Film mart premieres tech show start-up

WB DVD, Kodak head up U.S. presence

PARIS – Spurred on by the increasing use of digital technology in post-production and directors’ growing interest in using special effects in their films, the Cannes Intl. Film Market (MIF) has added a new string to its bow — the Intl. Market of Technologies and Innovation in Cinema (MITIC).

The start-up event runs parallel to the fest (Cannes 13-24) and will bring roughly 25 companies, most of them French, down to the Cote D’Azur to show producers, directors and techies just what’s hot in the world of new technology.

MIF director Jerome Paillard admits the decision to launch MITIC came a tad late for many post-production houses. “Most of the big companies decide on their next year’s marketing budgets between October and December, and we approached them in December.”

The event is co-organized by France’s Commission Superieure Technique de L’Image et du Son (CST) and if the 1998 participants tend to be drawn heavily from the special effects sector, CST topper Yves Louchez hopes that in years to come, innovative technology from all fields will be present on the Croisette.

“There is a tendency to think that all innovation is based around digital technology, but that’s not the whole story,” notes Louchez. “We want to encourage the labs to attend as well as the companies who provide the hardware for the industry.”

In a move to help clarify the various strands of MIF, Paillard has opened the MITIC doors to film commissions.

“We want to make MIF an event which clearly involves the buying and selling of films,” Paillard says. “Film commissions have always been present in Cannes, and now they are part of an identifiable event.”

Paillard adds that film commissions provide vital services for producers and directors.

“They know the local rules and what’s new in their market,” Paillard says. The key to MITIC is innovation, and that includes the new services offered by the commissions.”

Heading the U.S. presence at MITIC will be Warner Bros. DVD and Kodak, while other international heavyweights include Philips DVS. France has a wad of effects companies present, including Duboi Durand, which worked heavily on “Alien IV,” Ex Machina, Medialab and Mikros Image, which started attacking the feature film market at the beginning of 1998.

“We have been prospecting potential clients prior to Cannes and we want to show them exactly what we can offer,” says Mikros Image spokesperson Maryle Capmas. Mikros has France’s first Quantel Domino machine, and did the special effects on Gallic comedy “Serial Lover,” which launched in France in April.

Many of the MITIC participants already hit the techie gathering Imagina in Monte Carlo, but most are hoping that with so much of the film world down at Cannes, they will be able to beef up order books for features.

MITIC is also providing five thematic days during the fest, designed to profile various aspects of new technology. May 15 will be devoted to special effects, with companies using MITIC’s screening facilities to tub-thump their wares. Other themes include DVD, digital restoration, new projection methods and training with new technology.

Back at MIF, Paillard reports that pressure from sales companies wanting to screen in Cannes is as strong as ever. Paillard and his team can handle slightly over 1,000 screenings, and this year some 500 pics will use the MIF facilities.

“Our figures show that over 50% of the films in Cannes will be making their market premiere,” Paillard notes.

The signs are, however, that there has been a weeding out of certain companies, according to the MIF topper.

“Companies that worked a lot with Asia are obviously suffering. So are those companies who had direct-to-video product. The upside is that theatrical sales companies seem very active.”

Paillard has also seen a significant increase in the number of films being brought to Cannes in various states. He says some 1,700 projects will be in town, “either finished films, or pics that are in development, pre-production or post-production.”

Given that a huge number of potential pics are brought into Cannes by people who aren’t signed up to MIF, business on the Croisette is likely to be as hectic as ever.

With more than 4,450 film execs due to attend MIF, the U.S. contingent remains the largest, with 22% of all participants jetting in from the States. The resurgence of the U.K.’s film industry has moved the British presence into second place, just edging out the Gallic contingent. Not surprisingly, South Korean numbers are down 50%.

Over the past two years, Paillard has been doing his best to persuade those companies who have traditionally set up shop in Cannes hotel rooms to become part of MIF. His uphill struggle is getting a major boost with the construction of the 10,000 square meters of extra exhibition space attached to the Palais.

Equipped with eight screening rooms, plush rooftop gardens and space for around 120 companies, Paillard says that initial reaction to the plans, especially from hotel-based sales companies, has been “very upbeat.”

The new exhibition space will be available for May 2000.