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Kosslick, Probst Teamed Up to Expand European Film Market

EFM European Film Market Berlinale Placeholder
Lia Darjes Courtesy of Juliane Eirich/Berlinale EFM

Beki Probst, former head of the European Film Market, gives Dieter Kosslick great credit for shaping not just the Berlin festival, but also for helping its film market make a quantum leap.

“When you ask me what is the image of the Berlinale today, it is of a red scarf and a Borsalino hat,” says Probst. Both objects are part of the sartorial signature of Kosslick, who is stepping down as festival leader after this year’s edition.

Kosslick is being honored at the Berlin Film Festival with Variety‘s Achievement in International Film Award.

And it was Kosslick who had the vision to move the EFM to the Martin Gropius Bau, the imposing neo-Renaissance building where the market shifted in 2006, and where most of its activities still remain.

After the American Film Market quit its February slot, and settled in November instead — effectively knocking Mifed off the calendar — Berlin’s festival and market proximity remained important as they searched for bigger premises and better screening facilities for the EFM.

In 2000, organizers had already expanded the EFM by moving it from the Tiergarten district to Potsdamer Platz, and the Debis Building, in use the rest of the year as an upscale Mercedes car showroom. Maintaining close proximity to the festival was a guiding principle as the Berlinale relocated to the historical center of the now-reunited city.

After fruitless searches and numerous discarded options, “Dieter suddenly said, ‘Let’s go to the museum,’” Probst recalls. “We all thought he was out of his mind.”

The move to the MGB took nearly two years of persuasion and planning to pull off. And Probst freely admits that she could not initially envisage how the market stands would look inside the quadratic red brick building with its imposing atrium that has housed exhibitions by Paul Klee, David Bowie and Ai Weiwei. (She was keen to avoid a repeat of the “rabbit holes” of the old Cine Center.) And the museum’s director is reported to have considered the invading film executives as barbarians.

But Kosslick saw things another way. And he had the persuasive skills to make them take a chance.

“Very simply, Dieter sees things that other people do not,” says Probst.

Keeping things close together — if not exactly under one roof — has meant that Berlin’s festival and market have been able to grow up together. Probst is convinced that their relationship is symbiotic.

“Some people come for the festival and then discover the market. Other people come for the market, and then learn the richness of the different sections of the festival. We definitely benefit from each other,” Probst says,
In the Probst-Kosslick, era the market has added project finance and co-production sections, giving it more scale and more functionality.

“There are no lunches on the beach at the EFM, which is mostly indoors. Maybe it is because we are in Germany, but people generally come well-prepared in advance. They know what they want to see, and what meetings they want to take,” Probst says. “But there’s also another thing going on, too. The more choices there are in the festival, the more interesting it becomes to buyers. We now have a strong mix of art and commercial films. And there is still a big element of discovery.”

Probst officially stepped down last year from her role as market head, and has returned to her hometown in Switzerland. But she says she will always be on call if Berlin needs her. “It is in my DNA,” she says.

As Kosslick says farewell to the festival he may retain a similar connection.