Locarno generates deals despite no formal market

ROME — More than two-thirds of the ultra-indie competish titles that made their world preems at Locarno last year were also either picked up at, or shortly after the Swiss fest, which, despite not having a formal market, can certainly generate a considerable number of deal memos.

“We always have plenty of films in our selection without world sales yet, so there are lots of companies that pay attention to what we show and often buy movies here, or at least check them out,” says Nadia Dresti, head of the Locarno Industry Office, which in 2008 provided accommodations and plenty of networking opportunities to more than 200 buyers.

Among last year’s pickups were Golden Pard winner “Parque Via” by Mexican first-time helmer Enrique Rivera, which was snapped up by Fortissimo, while Irish helmer Lance Daly’s naturalistic childhood drama “Kisses” was acquired by Focus Features.

“Producers, sellers and distributors believe in Locarno,” boasts artistic topper Frederic Maire, who says that, thanks to the past edition’s success, “This year we were able to get almost all of the movies we wanted.”

Jef Nuyts, sales agent at Rome arthouse company Intra Movies, which picked up Italo first-time helmer Federico Bondi’s drama “Black Sea” at the fest last year, calls going to Locarno “a great way to find new films and do business in a relaxed setting.”

What Nuyts and other indie industryites especially appreciate about the lakeside fest is the mix of personal touch and Swiss clockwork efficiency. “It’s very well-organized. They throw lots of social events where you really can meet people, something you can’t always do at bigger festivals,” he says.

And while the financial crisis will inevitably impact attendance this year, especially the U.S. presence, the Locarno Industry Office has just pacted with Europa Distribution — a network of 67 European indie distribs created in 2008 that’s dedicated to maximizing marketing strategies on titles that member companies increasingly acquire as a single entity — in an effort to boost the Euro status of its informal mart.

Dresti says that inviting buyers from members of Europa Distribution will now become a priority, though some 60% of those companies are already Locarno regulars.

The purpose, says Dresti, is to “strengthen the ties that they are forming among themselves and create a strong link with the festival, so that Locarno can provide even more distribution opportunities for indie cinema.”

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