The Berlin festival may not unspool on a sunny beach, but the European Film Market, which runs alongside the fest, is becoming much more like Cannes and the American Film Market — at least when it comes to serving as a launching pad for major movies.
“Berlin has really solidified itself as the third international sales market,” says FilmNation topper Glen Basner.
A pair of high-profile projects will be unveiled on the market’s opening day Feb. 6: “Race” and “Max Steel.”
“Race,” is a biopic starring John Boyega (“Attack the Block”) with Stephen Hopkins directing a story about runner Jesse Owens and his four gold medal wins at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Producers have set a media event for the Olympic Stadium where Owens performed the feat of humiliating Adolf Hitler, single-handedly crushing his theories of racial superiority. It’s a German/Canadian co-production between Solofilms and Trinity Race with shooting planned for April in Berlin and Montreal.
Mattel and Dolphin Films will unveil details about a live-action adaptation of “Max Steel,” pictured above, the toymaker’s tale of teenager Maxwell McGrath and alien companion Steel, who can combine special turbo-energy powers to generate sensational superhero Max Steel.
Berlin has traditionally served as a market for arthouse, serious dramas and social fare aimed at European distributors. But in recent years, companies looking to cut through the masses of pics at Cannes and AFM have used Berlin events as a spur for sales of mainstream projects such as Ron Howard’s “Rush”; Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects”; “Kill the Messenger,” starring Jeremy Renner; Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man”; and the untitled Hugh Grant-Marisa Tomei romantic comedy with Castle Rock producing.
“We had Hugh Grant and Martin Shafer in Berlin last year to meet with buyers, which is a huge help,” Basner says. “Every film is different, but he’s the star and so seeing him is an assurance that he’s going to promote it too.”
David Garrett of Mister Smith Entertainment, which is selling “Race” at the EFM, says producers and financiers have come to realize that Berlin offers a strong opportunity.
“I think Berlin is a great launching pad because it’s not going to be as cluttered as AFM or Cannes,” Garrett notes. “After AFM, you have Thanksgiving, Christmas and then Sundance so there’s not a lot of time for people to focus on putting together more projects. So using Berlin is great way to build up awareness of your project and make it into a brand.”
The “Max Steel” movie is a particularly intriguing title, given that it’s an TV animated series in 150 countries. It’s the first feature for both Mattel and Dolphin Entertainment, which is financing, producing and selling via the launch of its sales outfit at Berlin.
Mattel and Dolphin announced the partnership in September, with Open Road on board for U.S. distribution.
“These type of potentially massive franchise films don’t come into the independent market very often,” says Dolphin topper Bill O’Dowd.
“Max Steel” is being presented at Berlin by Mattel, Dolphin Films International and IM Global, which has a multi-year partnership with Dolphin.
The growing EFM has also added a screening venue this year: http://youtu.be/QvW9NR4oPMM