Fest market topper Paillard sees good signs

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As the economy rebounds and the euro dips, the Cannes film market is seeing a 5% boost in attendance, says confab topper Jerome Paillard.

The devaluation of the euro is making things easier for U.S. companies and Europeans looking to do international business,” says Paillard. “It’s currently worth about 15% less than last year.”

The other good news for budget-conscious marketgoers is that many key hotels along the Croisette have dropped their infamous mandatory 12-night minimum stays during the run of the festival, per Paillard.

Last year, the big hotels on the Croisette got dinged — less than a month before the 2009 fest, the Majestic, Carlton, Palais Stephanie, Grand and Martinez weren’t fully booked.

As of late April, some 8,000 marketgoers were registered, including 133 U.S. sales outfits as of April 20. American participants represent 15% of all marketgoers, and this year sees a 6% jump from the Yanks over last year.

Latin America is again this year showing the biggest increase in participation. Chile is up 50%, and Brazil has increased by 25%. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will each bring a delegation for the first time.

But even in 2009, amid world recession, the market trudged on with a participation rate only down by 2% from 2008.

The confab’s resilience mostly lies in its strong legacy. “A no-show at Cannes can be very damaging for a company’s standing,” says Paillard.

But while face-to-face meetings at Cannes are de rigueur, the market is also responding to the global demands of a wired-up biz.

The Marche’s latest innovation is a free B-to-B streaming service allowing sales agents to upload their films for select buyers. It’s safer, faster and more economical than sending screeners via FedEx, asserts Paillard.

And sales agents can find out if and when buyers actually watched their films,” he adds.

The market’s online network, Cinando, connects nearly 24,000 people and 9,350 companies working in various areas of the film biz. The database includes more than 10,500 film listings updated daily.

Social networking is becoming crucial to producers and filmmakers looking to raise soft money and find partners,” says Paillard, noting the many financing groups, such as Europa Distribution, that have formed on Cinando, Facebook and Twitter.

Keeping up with digital technology is also one of the challenges that all markets face. At the Marche, 10 out of the 33 screening rooms have made the full HD digital conversion and are equipped for steroscopic 3D films, such as “The Nutcracker” (from Andrei Konchalovsky), which will screen 3D footage in the market, and market debutante “Moomins and the Comet Chase,” starring the voices of Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard, from Finland’s Filmkompaniet.

We’ve chosen to be proactive in outpacing the digital evolution rather than playing catch-up,” Paillard says. “Last year we screened seven stereoscopic 3D films, and this year so far we already have 15 3D films submitted, including promo reels.”

Meanwhile, other business-to-business services like the Short Film Corner and the Producer’s Network have become staples at the mart.

The Producers Network is now in its sixth year and will see about 550 producers participate this year. “Today it’s a key event, because more and more projects have to be set up as co-productions to get greenlit,” Paillard says.

Producers traditionally represent the market’s largest demographic, comprising 29% of all marketgoers in 2009.

Studio Canal’s VP of international sales Harold Van Lier sums it up: “The mood is more sober and focused, but Cannes remains today the absolute prime timing to unleash a new production onto the international arena.”

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