The business-meets-pleasure formula of French Alps-set Les Arcs Film Festival think Sundance’s potent mix of ski slopes and screenings — and its biz-skewing sidebar has proven attractive and productive to European industry players.
Now in its fourth year, the 1950 Coproduction Village belongs to a new breed of events that give industryites unique opportunities (such as sports workshops and a European Cinema Ski Cup) to network that go beyond traditional back-to-back-meetings.
Since its 2009 kick-off, the forum has been luring top-level distribs, sales agents, exhibitors and regional funds’ execs, many of whom have been returning every year.
“There’s a real demand for events like ours that provide buyers with a pre-selection of interesting projects and allow participants to mingle and network beyond the meeting room,” says fest CEO Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin, who works closely with Vanja Kaludjercic, manager of the 1950 Coproduction Village.
Another obvious draw is the pedigree of projects pitched at Les Arcs. The forum received 150 projects this year vs. 80 in 2011; and most titles that make it on the final slate of 25 or so pics are either helmed by well-established and up-and-coming directors — including many Cannes alumni — or backed by producers who have a solid track record.
Promising projects on this year’s roaster include “The Choice,” from Italian helmer Michele Placido; “Face Down,” from Bulgarian filmmaker Kamen Kalev, whose “The Island” preemed at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight; “Flora 63,” helmed by Gaul’s Stephane Robelin, whose “And if We All Lived Together” played at Locarno; and “Kebab Royal,” directed by Belgian Peter Brosen and American Jessica Woodworth, who last teamed on Toronto-preeming “The Fifth Season.”
Per French producer Ilann Girard, who presented Charlotte Rampling starrer “I, Anna” at the forum in 2009, the timing of Les Arcs was crucial, strategy-wise.
“After Cannes, the next major co-production market is Rotterdam, and then there’s Berlin, but apart from Rome, very few co-production markets are scheduled in between,” says Girard, topper of Paris-based Arsam Intl., who found a German co-producer on “I, Anna” at Les Arcs and subsequently decided to lense in Germany.
“By the time Berlin came up, we had fine-tuned our pitch and our German co-producer (at Riva Filmproduktion) had already prepared his application for the Hamburg Fund and the German tax credit,” Girard says.
Launched a year ago, the Works-in-Progress section has gained a solid reputation. Two of the films presented there — Baltasar Kormakur’s “The Deep” and Daniele Cipri’s “It Was the Son” (“E stato il figlio”) — have since completed and bowed at Toronto and Venice, respectively.
Icelandic filmmaker Kormakur found a French distributor and sales agent — Paris-based Bac Films — at Les Arcs after he unspooled a trailer of “The Deep,” which he helmed and produced.
“I didn’t know what to expect from Les Arcs and I was impressed with how many people were there — it’s definitely a good place to find partners from the U.K. and France,” says Kormakur, who recently wrapped the shoot of “2 Guns,” with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.
For Gilles Sousa, head of international sales at Bac, “The Deep” was a good catch. “I saw the trailer and loved it; then a few hours later I bumped into (Kormakur) at the bottom of a ski slope and we started talking about what we could do together. That’s how it all started.”
A year later, the film bowed at Toronto and Bac has sold it in over 20 territories.
Focusing on European films is a big plus, per Fleurantin. “It increases chances of finding a co-producer — within Europe, there is a cultural proximity and a judicial and financial context that’s already established to facilitate partnerships.”
Sousa concurs, “When European films have been acquired in multiple territories we can apply for select subsidies provided by the Media Program. And when we approach distributors that’s an argument we increasingly put forward.”
Baltasar Kormakur’s “The Deep,” Pablo Berger’s “Blancanieves” and Daniele Cipri’s “It Was the Son” are among the 12 pics set to compete for a Crystal Arrow at Les Arcs European Film Festival, which runs Dec. 15-22 at the French Alps ski resort.
Romanian Cristian Mungiu will serve as jury prexy, while Tribeca’s Frederic Boyer will be back as artistic topper.
Fest will spotlight six European pics that have been local hits but have yet to be discovered by international audiences. These include Alberto Rodriguez’s action-packed thriller “Grupo 7,” Ralf Huettner’s comedy “Lost in Siberia” and Aleksey Igudesman’s mockumentary “Noseland.”
As part of an initiative called Web2Film, Les Arcs will welcome popular bloggers who will shoot a short film and behind-the-scene footage during the fest.
Professional events include a co-production forum and a work-in-progress session scheduled Dec. 15-18. The forum and session will showcase 26 projects and 11 pics in post-prod, respectively, and will bring together top European distributors and sales agents, from Gaul’s Wild Bunch to Scandinavia’s TrustNordisk and Germany’s the Match Factory. Each work-in-progress screening will be followed by a WOC — wine, oyster and cheese — session.
Starting Dec. 19, Les Arcs will organize the Dire Days, a four-day confab attended by indie European distributors who will present a film from their 2013 lineup to exhibitors and film critics. Fun extracurricular activities comprise the European Cinema Ski Cup, which is open to all film professionals, and project-pitching on chair lifts.