Networking. Audience outreach. Opening up new markets. They sound like key words in an MBA program catalog, but those are three of the mandates of European Film Promotion.
Founded in 1997, EFP is an international web of orgs from 34 European countries promoting and marketing the continent’s cinema around the world. But the challenges that EFP faces go beyond putting up a stand at Berlin. Reaching new and young audiences, creating opportunities for producers to initiate co-productions, supporting marketing and sales and finding audiences for European films in emerging markets are its priorities.
The sexiest program that EFP backs is Shooting Stars, which spotlights 10 actors and puts them in the middle of the international film business at the Berlinale through panels and meetings with casting directors, producers, directors and the press. There’s also a Shooting Stars channel on YouTube.
Three of the Stars have U.S. agents — Brit George Mackay and Norwegian Jakob Oftebro are with UTA and Dutch thesp Marwan Kenzari with ICM. Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Lucy Punch, Melanie Laurent, Carey Mulligan, Alicia Vikander, Andrea Riseborough and Domhnall Gleeson were Stars over the decade-plus life of the program.
EFP’s Creative Europe is a support program being developed to build awareness for films through a website and social media.
The site would include an online guide with recommendations of important films. “Through EFP’s existing network, around 150,000 people could be reached via the social networks,” says Renate Rose, managing director of EFP. She adds that the website will let audiences know on which platforms they can view the films: theaters, VOD, YouTube.
Rose stresses that although VOD and other digital platforms are great for streaming films, “75% of the films on these platforms are not seen,” mainly because of poor promotion. EFP is using YouTube and social networks to promote trailers, while its glam showcase for young (and beautiful) talent, Shooting Stars, which will unfold again at the Berlinale, gets an online update with a blog penned by British journalist Charles Gant — a Shooting Stars jurist — and other online media promotions.
Right now, there are no plans for a branded YouTube channel or other bigger VOD branding initiatives, although those are not out of the question.
“We believe in networking,” says Rose.
Its Producers on the Move program has traveled outside Europe (the producers selected are announced at the Cannes fest) to Toronto with Producers Lab Toronto, which in 2013 included those from New Zealand and Australia.
“Producers Lab Toronto was a terrific experience,” says Irish producer Katie Holly (“Come on Eileen”). “I met a wonderful array of producers from across Europe, Canada and Australia and New Zealand … and it was an excellent way to gain a lot of knowledge about co-producing opportunities with a lot of territories internationally in a very effective and efficient way. The fact that it takes place during Toronto, one of the largest film festivals and markets in the world, meant that it was also a very effective place to develop and build on conversations started at the Lab.”
EFP is looking at Latin America next, and is in the process of establishing a lab at Spain’s San Sebastian film festival in September. Rose explains that European producers want to network with Latin American producers, and setting up shop in San Sebastian, which has become a European gateway for the best of Latin American talent and filmmakers, is the most cost-efficient way to bridge the trans-Atlantic gap.
Russia is another market that is growing at lightning speed, and last year EFP bowed WestWind, a showcase of 11 European films screened in Moscow. “All of the screenings were open to the local audience, and most of the films were presented by an actor or the director,” says Rose.
The event proved a success for EFP, judging by the number of meetings taken by the sales agents of the films screened. “There was huge interest in the films from the younger audiences,” says Rose. “It was a great experience and we will continue with it.” She adds that the Russians are building more cinemas and are more open to a variety of films from across Europe.
The Film Sales Support program — which grants sales agents up to €5,000 ($6,772) to promotes their pics at foreign markets and fests — is also opening up new markets in Asia and Latin America. Exploiting ties to the Busan Intl. Film Festival, EFP’s umbrella stand at the Asian Film Market in South Korea drew 33 Euro sales companies, and there is demand for an umbrella stand at Hong Kong’s FilMart.
“The sales support activities at Guadalajara in Mexico are developing more as well,” says Rose, adding that EFP may launch Film Sales Support in other markets such as South Africa after 2015.
There’s a lot of special working groups that meet year-round. “Creating networking opportunities for producers and actors across Europe,” says Rose, is the top goal of EFP.
The dream of a European Union may be tough sledding on the political front, but within the filmmaking community, it’s real.