Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 17:55 UK

Cannes market is festival's focus

By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Cannes

Darrin Ramage on his "ultra-serious and violent horror films"

The Cannes spotlight shines on the 22 films in the main competition, but in the basement of the Palais du Festivals more than 4,000 movies are being bought, sold and haggled over.

The Marche Du Film is where the serious business of Cannes really happens, with an estimated one billion Euros eventually changing hands.

"For many companies, Cannes may represent 50% of their yearly business," says Jerome Paillard, the market's executive director.

"Behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealing will decide what we see for the next couple of years," says Screen International's Michael Gubbins.

This prompts the big movie industry publications - Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and Screen International - to uproot to Cannes every year and produce daily editions of their papers.

"There is so much information coming out, and that's where the background knowledge and expertise of the trade papers really excels."

Bonus price

But the blessing of blanket coverage can also be a curse.

"Cannes is one of the very few places left where reviews in the daily papers are make or break," says Gubbins.

Paillard agrees that critical reception is vital to deals made at the festival.

At the Marche de Film
Business is brisk in the film market

"In some cases, buyers wait until the last minute and the film that wins the Palme D'Or gets the jackpot," he says.

"In other cases they sign a deal, but with a clause which means that if the film gets one of the Palmes there is a bonus price to pay."

US distributor IFC has a strong track record at the festival, seeing off multiple suitors to secure the rights to the last two Palme D'Or winners - Ken Loach's Wind That Shakes The Barley and Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days.

"If we do get the winner this year it would be a good story," says Ariana Bocco, the company's vice president of acquisitions.

The company has already bought two films, including Palme possible Un Conte de Noel, for which Ariana closed a deal on Tuesday, despite having never seen the finished product.

Behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealing will decide what we see for the next couple of years
Michael Gubbins, Screen International

"We'd read the script and seen 20 minutes of footage, so we knew a little bit about what we were getting into," she smiles.

"We figured we more than likely were the buyers for it anyway, so we might as well just get the business done and get it out of the way."

IFC sends 10 people to Cannes to watch as many films as they can. Last year, they went home with eight titles. This year, they expect to secure the rights to a similar number.

'Fast-paced'

"We've already started the process of figuring out what we're going to make offers on," says Bocco. "But we're not going crazy and getting into bidding wars."

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days was snapped up at the market
But not just banner-name films and arthouse movies are on sale. Niche titles in genres like martial arts and anime have their place in the market.

Darrin Ramage, President of Maxim Media International, is in Cannes for the fifth year running with his slate of horror titles like Death Factory Blood Letting.

"We're meeting with about 25-30 clients a day. It's a very long day, it's very fast paced," he says.

Ramage has 16 titles available this year, with the trailer for Death Of A Ghost Hunter raising the most interest.

But the company intends to shift films from its entire back catalogue, including 350 titles such as Swamp Zombie and Motorhome Massacre to TV stations, DVD distributors and hopefully cinemas.

Intending to make a more mainstream impact is Studio 18, a joint venture between US giant Viacom and India's biggest media conglomerate Network 18.

Their Bollywood productions are advertised in a glossy brochure presented in a film canister - but regional head Tanuj Garg says the films practically sell themselves.

Jerome Paillard
Market director Jerome Paillard says it is lucrative for film business

"There's been an increasing amount of interest and curiosity about Bollywood. Very often we have people visting our stand and saying: 'Ah, Bollywood! Ah Indian films! Songs and dances, beautiful looking women!' It's extremely encouraging."

But his company won't be rushing to sign any contracts in the Palais.

"To be honest, we don't close deals in Cannes," he says.

"We try to work out a price point. This is the first and most important step. You expect to close your deal a month after the market."

Despite Cannes' cinephile reputation, the Marche du Film gives a much broader view of cinema.

But one constant remains at the world's most prestigious film festival - very few people find the time to go to the cinema.

Market organiser Jerome Paillard admits: "My job is to visit the cocktail parties, lunches and dinners organised almost all day and trying not to be too fat at the end.

"Totally drunk, but not too fat."


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