Venice Market on Upward Trajectory Thanks to Co-Prod Mart and Stronger Fest

Netflix acquisitions manager Funa Maduka is making her first trek to Venice

VENICE – The Venice Film Market is not making any quantum leaps this year, but it looks set on a path of progressive consolidation with a robust representation of industry professionals, comprising more producers than in the past, plus high-ranking European Commission honchos lured to the Lido for the first time, and enough fresh mostly European auteur fare to ensure that some business will get done.

Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera candidly admits that the fourth edition of this informal mart, which starts the post- summer dealmaking season before the Toronto juggernaut, was “not able to make the big steps forward that we hoped for.” That is because “our plans to build new market infrastructure were blocked by the fact that the mayor of Venice was arrested [on corruption charges] last year.”

Well, that’s Italy for you.

Still, reflecting a strong 72nd edition of the fest, execs and companies expected to attend the VFM include Lido aficionado Harvey Weinstein, Markus Zimmer of prominent German distribut Concorde, TFI’s Thierry Decourcelle, Bavaria CEO Gerd Achim Rohnke and execs from Wild Bunch, Square One, Fortissimo, Studio Canal U.K.,  HanWay, Warner Bros. and Shoreline, among others. Coming for the first time is Netflix acquisitions manager Funa Maduka. Netflix, which will launch in October in Italy, has two titles world-preeming in Venice, Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation” and also hot docu “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”

“It’s clear that going forward Netflix and Amazon will be two big production entities that we will all be dealing with,”  Barbera says. “They have the money to make independent cinema that the studios no longer want to make.”

Within the somewhat cramped confines of designated Excelsior Hotel areas the Sept. 3-8 mart will host the second edition of its European Gap-Financing Market (Sept. 4-5), which supports European producers in the final financing stage of 15 selected projects. These are matched with selected financiers and funds, producers, distributors and sales agents. Also in place is the third Final Cut in Venice workshop (Sept. 7-8) which sustains post-production of six selected works-in- progress from Africa, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Jordan.

Reflecting this year’s strong Latin American presence at the fest, new companies that have booked the mart’s few available stands include national film entities from Mexico (Imcine) and Argentina (Incaa), besides European co-production fund Eurimages and U.K. arthouse exhibitor Regent Street Cinema.

VFM topper Pascal Diot is particularly proud that several projects selected last year for the gap financing mart went on to do well. Among these he cited rookie Italian director Laura Bispuri’s female-empowerment drama “Sworn Virgin,” which screened in Berlin and Tribeca, where it scored a nod earlier this year.

A panel on Sept. 7 in tandem with the European Commission will thrash out new challenges faced by the film and TV industries within the recently announced European regulatory framework, which intends to do away with territorial copyright barriers in the movie and TV business in order to create a single Euro market. This would prevent producers selling rights to their pics territory by territory across the continent, possibly destroying what some consider the existing model of independent film financing as few companies would be willing to license an independent film, a still viable business model. EU commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Gunther Oettinger will be on hand to field the gripes.

Diot said he expects industry presence on a par with last year when 261 key distributors and 66 key sales agents made the trek from 57 countries amid some 1,500 accredited professionals. But this year more producers will be on hand, he vows, signaling the VFM is gaining a greater raison d’être.

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