Choosy buyers go for safer bets
by Annika Pham
23/05/2005 - "The real focus for buyers in Cannes was on competition films, then in the sidebars, and business was more difficult for films featuring only in the market," said Tine Klint, Trust Film Sales Head of sales. "Surprisingly, we did quite a few sales on previous festival films (such as the Swedish hit Dalecarlians [trailer, film focus]), and –unsurprisingly- pre-sales on name directors such as Susanne Bier’s new project." "The market as a whole seemed larger than usual, with many buyers around, but they also went home quite early, on Tuesday (17) and Wednesday (18)."
Tine Klint, sales executive for one of the top European sales companies which had Lars von Trier’s Manderlay [trailer] in competition as well as two other titles at Un Certain Regard, perhaps summarises best the general feeling of the 2005 Cannes market.
International buyers were selective, even very selective, but also ready to up the prices to snatch a film from the competition such as Bac Films who fought hard to get Carlos Reygadas’ competition title Battle in Heaven [trailer, film focus] from The Co-production Office.
Hundreds of finished films screened during Cannes, but the general feeling from buyers was that the 2005 crop was good but not great, lacking a ‘sleeper’ at the market or major tour de force in official selection. Two truly European co-productions: Christian Carion’s out of competition film Merry Christmas [trailer, film focus] and Michael Haneke’s Hidden [trailer, film focus] were by far the most coveted titles and were both picked up by US major Sony Pictures Classics in multi-territories deals.
Sales records were registered by companies with solid A title line-ups such as UK based Capitol Films who pre-sold Robert Altman’s upcoming A Prairie Home Companion to France (Bac Films), Scandinavia (Scanbox) and Italy (Medusa) as well as Paris-based Studio Canal whose hottest titles included the Sophie Marceau vehicle Anthony Zimmer sold to 10 territories in Cannes, as well as David Lynch’s future Inland Empire and Wong Kar Wai’s Lady From Shanghai starring Nicole Kidman, both pre-sold to a dozen territories. In the same league, Luc Besson’s sales company EuropaCorp scored with Tommy Lee Jones’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada winner of Best script and Best actor and sold to the key European territories.
Sales companies famous for the quality and geographical diversity of their auteur films on offer such as Celluloïd Dreams and Fortissimo Film Sales also boasted historical sales thanks to their films in official competition and in the sidebars (including Palme d’or winner L'enfant [trailer, film focus] sold by Celluloid), but also thanks to new English language films with star names attached. Celluloid announced in Cannes the pick-up of Todd Haynes $25m Bob Dylan biopic, while Fortissimo attracted new buyers such as Scandinavia’s Svensk Filmindustri who pre-bought UK director Marc Evans’ Snow Cake.
Among the other sales outfits representing a wide range of quality auteur films, The Co-production Office had an excellent market with the Hungarian/French co-production Johanna [trailer] considered by many film critics as one of the most original films of the festival, as well as Mexican film Battle in Heaven [trailer, film focus] sold to a dozen territories. As for Bavaria Film International, the German sales outfit had very good responses for the out-of-competition title Crossing the Bridge - The Sound of Istanbul [trailer] by Fatih Akin, the director of award-winning German film Head-On, as well as for the Chinese film Be With Me shown in the Directors Fortnight.
The excellent business registered by Latido Film Sales on the Spanish Antonio Hernández‘s new thriller Oculto and by Trust Film Sales on the Danish Susanne Bier’s upcoming After The Wedding proved that the pre-sale’s market for non-English language films is still vibrant for projects made by auteurs with a strong pedigree produced by reputable companies such as, respectively, Zebra Producciones and Zentropa Film.