Mifed: ‘Not Going To Roll Over’

European anger is mounting over the AFMA’s decision to hold a second Los Angeles market in the fall, aimed at undercutting Mifed.

Europeans are convinced that AFM wants to see Mifed six feet under. What’s more, a second AFM is decidely inconvenient for many Euro buyers and sellers. People are unwilling to hop from Mipcom to AFM to Mifed, as the back-to-back dates would have them do.

“Mifed is not going to roll over and play dead,” said Fred Sidon of the Princeton Overseas Consulting Group, which represents the Fiera di Milano, Mifed’s parent body. “Solidarity is building in Europe. They’re going to the American Film Market in February, but they’ll be coming to Mifed in October.”

Mifed, with the assistance of the Fiera di Milano, the Italian film industry and the Italian government, has been busy marshaling support among Europeans. Industry bodies – such as Anica, the German Film Union and groups from the U.K. and France – are said to have indicated they will not attend AFM in the fall.

According to Gary Kallenback, tv and video film rights buyer for Vistarama in Rome, “Nobody’s going to go back to the U.S. between Cannes and Milan. It’s very presumptuous of them to think we will.”

Kallenback says he won’t go to an AFM fall mart, and believes AFM miscalculated by underestimating “the importance of huge tv markets like Mipcom.”

U.K. decision crucial

British members of AFMA, most of whom voted against the second edition of AFM, will meet with AFMA officials Feb. 27, the day prior to the market’s opening, before deciding which of the fall markets to attend. The Brits appear to favor the status quo – Mipcom, the pre-Mifed London Screenings and Mifed – and see little sense in flying to Los Angeles in the fall to sell their primary customers, the Europeans.

If they decide to act as a cohesive group, the U.K. vendors would be a powerful bloc, since they rep a formidable number of U.S. and European producers. Were they to put their allegiance with the Milan market, it would be a blow to AFMA’s hopes of attracting sellers and buyers to L.A. in the fall.

At a January meeting in London, reps from the Australian Film Commission, Capitol Films, Cori Films, Film Four Intl., Glinwood Films, Goldcrest Film & Television, J& M Entertainment, Majestic Films Intl., Manifesto Film Sales, Rank Film Distributors, Safir Films, The Sales Co., United Media Film Sales and William Gilbert & Associates discussed the fall market dilemma.

Manifesto’s John Durie said the London sellers’ consensus is that the present market calendar – winter AFM, MIP-TV, Cannes Film Festival, Mipcom, London Screenings and Mifed – is very effective.

He stressed that the mood of his colleagues is not anti-AFM. But there was little or no support for attending both the second AFM and Mifed. Sales execs figure it would be too expensive to book office space at both events.

Since the sales agents derive 50% or more of their income from Europe, many see no logic in flying from London to L.A. in the fall to sell to Europeans.

Milan fair director Tullio Galleno has distinguished himself for his gentleman’s attitude toward AFMA. Rather than attack the twin market, he has promised to strive for improved services and accommodations in Milan. It is proving a difficult endeavor, at least insofar as getting spoiled hotels near the fairgrounds to come down in price.

Boycott?

But other heads, at least in Italy, are not so cool. Talk of an industry-wide boycott of the fall AFM is certainly more than idle chatter, though it will take time to mature from threat to official sanction.

Only a handful of Italo companies are big enough to compete for pricey American product anyway – Artisti Associati, Titanus, Penta, Life and a few others. Yanks may find that their best Italian clients opt to do business by phone this fall, rather than face another trip to L.A.

Meanwhile, support for Mifed arrived from an unexpected quarter recently when Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, deplored AFMA’s effort to upstage Mifed by scheduling a competing market at the same time.

“Mifed plays a crucial role in the European arena,” Valenti said. “It is the most innovative market in the world. It is a successful and indispensable event. I am saddened by the collision of dates.”

In addition, Valenti hailed Mifed for its efforts to stop audiovisual piracy, noting that it had served several years ago as “the launching pad” for the anti-piracy campaign.

Carlo Tognoli, Italy’s minister of entertainment, responded calling Valenti’s words “a significant recognition of Mifed’s role and a further step in cooperation and exchange between the two countries, including the coordinating of markets.”

Tognoli said he hoped a “clarification will begin as soon as possible that will avoid overlap and aid film exchanges in Europe and internationally.”

Additional Reporting by Hy Hollinger and Don Groves

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