CineMart tweaks ops

Rotterdam effort explores new financing, cross-media projects

Steering Rotterdam’s venerable co-production market means resisting change for the sake of it, according to CineMart topper Marit van den Elshout. “We have an expression in Dutch, that you should never throw away your old shoes if you don’t have new ones,” she says. “Of course there’s the wish to reinvent ourselves in a big way, but I’ve noticed over the years that this isn’t really the way to go.”

Recent reflections on cross-media projects, DIY finance and digital distribution have brought lots of new ideas, but making the link to the sort of director-driven cinema that Rotterdam favors has not always been easy. “I love these projects, but the quality of the filmmaking is sometimes dubious,” van den Elshout says. “We want to open up to a different sort of project and look at different ways of financing, but we don’t want to (move) away too much from our core.”

This year’s experiment in crowd-financed co-production, Cinema Reloaded, is one result of CineMart’s brainstorming, with Alexis Dos Santos’ project “Another World” forming a bridge between the two: He is seeking regular co-production coin for the feature in CineMart, while in Cinema Reloaded he wants to launch an experimental film version of “Another World,” emphasizing the virtual world created by the long-distance lovers who are his protagonists.

Another cross-media project in this year’s selection is “Brand New-U” from Simon Pummell, whose “Bodysong” was a Tiger competitor in 2003. His story about a man seeking a new identity will play out across platforms, creating an online identity for the shadowy company of the title and fictions to complement the main feature.

Cross-media project submissions have shot up since Cine-Mart opened to them last year, although the more general trend is down. Only 440 projects came in for the 2010 edition, compared with 550 in 2008 and some 500 in 2009.

At the same time, project selection is tightening up. A sharp cut was made between 2007 and 2008, from 48 to 39 projects, with a further squeeze to 33 this year.

“We want to get close to 30 and maybe even below that,” she says.

CineMart visitors have be-come more focused and demanding with the deepening financial crisis.

“It’s logical to be more selective. It’s no use selecting 50 projects when a lot of them will end up on the shelf.”

Although setting no threshold for finance in place, which is the rule for other big markets such as Berlin, CineMart is thinking harder about project viability. “That means really good debuting directors, who have actually proven themselves with some previous work or who have good producers behind them,” van den Elshout says, “or they have to be more acclaimed directors.”

Big names in this year’s lineup include Russian helmers Andrei Zvyagintsev (“The Return”) and Alexei Balabanov (“Morphine”), plus Mexican Amat Escalante (“Sangre”).

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