterdam (Jan 27-31, 2008) Aimed at projects in the $140,000-$8.5m (EUR100,0000-EU^R6m) range.
Berlinale Co-Production Market, Berlin (Feb 10-12, 2008) Aimed at experienced producers with projects budgeted at $2.8m-$14m (EUR2m-EUR10m).
Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) (Mar 17-19, 2008) Focus on matching Asian projects with international partners and financiers.
BAL, Buenos Aires International Film Festival (April 2008) Latin American co-production market.
L'Atelier du Festival, Cannes (May 14-25, 2008)
Around 15 directors are invited to pitch their feature projects to co-producers and financiers during the Cannes Film Festival.
Open Doors, Locarno International Film Festival (Aug 2008) Co-production lab devoted to projects from the Middle and Near East in various stages of production.
Strategic Partners, Atlantic Film Festival (Sept 12-14)
International co-production market held in Halifax, Canada.
IFP: No Borders International Co-Production Market, New York, US (Sept 2008) Matches established producers with international funding bodies and support organisations.
CineLink, Sarajevo Film Festival (Aug 25-28, 2008)
Project development workshops and co-production market for south-east European film-makers.
Pusan Promotion Plan, Pusan International Film Festival (Oct 2008)
Project market specialising in Asian projects.
New Cinema Network, Rome Film Fest (Oct 20-24, 2007) Two-pronged event aimed at second-time European directors and international projects already showcased at partner events L'Atelier, HAF and BAL.
Production Film Market, London Film Festival (Oct 22-23, 2007) Finance market for mid-budget UK projects.
Sithengi Film & Television Market, Cape Town Cinema Festival (Nov 16-18, 2007)
South African co-production market.