KARLOVY VARY — Industryites covering territories from the U.K. to Poland tacked the problems of funding and distributing European films in a packed panel session on Thursday, at the Karlovy Vary Film Fest in the Czech Republic.
European Film East & West: Breaking Down the Barriers, organized by the European Producers Club (EPC) and moderated by Daily Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos, was followed by one-to-one meetings between East Euro producers and potential Western funding partners.
Meanwhile, fest directors were invited to a presentation by the European Coordination of Film Festivals (ECFF), with president Thom Palmen (who also runs the Umea Film Festival) offering advice on festival funding and cooperation.
Palmen announced that the Berlin fest had become the 210th member, and the first A-category festival to join.
As part of the eight-year-old ECFF effort to embrace more festivals from the east, Palmen said the Karlovy Vary summer meeting for current and potential member fests will become an annual event, balancing a second meeting to be held during the Berlin fest each winter.
Sofia Intl. Film Festival director Stefan Kitanov told envious colleagues how he hit the jackpot after joining ECFF last year. His festival landed one of ECFF’s 12 Jameson Short Film Awards worth $6,000, received Media Desk financial support for organization, and presented a round table sponsored by ECFF.
Across town, producers and distributors looked frankly at some of the problems facing them today, starting with the .05% market share for East European films in West European territories.
Unifrance’s Joel Chapron, responsible for Eastern Europe, said that selling a commercial film from the region “is almost impossible in France.”
Producers from the former Communist countries shared a common dilemma: no film laws, no film commissions, and no support from government officials.
Faced with government indifference, producers are taking their own initiatives — such as the just announced privately organized Czech Film Committee (a first step toward a film commission), or Slovenian producer Danijel Hocivar’s efforts to revive cooperation with other former Yugoslav states.
In the tough world of film financing, size counts. “The most effective systems are in countries of 30 million-80 million population, which complement the market with a support system, and where all the actors act as if they are in a free market, even though it is distorted,” EPC president John Cazes said. “Below that level the state has to get more involved.”
Despite the hurdles faced at the local level, East European producers emerged from the afternoon’s round of one-to-one meetings with a thumbs up.
The networking with sales agents and co-production partners yielded signs of promise for producers who recognize the need to build an industry of European films without losing their distinctive voices.
Karlovy Vary ends on Saturday.