Friendly fest mixes play with work, panels, preems

In just two years, the ambitious Les Arcs European Film Festival has been able to lure major Euro producers, sales agents and distributors to the French Alps.

Of course, it helps that the festival and its Coproduction Village mix work and play more than any other professional event in Europe.

It’s not every film mart that pauses for two hours in the afternoon, offers participants a ski pass and organizes competitions like the European Cinema Ski Cup, among other extracurricular activities.

But although Les Arcs might not be totally sober, it is totally serious.

“It’s relaxed and friendly but it’s also very professional and surprisingly well-organized for a new market,” says Jonathon Perchal, head of legal and business affairs at U.K.’s Artificial Eye. “I had all my meetings set up but I also got lots of time to get to know everyone.”

The Coproduction Village boasted a strong selection of 20 projects, which were, for the most part, backed by leading European production companies.

Victoria Kaario’s debut “Elsewhere Perhaps,” produced by French production shingle Oscar & Rosalie, nabbed the Coproduction Village’s award: A ?30,000 ($39,957) investment from the Sofica Banque Postale Image.

Based on Amos Oz’s novel, the $2.3 million pic centers on immigrants from Eastern Europe and Germany on a kibbutz in 1960s Israel.

Producer Deborah Munzer says she initiated talks with German co-producers at the mart and is holding advanced negotiations with an Israeli partner.

Another buzz title at the forum was Marc Fitoussi’s comedy-adventure “Farniente,” produced by Haut et Court, which inked a co-production deal with Italian shingle Offside Film at the mart.

Other highlights at the market included Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm’s “The Boarding School,” a coming-of-age drama-thriller produced by Scandinavia’s Miso Film (“The Candidate”); Dylan McNeil’s “Monkey Paradise,” a comedy produced by Tom Dercourt’s French outfit Cinema Defacto (“Eat, for This Is My Body”); Kadija Leclere’s “The Bag of Flour,” a Morocco-set drama produced by Gaetan David’s Belgian company La Compagnie Cinematographique Europeenne; “Cassandra at the Wedding,” a British romantic comedy penned by Bruno Heller (CBS TV series “The Mentalist”); and romantic drama “A Love,” produced by Les Films d’Ici (“Waltz With Bashir”).

While the international film market is about as easy as running across a crowded highway, Perchal says that “most projects pitched at (Les Arcs) looked like they could actually get made and be successful.”

“With so many films flooding the market, it’s helpful to have a place like the Coproduction Village do a pre-selection,” notes Yohann Comte, international sales topper at Gaumont.

Philipp Hoffmann, head of marketing at German production and sales company Match Factory, agrees, adding, “The average quality of projects was better than those of many other co-production markets.”

But on the downside, says Hoffmann, “most films were in a very early stage of development. And in this market, we probably can’t commit to projects that have don’t have a director attached and a near-finished script.”

Mathieu Robinet, international sales manager at Funny Balloons, concurs, “Projects were all very appealing, but many were underfinanced — it’s not Rotterdam, where you just have to pull in ?50,000 for films to get made.”

The four-day networking event drew more than 130 participants — a 25% climb from last year — including France’s top sales and distribution companies, Funny Balloons, Pyramide, Bac Films, Gaumont, Le Pacte, Rezo Films and Memento; the U.K.’s HanWay and Artificial Eye; and Denmark’s TrustNordisk.

Two panels examined successful models of European co-productions, Saverio Costanzo’s “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” and Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia.”

At the “Solitude” panel were the pic’s producer Mario Gianani of Offside Film, and Roberto Olla’s Eurimage, among others, who discussed Italian film financing and explained how they built a co-production with Germany’s Bavaria Films and France’s Les Films des Tournelles.

Zentropa Prods.’ Peter Engel, TrustNordisk’s head of sales Susan Wendt, and “Melancholia’s” French co-producer, Marianne Slot from Slot Machine, as well as additional Scandinavian industryites, peopled the panel on the Lars von Trier pic.

A third case study highlighted the European distribution model of Xavier Beauvois’ hit drama, “Of Gods and Men,” with the pics’ leading distribs: Mars’ Thierry Laurentin, Artificial Eye’s Perchal and Lumiere’s Simon Wullens, among others.

The Coproduction Village also hosted the Journees Dire, a three-day confab during which members of Dire, the Independent European Distributors Union that includes Diaphana, Les Films du Losange, Haut et Court, Le Pacte, Pyramide Distribution, Rezo Films and Wild Bunch, each presented a new 2011 title to more than 100 exhibitors and journalists.

As Funny Balloons’ Robinet noted, “Considering what they’ve accomplished in just two years, we can expect to see Les Arcs European Film Festival and its Coproduction Village to become a leading European film market within the next five years.”

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