Mart offers discounts, notes life in decimated sector

With the international film sector still reeling from the financial crisis, European Film Market topper Beki Probst says she’s eager to accommodate industry demands.

This year’s mart looks likely to remain stable and on par with last year in terms of overall numbers.

Seeking to allay cost concerns, the EFM has kept prices unchanged for the third year in a row and also introduced early-bird registration specials.

Probst says the discount prices represent a show of support for companies on tighter budgets this year and also a birthday gift in celebrating the Berlinale’s 60th anniversary.

Market organizers say significantly higher numbers of badges have been sold in connection with the “birthday-present” prices that made market badges and screening passes more attractive. By early January, accreditations were up by 671 to 6,256.

Industry players are eager to move forward after the shock of last year’s economic crisis, Probst says.

“It has been an unusual year. People were not sure what was happening in the industry, they didn’t don’t know whether they would have enough films. All those factors slow things down, and we had to cope with it. But now it looks good. It just took a longer time. When people are not secure, they need time to make decisions,” she says.

“People have now digested it, the shock of last year. Now they are looking to the future, hoping that the future is going to look brighter. That’s human nature. If you maintain the anxiety, it paralyzes you. You have to say, maybe the worst is over and now let’s look to the future.”

To that end, Probst says EFM has remained flexible and eager to meet industry needs. In addition to discounts, the mart has no problem allowing companies to have screening and catalog listings even if they don’t have official market stands, something rarely done at other major markets.

As for the logistics of the mart, Probst says the EFM has responded to calls to increase the amount of space at the main Martin-Gropius-Bau venue to accommodate more companies. With larger players like Lakeshore Entertainment and Focus Features doing without official stands, Probst says the mart has been able to meet that demand.

The EFM has not escaped the growing 3D trend, and this year it is collaborating for the first time with the Astor Film Lounge to offer special stereoscopic market screenings. A shuttle service will be available to ferry market participants to the cinema, which is located on Kurfurstendamm.

As of Jan. 26, the number of exhibiting companies housed at the main Martin-Gropius-Bau and at the Marriott was at 410 compared with 408 in 2009, while the number of buyers was at 1,339, down from 1,448.

While the total number of stands in both venues has dropped from 148 to 130, the Martin-Gropius-Bau has seen a sharp increase in exhibitors, 353 vs. 316 in 2009.

Many companies are attending as part of group stands this year, including 109 with the European Union’s Media Program umbrella stand (including 67 newly added firms) and 14 U.S. companies, including six new attendees, setting up shop at a new stand organized by the Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA).

Among the new companies visiting Berlin for the first time are about a dozen Japanese firms, including Nippon Television Network and Toei Animation. From the U.S., Cinepro Pictures Intl., Entertainment 7, the Little Film Co. and Rex Media will make Berlin debuts.

Considering the general hesitation of sellers to commit themselves, along with the fact that some 30 companies that attended last year’s EFM have since gone belly up or are no longer active, EFM organizers say they are more than happy with the current numbers.

Returning this year is Meet the Docs, a networking platform introduced in 2009 for documentary film in cooperation with the European Documentary Network.

Other EFM events include Books at Berlinale, organized with the Frankfurt Book Fair, which showcases a selection of literary material to filmmakers.

In its seventh year, Straight From Sundance presents the latest U.S. independent productions that premiered at the Utah fest to international buyers.

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