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Global Biz Drives Locarno’s Industry Days

Locarno industry initiatives reflect larger picture

LOCARNO — From 2010, when it launched its Industry Days screenings, few festivals in the world have ramped up their industry activities so forcefully as Switzerland’s Locarno Fest.

2011 saw a Carte Blanche pix-on-post showcase, focusing to date on a fast-growth Latin American territory.

Discussion forum Step In launched last year. In 2013, Puentes celebrates its first Europe-Latin American workshop at Locarno, and Europa Cinemas gives its first Label Prize.

Locarno’s industry build tells. As of Monday, at 1047, industry professional accreditations set an all-time record, and repped a healthy 15% increase vs. 2012.

Why Locarno – as other festivals worldwide – has launched multiple recent industry initiatives, and seen attendance spike, is another matter.

Quite simply, it is becoming harder, not easier, to sell and find a theatrical audience for the average arthouse film, the core of Locarno’s programming, and producers, sales agents and distributors and exhibitors need all the help they can get. Festivals which aid its movie suppliers best will be supplied with the best movies.

Other Locarno innovations are just common sense, such as the Industry Days screenings themselves.

These see all the movies in the fest’s three biggest sections – the Piazza Grande, International Competition and Filmmakers of the Present – unspool over Aug. 10-12 for sales agents and distributors.

“Rather than creating a formal market, creating access to films outside the program, we decided to give higher visibility to the festival selection,” said Nadia Dresti, the Locarno Festival’s head of international.

That reflects the nature of films screened. Unlike, say, Cannes competition, few Locarno’s competition titles world preem pre-sold worldwide. This year, roughly half the titles in competition and Filmmakers of the Present, Locarno’s Directors’ Fortnight-ish section, have yet to attach world sales agents.

Sales agents get quality time with buyers. Some  – Fortissimo, Media Luna New Films, Elle Driver – are attending this year, although they’re not screening any film.

Steering sellers and buyers towards three Industry Days creates a critical mass of industry folk. The more people come, the more people want to come, Dresti argued.

Beyond this virtuous circle, the Industry Days are also a sales agents sweetener, she added: Sales agents know their movies will unspool Locarno’s first weekend or Monday with all industry attendees in town, whatever the date of their official selection screenings.

The formula seems to be working. U.S. attendees include FiGa Films, Kino Lorner, New Yorker Films, Radius, Shoreline Ent, Voltage Pics, The Brooklyn Rail, Traction Media, The Cinema Guild, Adopt Films.

From international, sales agents encompass from France Wild Bunch, Memento Films Intl., Funny Balloons, Elle Driver, Pyramide Intl. Bac Films, Le Pacte, Rezo, Les Films du Losange, Films Distribution and UDI.

Germany’s The Match Factory, Global Screen and Media Luna New Films, South Korea’s Finecut, the U.K.’s eOne, Fortissimo and The Works Film Group, Denmark’s TrustNordisk and Italy’s Intramovies count among other sales agents.

Locarno’s expanded industry role reflects two factors that have impacted enormously on the arthouse business worldwide: the ever more mainstream shift of TV acquisitions and theatrical audiences; an exponential hike in the number of films that get made.

Driven by emerging markets, the number of feature films produced worldwide has near doubled from 3,366 in 1998 to 6,098 in 2011, per IHS Electronics & Media (formerly IHS Screen Digest).

Per Dresti, “Even if a film is selected [for Locarno], there is no guarantee that it will find distribution. Being aware of that gap, the Industry Days are aiming to play an active role in the support of auteur films, whether launching a new project or extending and optimizing existing services and initiatives.”

“There are now so many films produced that it’s not easy for sales agents and distributors when presented with such a large choice,” she added.

Festival selection and prizes, like works-in-progress showcases, such as Carte Blanche, work as early filter mechanisms helping select films on their way towards a paying public.

Co-production forums such as Open Doors and Puentes are designed, as Dresti put it, for films to be “made better, sometimes bigger, with international markets in mind.”

The 66th Locarno Festival, which kicks off Wednesday with the international premiere of Baltasar Kormakur’s U.S. chart-topper “2 Guns,” will decide which films this year make it through the crunch.

LOCARNO INDUSTRY BUILD: A TIMELINE

2000: Nadia Dresti launches Locarno’s Industry Office in fest’s last edition under Marco Muller.

2003: First Open Doors co-production lab, now partnered by the European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE), Ateliers du Cinema Europeen (ACE) and the Cannes Market’s Producers Network. Martina Malacrida now heads Open Doors.

2010: In a milestone move, Locarno launches its Industry Days, allowing buyers and sales agents to screen all the films in its major sections over three days.

2011: The inaugural Carte Blanche pix-in-post competition features Colombia. 2012’s Mexico and now Chile follow.

2012: Locarno bows discussion forum Step In, which focuses on distribution in Eastern Europe. For 2013, up to 70 industry figures, mostly sales agents, distributors and exhibitors, debate four hot-button issues: Eastern/Central Europe, following up Step In discussions in 2012; anti-piracy; MEDIA Program-backed distribution pilot projects; marketing-promotion in small markets. An international work group will compare distribution experiences with European attendees.

From 2012, MEDIA Access to Market supports Industry Days; Europa International, Europa Distribution and Europa Cinemas are partners. Festival also teams with Festival Scope from web platform’s beginnings.

2013: Puentes moves to Locarno for its 5th Europe-Latin America Producers Workshop. A Europa Cinemas Label prize created for best European film in International Competition and Filmmakers of the Present.

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