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Stars Hit Venice as Market Ups Ante

Topper Diot sees Lido as networking mecca for global biz with innovative marketing

Venice, at 70, is a grand dame. The Venice Film Market, in its second edition this year, is a rapidly growing baby, eager to explore new movie mart modalities and attain a distinctive feel.

“What I really want is for Venice to become a networking place — that’s my mantra,” said Venice market topper Pascal Diot. “Our aim is to become a totally different market from Cannes, Berlin or Toronto, where people are running around all day. In Venice they have time to sit down and talk about their tastes — that’s the way I’d like deals to be done here.”

The VFM topper is finding more ways to draw industryites to the Lido, even if they don’t have a movie playing at the fest.

In 2012, Diot paid the way for a hand-picked group of sellers to attend the market, and this year, instead of just inviting buyers, Diot is paying the way for 60 buyers and 40 producers to come to the mart in an effort to diversify his networking strategy. He expects the overall number of attendees to be at least on a par with last year when VFM welcomed 1,100 registered industryites, including at least 250 international buyers.

Last edition, market screenings unspooled mostly via its digital video library, with just one 15-seat screening room available. This year, Diot has the 100-seat Sala Pasinetti and two other venues at his disposal for market screenings of pics world-preeming in the official selection, Venice Days and Critics’ Week.

In terms of networking, VFM will have a day dedicated to meetings between sales companies and arthouse exhibitors, capitalizing on a big meet the Intl. Confederation of Art Cinemas (Cicae) is holding in Venice at the start of the fest.

Initiative marks the first time arthouse exhibitors from Europe and beyond will have the possibility of meeting directly with sales companies. They will be shown a promo reel followed by one-on-one meetings. Diot is hoping these meets will spawn sales in what could become a niche business model. Diot is also launching a VFMPlatform app.

Given that the VFM runs so close to Toronto, Diot’s aim is to “build bridges with Asia, the Middle East and Africa,” besides its obvious connection to Europe, including Russia, and its existing link to Latin America, which is present at the Lido with promotional entities Cinema Do Brasil and Argentina’s Incaa. There is also a stronger Chinese industry presence on the Lido with both the Beijing and Shanghai fests at the mart, state broadcaster CCTV and several Chinese indie distributors.

Another VFM novelty is the mart’s Final Cut in Venice workshop on Sunday, which supports African films in post-production, organized in collaboration with Amiens and Fribourg.

This is a way to involve more sales companies and producers to put post-production money, the idea being to also open up Final Cut to the Middle East next year.

For Hollywood and beyond, in market terms Venice is not just the Venice Film Market. Some of the biggest indie film production-sales companies in the world — Exclusive Media, FilmNation, IM Global, Voltage — will world premiere key titles on the Lido.

That seems natural since Venice is also about marketing and positioning a film looking forward to both the Toronto festival, where most sales will be made, and, if the stars align, awards season.

“You’re part of a group of four or five high-profile English-language movies in one of the top three or four film festivals in the world,” said Nicolas Chartier at Voltage, which has “The Zero Theorem” in competition.

For Glen Basner at FilmNation, which is selling Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin,” a Venice bow is “a good way to build up some momentum prior to Toronto.” He added, “premiering in Venice is a good way to take a film that you think could be an Oscar contender and put it out there to see if it is relevant to the conversation.”

Plus, Chartier said, “Venice is fun.”

Little wonder Venice remains a popular Hollywood destination.

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