EFM organizers pleased with response to mart

BERLIN — So, what do buyers and sellers really think of their new market digs at the Renaissance-style Martin Gropius Bau?

At least one visitor seemed impressed.

“What I’m learning from this fair is that film distribution is an art in itself,” said new German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who did a walkabout of the Bau Friday.

Her words will be music to the ears of the sales companies attending Berlin’s EFM, even if there is no new money on the table for film.

Flanked by Dieter Kosslick and Beki Probst, Merkel and federal arts minister Bernd Neumann spent 40 minutes visiting the umbrella stands of the MEDIA Program and German Films and the offices of Focus Features and Celluloid Dreams.

Merkel told Variety that her visit should not be taken as indicative of a new policy toward the film sector.

“Naturally, America already has well developed markets. We are very happy to see that films from Germany and Europe have this new opportunity to be seen around the world.”

As for the hoi-polloi in the hallways, other than minor gripes about the hour-long walkabout hiatus, early reactions were generally positive, if qualified.

Naturlich, EFM organizers are breathing a huge sigh of relief that the technical stuff — stand construction, digital screening facilities on the top floor and shuttle buses — worked well from the get-go.

They will be able to attribute some other niggles, such as navigating the corridors and finding the toilets, to users’ unfamiliarity with the new premises.

And while a few of the old-guard will undoubtedly insist they prefer the over-heated hubbub of a single cramped space (don’t ask me why), most of the early arrivals gave a gentle thumbs-up to the airy, more civilized, espresso-sipping environs of the Bau.

Indeed, the central lounge area has proved more popular than perhaps envisioned. And those bizzers obliged to stay in the booths, with their narrow sightlines, complain that passing traffic has bypassed them. Beyond the opinions about the premises, the real test for the European Film Market will be whether deals are brisk and folks concur they got value for money. And that won’t be clear until sometime next week.

Following though is an unscientific polling of first-day impressions:

Kana Koido — buyer, Klockworx (Japan)

“I love the architecture. This is so much nicer than those North American markets. The shuttle service works well and will pick you up even if there is only one person in the car… And I had a mango juice like I’ve never had before.”

Erik Engelen — buyer, Paradiso (Belgium)

“It is so like a museum that I keep expecting a tour guide to come through with a party of schoolchildren.”

Christian Dorsch — m.d., German Export Union (Germany)

“This is a good start. The AFM is no longer in February and the U.S. buyers are here. German cinema is stronger than it has been for years and we are benefiting from that attention.”

Lewis Kim — producer, Chungeorahm Film (Korea)

“I keep getting lost in here”

Maxine Leonard — seller, Myriad Pictures (U.S.)

“Lovely place, and there was a man for every job — one for the fax, one for the trash — and they all turned up on time. But it’s a bit hot inside and it feels a bit like the Fiera (home to Mifed).”

Claudia Landsberger — m.d. Holland Film (Netherlands)

“This is the most glamorous film market I’ve ever been to. Beautiful building, beautiful booths and easy to find my way round. The espresso is good and they even come round with snacks on a trolley.”

Pim Hermeling — buyer, A Film (Netherlands)

“I like the building, but not the booths. Nobody has an office, just a piece of corridor.”

Hengameh Panahi — seller, Celluloid Dreams (France)

“Great building, but I wonder about the buzz factor. We did a lot of thinking about how to make our stand distinctive and make best use of the space. We’ll have it right next year.”

Suh Young-joo — seller, Cineclick Asia (Korea)

“Everything about Berlin has become more expensive, from the hotels to the booths. I heard that the overspill offices on Potsdamer Platz are half the price of the one in the MGB and asked to move. Of course that was not possible.”

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