Cementing its place in the international calendar, the London UK Film Focus (June 25-28) is attracting influential buyers and a growing number of premieres. Geoffrey Macnab reports.
Four years after its inception, the London UK Film Focus (Luff) is now an established part of the calendar. UK sales agents are understandably enthusiastic about a three-day event (June 25-28) that delivers a captive audience of around 150 leading buyers and costs them relatively little.
'At no other time would we have this opportunity to have all the right buyers that buy this type of film at one event at one time,' says Carey Fitzgerald, managing director of High Point, which will be screening Tom Collins' Kings, about a group of men who reunite for a friend's funeral, and Extraordinary Rendition (see sidebar).
'You get all your key buyers. You are screening a film in the best possible facilities and you have got them captive there for three days.'
The buyers, for their part, appreciate the chance to see a dozen market premieres of British films in a controlled situation. 'For me, it's a relaxed environment to continue working relationships and to develop stronger relationships that you can't forge when you are in and out of booths and offices for 20 or 30 minutes at a time,' says Peter Lawson of Miramax.
'It gives us a chance to spend more time outside the market with the UK international distributors,' agrees Maria Grazia Vairo, head of acquisitions at Italian distributor Eagle Pictures. 'We get to screen a bunch of films that perhaps at a market or festival we didn't have time to see. Also, we get to see films we have already acquired.'
Luff will take place at the newly revamped BFI Southbank site in Waterloo - and many of the same buyers who have attended the event's three previous editions will be back in town. The organisers will again be welcoming several German distributors - by far the most represented territory - as well as North American, Australian and Asian buyers. There will also be a greater number of Latin American distributors in attendance - a reflection of the economic upturn in the region.
The event costs approximately $350,000 (£180,000) to mount, with organisers absorbing the cost of accommodation for the invited buyers. Luff is supported by Film London, the UK Film Council, Film Export UK (Feuk), the London Development Agency, the British Film Institute, UK Trade & Investment, Arts Alliance Media and Barco.
There are some new initiatives for 2007. Working in conjunction with Arts Alliance, Luff is offering sellers with premieres the chance to digitise their titles. These movies can then be offered for viewing via a password-protected system to distributors not in attendance.
Among this year's premieres are Peter Howitt's Dangerous Parking (sold by Velvet Octopus), Sugarhouse and Taking Liberties (both sold by Moviehouse), Grow Your Own (represented by Pathe), M (from AV Pictures) and Rise Of The Foot Soldier (Carnaby International).
Meanwhile, the Breakthrough sidebar will showcase feature projects from emerging British film-makers looking for sales representation and distribution. Films already confirmed in this strand include Mark Jenkin's The Midnight Drives, a look at modern family life produced by Cross Day Productions; Suzie Halewood's comedy scam movie Bigga Than Ben, produced by Liz Holford; and drama Crossing Bridges, directed and produced by Mark Norfolk.
One of the regular criticisms of the screenings is that the premieres are not always strong enough, but Helena Mackenzie, head of international at Film London, says 'the premieres are stronger this year'.
Peter Lawson acknowledges the chances of Miramax finding a finished feature to pick up at Luff are slim. 'It's tough because the sales agents are going to hold the bigger movies for the bigger festivals. For me, it's about continuing the relationships we have and looking for projects for the future.'
Lawson adds that Luff fully warrants its place in a crowded marketplace. 'They get buyers from all over the world. It's not just smaller companies or big companies, it's everybody.'
Says Film London chief executive Adrian Wootton: 'The buyers and the sellers know there is something that will always be there in that last week of June. We've proved it's not a flash in the pan.'