While European cinema may still face some challenges in Asia, demand is on the rise, thanks in large part to the work of European Film Promotion (EFP).

The Busan International Film Festival and its Asian Film Market have become an essential event for European film, according to EFP President Martin Schweighofer, who describes Busan as “the gateway to Asia.”

“Personal contact is what counts in Asia,” Schweighofer says. “We can’t expect the Asian distributors to come to Europe, we Europeans have to visit them in Asia to pay our respects and stay in permanent contact. EFP has a solid foothold in the region, not least triggered by an enthusiastic and well-educated Korean audience and its outstanding interest in European cinema.”

EFP’s efforts and continuous dialogue with the festival and the market has “developed into a long-standing and fruitful relationship,” he adds.

The group, which comprises film organizations from 35 European countries, oversees press and advertising campaigns, organizes industry events, fetes filmmakers, assembles the European umbrella booth at the Asian Film Market and provides financial help to sales agents participating in EFP’s Film Sales Support (FSS) program. In Busan, EFP will introduce a select delegation of European filmmakers to Asia’s film industry.

Spanish sales group Filmax International is bringing English-language horror pic “Summer Camp” to Busan with assistance from EFP.

“The EFP support is very valuable in that part of the world and it helps us to reach our clients there,” says Filmax International’s Ivan Diaz, who sees strong demand for genre pics among Asia’s younger auds.

Tassilo Hallbauer, sales exec at Germany’s Beta Cinema, says Busan is the company’s most important market in the region besides Hong Kong. Beta’s Middle East-set romantic drama “The Weather Inside,” which premieres at the fest, secured €5,000 in EFP sales support. Hallbauer says EFP’s “very competent team and the sales support are essential tools for us to promote our films and make deals happen in Asia and anywhere in the world.”

Susanne Davis, who heads EFP’s FSS program, says Busan has seen “breathtaking development” in the past decade, with attendance of European sales companies on the rise and a noticeable influx of major Asian buyers.

Nevertheless, business remains challenging. “Markets outside of Europe are volatile, in particular for European films. Cultivating a taste for European cinema with Korean audiences and fostering artistic appreciation with the Asian public will improve the possibilities for a better market share in the region.”