Cannes Preview 2012

As the film world readies for the Riviera, Jerome Paillard, Cannes Market exec director, sees reason for optimism.

“With a growing attendance in Cannes this year we’re seeing some signs of health and dynamism,” he says, noting that overall it’s still a tough market where finding a distributor has gotten more complicated.

He also notes that it’s difficult getting films into theaters. “It’s not easy for films that aren’t mainstream, crossover features to get released theatrically and stay in theaters long enough to find an audience. Distributors, for the most part, have become risk-averse and have restricted their minimum guarantees.”

Paillard addresses other shifting trends in the market.

VOD

“TV and video sales are tough to clinch, and while VOD is growing, it hasn’t yet replaced video. On the upside, VOD negotiations are usually non-exclusive, but they don’t give minimum guarantees whereas video did.

“In countries like China, the expansion of the VOD market represents a great opportunity for foreign cinema: Films can now access the Chinese market directly through VOD. Even if the prices paid remain small it’s encouraging.”

Digitization of screens

“We have yet to see if the digitization of theaters will benefit smaller films — there is a risk that it will make it easier for exhibitors to program films that work well in multiple screens.”

New distribution models

“For certain movies that have a limited theatrical potential, the traditional film distribution chain is way too long. We’re seeing a growing interest for non-commercial circuits, such as festivals, cinematheques and film societies. Some companies like the Festival Agency in France are now specializing in these types of sub-distribution, by helping filmmakers and right-holders get their movies on the festival circuit and collect fees.”

Digital models

“There are too many films that don’t travel outside their country of production, co-production and sometimes France (where there are about 350 foreign films that come out every year and about half of them sell less than 15,000 admissions).

“Using digital technology, filmmakers can have their films seen and create mini-events at a lesser cost — publishing expenses are very small and the cost of advertising, taking into account the weight of social networks, is also very low. These films can build an online community, access distribution via viral marketing and social networks and ultimately get programmed in theaters through on-demand screenings.”

Reality bites

“Documentaries now represent more than 14% of the completed films at the market,” Paillard says. “One of the reasons behind the popularity of documentaries is that that they can be promoted via social networks: each documentary can address its own community in a way that a fiction film seldom can.”

Market innovations

The doc corner: A dedicated space at the market, it boasts a screening room focused on feature-length documentaries and a meeting area for sales agents and buyers who are exclusively seeking docs.

After the market, the docs will be available to buyers and sales agents on Cinando.com’s Screening Room, where films can be downloaded. Site is run by the market. The Doc Corner will also host about 10 mini-conferences for a group of 20 documentary producers and filmmakers. Each panel will feature leading figures of the documentary world, from festivals toppers to doc commissioners and sales agents.

Producers’ Workshop: The Producers’ Workshop is growing in its second edition. It will address some 250 producers who have experience making local films but have not yet been involved in international co-productions. There will be six conferences discussing how to approach sales agents, how to co-produce with international partners, what funds are available in Europe and elsewhere. There will also be a la carte coaching sessions for producers.

“We’re telling producers, especially those from Asian or Latin American regions where international co-production is still uncommon, that it’s crucial for them to not wait to have a film in selection to come to Cannes, as they must build an international network even if they won’t activate it right away,” Paillard says.

3D: The market has 17 3D-equipped screens (three more than last year) and some 50 screenings in 3D, which is about the same as last year, had been confirmed as of April 15.

“Sales agents and distributors are finding that 3D movies, apart from animated features, aren’t attractive enough to justify their bigger asking prices,” Paillard says.

New Partnership: The Cannes Market has signed a deal with Europa Cinema, a network of European independent theaters, to allow distributors and producers of films available on Cinando to connect directly with exhibitors.

Participation: The biggest growth in participation at the market comes from producers. “I think that underscores the importance of co-production in this market, as well as the fact that Cannes offers the best platform for co-production,” Paillard says.

The market had registered 8,480 participants as of April 23, a 9% increase on 2011.

“The rise in participation is well spread geographically, with the biggest spikes coming from Asia and Latin America,” Paillard says. “Another encouraging sign this year is the fact that companies will send slightly larger teams to Cannes.”

More than 250 producers will attend the Producers Workshop — 40% more than last year.

As many as 3,300 market titles, including 1,800 completed films, are set for the market as of April 23. Documentaries rep 12% of all titles.

Cannes Preview 2012
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