Last week's inaugural UK London Film Focus (June 30-July 2)has received a qualified thumbs-up from the filmmakers, buyers and sales agentswho participated. Few deal memos were signed, some distributors questioned theoverall strength of the selection of British movies on display, but there hasbeen widespread praise of the way in which the event was organised.
168film buyers attended, among them representatives from all the majorterritories. 26 British films were screened over the three days of the FilmFocus. Between screenings, the buyers attended a series of swanky receptions,were taken for a whirl on the London Eye and had dinner on a paddle steamer asit floated down the Thames, past various film locations of note.
"I had a very positive impression but there was alittle bit a lack of important pictures," Valerio De Paolis, managingdirector of Italy's BIM Distribution, commented. He saw four films during thethree-day showcase for British cinema but did not acquire anything. Hequestioned the timing of the Film Focus, so soon after Cannes. "Peoplehave been buying many, many movies...one month after Cannes is too short.People have already spent quite a lot of money."
Others dismiss the idea that the proximity to Cannes is aproblem. "The screenings were exceptionally well-attended," Beyond'sHilary Davis said. She has received offers from "a couple of majorterritories" on the back of the screenings of Cold And Dark last week.However, she argues that the future success of the event will depend on theFocus being able to unearth newer, fresher films. "The greater number ofpremieres the better."
Buzz titles included Danny Boyle's Millions which ison Pathe's slate, Icon's Stage Beauty and Beyond's Cold And Dark.The selection was weakened by some late withdrawals, among them Pathe's Churchill:The Hollywood Years, pulled at the last minute because it wasn't ready.
Icon's Peter Naish reported interest "on a couple ofterritories we struggled to deal with in Cannes" on Richard Eye's StageBeauty. Meanwhile, Pathe's Alison Thompson said she had closed one deal on Millionsand was juggling various other offers on the back of last week's screening.
The filmmakers behind some of the less heralded titles werealso striking an enthusiastic note. Robert Pratten of Zen Films was showing hisdebut feature London Voodoo (winner of the jury award at last month'sBoston International Film Festival. "We had about 20 buyers attend thescreening and we've had several territories come back interested in discussingthings further," he commented.
It now remains to be seen whether the Focus will become aregular fixture. "I don't see any reason why we shouldn't goforward," Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London (which helpedco-ordinate the event) stated. "The feedback we're getting is positive andI really want this to be an annual event. I'm hopeful that we'll build fromhere."