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Berlinale’s EFM Set For Busy Post-Strikes Edition As U.S. & Indian Professionals Return In Force

Berlinale’s upcoming European Film Market is promising to be one of the best attended editions in years on the basis of registration numbers to date and amid expectations of a post-Hollywood strikes boost.

“Around 600 companies will be exhibiting, with every official space sold out. There’s not a single corner left,” EFM director Dennis Ruh said of the market running in Berlin’s Gropius Bau exhibition center and the nearby Marriott Hotel from February 15-21.

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This compares with 519 exhibitors at the same time last year. The number of territories represented has also increased from 59 to 69.

New territory exhibitors include Saudi Arabia, which will have an umbrella stand in the Gropius Bau, as well as New Zealand, Moldova and Greenland.

“I’m also happy to have India back at the market because they had no official delegation at the market last year. And this year, they will come with a big delegation,” said Ruh.

“It’s good timing for them to be back in Berlin because they introduced the tax incentive of 40% in November,” he adds, referring to the country’s bolstering of its incentive for international productions from 30% to 40%.

Italy will also have a big presence as the market’s Country in Focus.

The country was previously due to be spotlighted by the EFM in 2021, but the program had to be abandoned when the market was forced online by the Covid pandemic.

“It’s resulted in Italy having the biggest number of companies exhibiting at the market, with 82 companies,” said Ruh.

This is followed by Germany with 70 companies, France, with 68, and the U.S., with 62.

In terms of individual market registrations, Ruh said there has been a 2% uptick in market badge requests and he is predicting final attendance will come in at around 11,500 participants.

“The biggest number of registrations is coming from Germany with over 1,000, but second is the U.S., with 690, which a bit higher than last year,” said Ruh.

Like many, the EFM boss expects there to be more activity around packaging this year.

“It’s the first big market since the end of the strikes,” he says. “There are lots of rights-holders who will use the EFM to resume projects that were held back during this time.”

Ruh said he is hearing that prices are returning to pre-Covid levels but that buyers are more cautious about putting money down on projects at the paper stage.

“The selling window is narrowing. Buyers want to see images, rough cuts, and they’re also demanding all rights rather than only theatrical,” he says.

In a timely move, the EFM will pilot its new Reel Time initiative showcasing new promo reels from different companies together under thematic or genre groupings.

“We always had showreel presentations, but in the past we just sold slots to individual sales companies to show their own showreels,” explained Ruh.

“After conversations with sales companies, we came to understand that some are bringing just one or two new projects and don’t need a whole slot. We came up with the idea of gathering reels from different companies and presenting them under different topics or genres such as horror.”

In terms of completed films, around 600 films have been registered so far, 500 of which are market premieres.

Ruh suggests the 50% cut in film production out of the U.S. in 2023 due to the strikes will result in a boost for EFM business.

“This makes space in the release schedule for independent and non-US films, which are usually widely sold at the EFM. I expect robust business activity when it comes to those films,” he said.

Other fresh initiatives this year include Winston Baker’s Inaugural Entertainment Finance Forum Berlin and AfroBerlin, focused on content produced by African, Afro-descended filmmakers and creatives from various minorities.

The EFM conference program will have a focus on AI this year, with talks on the topic by the likes of MIT academic William Uricchio and Christina Caspers-Roemer, MD of German VFX studio Trixter, as well as events such as “Producers’ Pitches With AI Forecasts” run by Largo.ai, the Swiss AI platform predicting the market potential of upcoming feature films on the basis of their scripts.

“AI is a major topic right now and was also one of the key talking points during the strike,” said Ruh. “We’ll be looking at AI and its impact on the industry from script development to production to post-production, distribution and marketing.

Other EFM conference events include a presentation of the state-of-play for the Ukrainian film industry two years into Russian invasion at which 10 producers will present their projects; a session on film finance entitled “Is Gap The New Equity?” and the “Leading Change: Producers at the Wheel” talk in which Canadian actor and producer Damon D’Oliveira and Maria Stocchi of Italian company Rosamont will share their career experiences.

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