Indies, Euro backers to meet at S.F. confab

As the U.S. indie boom of the 1980s recedes into sentimental memory, producers in search of financing increasingly turn their gaze across the Atlantic. The Financial Opportunities in a United Europe panel skedded for Jan. 15-16 at the Film Arts Foundation’s S.F. offices will put 59 U.S. indie hopefuls within pitching reach of honchos from top European buyers and production companies.

The conference is mounted by Film Arts Foundation, a Northern California membership org for 2,600 indie film/videomakers, and S.F.-based EBS Prods., another nonprofit org that reps projects to international markets.

Panelists are Germany’s Anne Even of ZDF Das kleine Fernsehspiel/Arte and Werner Dusch of WDR; Channel 4’s Jack Lechner and BBC2’s Lindsay Davies from the U.K.; and Nicolas Saada of the French La Sept/ARTE. Among their various recent acquisitions and co-productions are such successful docu and fiction features as “The Crying Game,””Time Indefinite” and “Slacker.” Keynote speaker/moderator will be Sandra Schulberg, senior VP for American Playhouse’s Euro operations.

Wendy Braitman of EBS Prods. points to the “proliferation of cable and satellite exhibition opportunities in Europe due to more privately owned stations. … There’s definitely more respect (abroad) for non-fiction and adventurous work, things that would have a much harder time finding money in the United States.”

She sees the gathering — which its organizers hope to reprise annually following this launch — as filling a major need among U.S. indies. “New York already has the Independent Feature Film Market in October, but not much happens for producers elsewhere (in the country),” Braitman said. “L.A.’s American Film Market is clearly not directed toward independents. There’s need for an event like the Rotterdam Fest’s CineMart here on the West Coast. And San Francisco boasts a really impressive indie film community.”

The 59 paying attendees passed an application-screening process requiring a detailed project treatment. Results were compiled into a dossier featuring project specs, synopsis and bio that was then forwarded in advance to each of the six panelists.

Up close and personal

“What sets this conference apart is how much contact we’re providing between panelists and producers,” Braitman said. “It’s not like a festival setting where there’s a podium Q&A and people have to scramble to pitch their projects. We’ll have one-on-one sessions, round-table discussions limited to 10, social receptions, lots of intimate situations.”

Confirmed participants are coming from around the country, with the bulk based in the Bay Area, including Lynn O’Donnell (“Living on Tokyo Time”), Henry Rosenthal (Jon Jost’s longtime producer) and Nancy Kelly (“A Thousand Pieces of Gold”).

Also observing will be reps from various U.S. funding orgs, including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Humanities. “They won’t be there in an official capacity, but they want to see what this event is all about,” said Braitman.

The two-day event will be preceded Jan. 13 by an address on European financing by Schulberg at PBS affiliate KQED headquarters. Official opening Jan. 14 kicks off with a reception for participants and San Francisco’s cultural/civic leaders.

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