Is it time to add a dedicated film market? – The Hollywood journalist
Sorry, Cannes, but this year Venice has beaten you. Again. The combination on the Lido of big budget blockbusters Dune, Halloween kills, The last duel – with premium arthouse and independent titles – Pablo Larraín’s Spencer with Kristen Stewart, the film by Ana Lily Amirpour Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, Shirin Neshat Land of dreams starring Sheila Vand and Matt Dillon – makes Venice the star of the 2021 A-list festivals. Even the late start of Cannes – the French festival was held in July instead of May of this year – is unlikely to restrict the Venice style or threaten the Italian event’s position as the # 1 festival launch pad for fall releases and awards season.
Under the reign of artistic director Alberto Barbera, Venice gained prestige and industrial importance. It helped Barbera to embrace Netflix and TV productions – this year’s lineup includes Jane Campion’s The power of the dog and that of Pablo Sorrentino God’s hand, both produced for Netflix, as well as the premiere of the HBO series Scenes from a wedding, with Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac – avoiding the “us versus them” approach of Cannes, which sides with theatrical distributors against streamers, prohibiting films from competing if they are only released online.
“Venice is the first major festival of the fall season, and all eyes are on the new generation of quality films scrambling for attention. It’s an honor to be a part of that, ”said Negeen Yazdi, senior vice president of film development and production at Endeavor Content, which pre-sold the Venice competition title from Maggie Gyllenhaal. The lost girl worldwide, including a multi-territory deal with Netflix, ahead of its Lido debut.
All that’s missing is a market.
There is no equivalent in Venice to the Cannes Film Market or the European Film Market in Berlin. Even the Toronto Film Festival, which never had a formal market, attracts a much larger contingent of industry people (nearly 4,000 for its hybrid digital / in-person event last year) than Venice. and regularly offers featured contracts.
Venice industry events – held under the auspices of the Venice Production Bridge from September 2-7 – are well attended and well regarded, especially the Gap Funding Market, which showcases international projects to the search for co-producers and co-financiers. But the industry component of the festival remains tiny compared to Cannes, Berlin, Toronto or Sundance.
“There have been several attempts to try to create a real market in Venice, but they have never really succeeded,” notes Thorsten Ritter, executive vice president of global acquisitions, sales and marketing at Beta Cinema in Germany. “We all realize that the Lido just doesn’t have the infrastructure to support a physical market. “
“You don’t have the space, you don’t have the hotels, you don’t have the projection capacity to make it work,” notes Claudia Bedogni, head of acquisitions for Italian distribution Satine Film and veteran of 30 years in Venice, highlighting the limited options on the Lido, the 10 km long island that hosts the festival. “You go to Cannes for the market, you go to Venice for the cinema.”
Ritter notes that “business is always done” in Venice – last year Beta made deals for the US (with Koch Film) and UK (Curzon) for Uberto Pasolini’s film Nowhere special after its world premiere in the Venice Horizons sidebar – but that the approach is more informal and more closely linked to the festival.
“It’s about having a film in official selection, having that seal of approval,” he notes, “then getting the critical support, getting great reviews, getting red carpet photos that you can share on social media to get people excited about the movie, not showing a trailer to a buyer at a booth.
“At the end of the day, it’s the very fact that the festival is not a full-fledged market that allows you to stay focused on the films themselves,” Yazdi adds. “The way Alberto schedules the festival allows each film to breathe and the audience and the press to discover new stories and voices. “
Yazdi indicates Costa brava, the debut feature by Lebanese filmmaker Mounia Akl, which Endeavor Content, along with Participant and MK2 Films in France, is selling worldwide and which will premiere in Venice’s new Horizons Extra sidebar.
“It promises to be a brilliant launching pad for an exciting emerging author voice,” she says.
Then there’s the fact that the physical film markets are a bit overwhelmed these days. Eighteen months of COVID lockdowns and the success of digital-only or digital hybrid events have shown that business can be done through Zoom as easily as a formal market.
Ultimately, for many in the industry, adding a film market to the Lido risks spoiling what makes Venice so special. “It’s a place where time seems to stand still and you can just watch a movie without any noise,” says Ritter. “This is the last bastion of film romantics.”
This story first appeared in the daily issue of The Hollywood Reporter on September 2 at the Venice International Film Festival.