London Film Festival fetes the movie biz

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European Update

For “filmmakers and executives at all stages of their careers,” the industry program at the 59th edition of the BFI London Film Festival (Oct. 7-18) offered a “range of valuable opportunities to develop skills and make new connections,” festival director Clare Stewart promised. Activities were intended to help them “to grow their business and expertise in an environment where they can also see the best new films from around the world.”One key element was the new “LFF Connects” series of “thought-provoking and high-impact talks” that included Christopher Nolan, Tacita Dean (Tate Modern), Alexander Horwath (Austrian Film Museum) and Heather Stewart (British Film Institute creative director) conducting a “conversation that reframes the future of film as a medium.” Additional guests were Laurie Anderson (LFF Connects: Performance/Music), Guy Maddin (Art), Chris Milk (Creative Technologies) and Geena Davis keynoting the first global symposium outside of the U.S. for the Institute on Gender in Media and Women that she founded.

Additional highlights of LFF’s industry partnerships included Film London’s Production Finance and Micro Markets, with over 800 face-to-face meetings in two days for the former. And one day for the latter uniting 25 filmmaking teams with financiers on projects budgeted at €1 million and under (US$1.136 mil.). Market Place Live provided an interactive approach to “bringing a project to market” with experts from finance, distribution, international sales and marketing.

As the international industry focus was on China, of course, LFF also partnered with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for a panel highlighting its support of the global filmmaking industry. Mark Johnson, producer and Foreign Language Film Award Committee chairman, appeared onstage to discuss the process of submitting a film into the Oscar race.

The Importance of Breaking Records

On Oct. 8, the broadcast of a live performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest starring David Suchet as Lady Bracknell, beaming from London’s West End to 372 cinema sites in the U.K., marked “the highest opening-week gross for any commercial West End theatre production screened in cinemas.” Ticket sales of £508,041 (US$785,000; €691,500) ranked second for the night, only behind The Martian.

“This shows just what an appetite there is beyond the West End for such classic and entertaining plays,” noted Christine Costello of More2Screen. “From the moment we announced this release back in March, we have had a fantastic reaction from our cinema partners and their audiences.” The equally Important recorded release of this cinema event rolls out internationally into the U.S. (Nov. 3), Canada (Dec. 5) and Australia (Feb. 6). Across Europe, an additional 88 cinemas in 11 territories were part of the initial U.K. broadcast

Promoting European Films

Hamburg, Germany-based European Film Promotion selected cities of Angels and Saints in the United States and Russia to present the latest and greatest that European cinema has to offer.

From Oct. 25 to Nov. 8, EFP’s LA Screenings will showcase a record number of 27 European titles among the total lineup of 81 submissions in the Foreign-Language category. After eight years, EFP welcomes more than two-thirds of the European countries now–36 total this year–that are taking advantage of “the extra presentation and promotion” this series offers, organizers noted. “Since most of the films are still available for the U.S. market, distributors and international buyers are invited to the screenings along with Academy members.” Some of the films will be presented by their talent in person. Latvia and Albania are participating in the Screenings for the first time.

Another first launched at Westwind festival in St. Petersburg (Oct. 21-25). The third edition of this Creative Europe/MEDIA Programme-supported event includes theatrical screenings. Nine films shown at the Angleterre Hotel “serve as the engine” for EFP’s first Video-On-Demand festival on ivi, which is deemed to be Russia’s most popular online cinema. For a list of films available for one year on ivi, click www.efp-online.com/download/pdf/IVIfilms.pdf.

With the change from Moscow to St. Petersburg and the extension to include the online availability of 26 Oscar submissions from across Europe, “EFP is reacting to the present unstable situation for European films in the Russian distribution market,” the organization said. “EFP wants to continue the dialogue with Russian audiences,” explained EFP managing director Renate Rose. “The two-track approach…will make Westwind into a special endeavor for reaching out to a larger audience.”

Testa Takes KenCast International

KenCast Inc., the technology backbone provider behind the DCDC delivery network, appointed Fabrice Testa as head of international business development in the company’s expansion activities across the EMEA, Russia and CIS and APAC regions. KenCast’s initial focus will be on “building the digital-cinema delivery network, offering the technology platform that is widely deployed in North and Latin America,” said chief executive officer Eric Reed. “The timing is ideal, as our initiatives in these regions have picked up significantly.”

Testa brings 25 years of digital tech experience and has “contributed to the massive digitization of the European landscape,” the announcement stated, including key positions with XDC and dcinex, as well as DSAT Cinema. “Digitization is now behind us,” Testa knows, “but we are still far away in terms of digital delivery for both movies and live events in Europe. Hence, there are great opportunities for KenCast to gain market share and for cinema stakeholders to benefit from their superior technology.”

Waltz Awards Swiss Films

During the IWC gala dinner held as part of the 11th Zurich Film Festival (Sept. 24 to Oct. 4), Oscar-winning actor Christoph Waltz presented the first-ever “Filmmaker Award.” The Swiss luxury watchmaker had invited some 200 guests celebrating two winners to the theme of “For the Love of Cinema.” Set up by the Association for the Promotion of Film in Switzerland (Verein zur Filmförderung in der Schweiz), the sponsorship award is worth CHF 100,000 (US$104,600; €92,125) and intended to support “promising film projects” during their production or post-production stages.

Waltz said, “Providing sponsorship for filmmakers is a necessary and relevant task, one which makes a significant contribution to the diversity of Swiss film.” The team behind Und morgen seid ihr tot received the main amount for their upcoming production, telling the true story of two Swiss citizens who were kidnapped by the Taliban in Pakistan, and their successful escape after eight months in captivity. 2:1 Films was lauded for Europe, She Loves, showing five couples struggling for everyday survival in a Europe shaken by the economic crisis. “The scripts of both these films stood out for their compelling storytelling and the exceptional sensitivity with which these two very different stories were told. Hopefully we’ll be able to see both of them on the big screen soon,” said George Kern, chief executive officer of IWC.

For director Marc Forster, who was also a member of the jury, this Filmmaker Award represents a real milestone for the domestic film industry. “We are plugging a gap in the existing funding available for films,” he explained. The Association for the Promotion of Film in Switzerland was co-founded by Forster, Kern, the co-directors of the Zurich Film Festival, Nadja Schildknecht and Karl Spoerri, and Marc Walder, chief executive officer of Ringier.