FX crowd gets tech support from MITIC

Tech services catching on in Cannes

This year’s edition of Cannes’ last gasp will be a bellowing blast courtesy of Sony’s “Godzilla,” closing the fest on May 24.

“This ‘Godzilla’ sounds like the old ‘Godzilla,’ but in a ’90s way,” reports Soundelux’s Per Hallberg, the supervising sound designer on the pic and the only member of the “Godzilla” team in Cannes, or, as he points out, “not in Puerto Vallarta at Roland’s (Emmerich) drinking tequila and smoking cigars.”

But while “Godzilla” is the highest profile example of the sfx/production services scene at Cannes, there’s another behind the scenes tale playing out. It promises an opportunity for the widely reported flagging sales scene to get a boost from the production services outfits with everything from digital magic to magical locations to hawk.

In town to help prep the sound with the SDDS team for the much-anticipated projection, Hallberg’s one of many techies in town, thanks largely to the first-ever MITIC technology pavilion. In a temporary location hidden behind the Palais until a new permanent Cannes Marche structure will provide a home, MITIC drew mixed reviews and sporadic foot traffic, but it did help provide the incentive for tech pros like Hallberg to check out the prospects for production services marketing during the fest and the traditional film sales market.

Hallberg also joined the panel of sound experts that Dolby brought together for a seminar on exhibition loudness at the Variety Pavilion, “because,” says Hallberg, “this is a big issue and you need to show up when there’s a chance to raise awareness.”

Another first-timer in Cannes is Tom Atkin, exec director of the Visual Effects Society, which after less than two years in existence already boasts 220 members and a board that reads like a who’s who of visual effects including Dennis Muren and Tom Morris of ILM, Scott Ross of Digital Domain and heavyweights from Pixar, Sony Pictures Imageworks, et al.

‘Truly international’

Atkin jetted to the Croisette by way of London, where he was beginning his first European drive to “broaden the membership base and make it clear that though this is currently a primarily American group, that’s because we’re just beginning. Our intention is to make this a truly international society”

Between Blighty and the Cote d’Azur, Atkin spoke to Euro visual effects pros with firms including Companyb in Babelsburg, U.K.’s the Mill and Film Factory, Italy’s Interactive Group and France’s Mikros Image, a MITIC exhibitor.

Visual effects pro Frederic Moreau of Mikros expressed “disappointment” that MITIC had “such a poor location,” but still reports that “we did see a pick up in activity later in the festival.” Perhaps contributing to that boost were a number of well-attended events, such as the DVD Europe conference, the Association of Film Commissions International panels on May 21 and a May 20 mixer thrown by the French Film Commissions.

Another first-timer drawn to Cannes by MITIC was the -new Location Austria agency, whose director Richard Knaus and marketing manager Elizabeth Unterberger were on hand to launch the new unit of the Austrian Business Agency. Knaus shares Moreau’s disdain for the location and grumbles that “though technology and production services marketing at Cannes is not a bad idea, we have to be an equal partner.”

Knaus reports “about eight to 10 meetings about projects in Austria” at the half-way point of the fest, drawn perhaps by the newness of the services agency and opportunities, Unterberger says, “to work with the Vienna Film Financing Fund, the Austrian Film Fund and other European co-production opportunities.”

Quantel stays put

Quantel opted to set up not at MITIC, but at its traditional home at the British Pavilion, a decision that marketing manager Colin Ritchie says was due in part to the location and the spartan amenities for guests. “They don’t even have a bar” he says only half in jest. “You need an environment where producers and directors can sit down with the tech people, which is something they don’t get a lot of opportunities to do.”

Ritchie is bullish on Cannes as a locale for showing off the latest Domino advances and says U.K. pic “Winter Guest” came about because “Alan Rickman dropped by and sat with us at Cannes.” He also reports that the Quantel gang works as a kind of “broker” for their customers, steering producers toward firms such as the Frame Store and Men in White Coats. “This is the fest we believe in taking tech to,” says Ritchie.

Cannes came through for Francesco Juilland of Mediacube USA. This week the firm inked a pact with Brimstone Ent. to develop and produce special effects-driven feature films. Brimstone will distribute the films world wide and Mediacube will produce the special effects.

“This is exactly the kind of arrangement I came to Cannes for,” Juilland says. Mediacube and its sister company Greencube have worked with advertising firms such us J.W.T., Saatchi & Saatchi, McCann Erickson on such accounts as Fiat Group and Coca-Cola.

Brimstone will use the co-production agreement to launch its production division. Brimstone is currently distributing “Shadow Warrior” based on the GT Interactive CD-ROM Game. Film budgets will be in the $10 million to $20 million range.

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