Yanks flock to EFM

Posted: Wed., Feb. 8, 2006, 11:47am PT

Yanks flock to mart
U.S. companies take to re-energized EFM

NEW YORK -- Talk about growth spurts.

In 2005, Berlin underwent a seemingly instant evolution from A-list art-film showcase to essential date on the international sales calendar. And with this edition of the fest even bigger, American companies are arriving with more projects and higher expectations.

In 2005 -- the first year that Berlin's European Film Market no longer competed for business with the American Film Market (which moved to November) -- sales activity at EFM spiked dramatically.

"We've been going to Berlin for at least seven years, but we always focused on films that were at the festival," said Lionsgate Intl. president Nicolas Meyer.

"But the immediate growth of the market environment last year was extraordinary. The festival has always been a talent-friendly event, with great films and great directors. Now, the Market dealmaking has grown at a very fast rate, so we expect to do a ton of business there."

Lionsgate, which has set up shop in Market headquarters at Martin Gropius Bau as well as at the Grand Hyatt, will be selling rights on at least six of its pics, including the actioners "Rogue" (starring Jet Li and Jason Statham) and "Flyboys" (starring Jean Reno and James Franco), as well as "Fido," "Crank," "Borderland," and the doc "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man," which is screening in the Panorama section.

Industry vet David Glasser, head of Bob Yari's foreign sales outfit Syndicate Films, said that Berlin is becoming the third official market for film sales along with Cannes and AFM.

The event is, he continued, "an ideal fit" because it's already there, its timing on the calendar is perfect, and the organizers have made a concerted effort to change it from an arthouse fest to a more wide-ranging event for business.

Syndicate, which is bringing the films "Crazy Dog," "The Illusionist" and "Resurrecting the Champ," is conducting its business out of a suite at the Hyatt. "We knew what we'll be doing ahead of time: It's about sitting down to meet the people we have relationships with," Glasser said.

For recently launched companies, EFM has already proven itself a terrific launching pad for establishing a brand and making deals.

Kimmel, which launched last May, makes its first trip to Berlin. Company execs are bringing "Breach" (which has a U.S. distribution deal with Universal), "Griffin and Phoenix," "Beat the Drum" and "Death at a Funeral," a comedy by helmer Frank Oz.

Mandate, which launched last January and set up shop at Berlin a month later, signed deals on four titles.

"We were very pleasantly surprised by the demand meeting the supply when we went last year, so we have high expectations for 2006," said Mandate's Mali Kinberg.

Mandate's market lineup includes the Brad Silberling-directed comedy "Juno," "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" (with Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman), "Solstice," "White Noise 2: The Light," "The Waiting" and "Because I Said So."

"Cannes tends to be the largest platform for sales, and for event-oriented film launches, and it's two weeks," Kindberg said. "AFM is much shorter, and it's more about just getting the business done. Berlin is a sophisticated film fest with a lot of auteur-driven screenings, but now it's a place for many more commercial transactions. We're a young company, but Berlin was the largest market we've ever had, and that includes Cannes."