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Clermont Ferrand: Euro Connections

UK Stand Clermont Ferrand Market 2013


February 2013

We'’re fresh back from Clermont Ferrand where, in partnership with the BFI and 13 other key UK organisations working with shorts, British Council Film hosted the UK Film Market stand at the International Short Film Festival. We were thrilled to return to the world’'s biggest shorts market to help promote the best new UK work and support the 14 UK filmmakers playing at the festival. We also worked with the festival to identify two producers (one observing, one participating) who we supported to attend the annual Euro Connections co-production forum.

Euro Connection is Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival's marketplace for short film co-production in Europe,  attended by active European producers, TV commissioners, fund representatives and distributors.

Each country sponsors a producer with a project and that producer is invited to a two-day pitching forum where they pitch their project with a view to securing further funding or attaching a Co-producer. It is not unusual for project budgets to cross over the €100,000 mark into amounts that seem surprising to UK short filmmakers. This year British Council sponsored Dora Nedeczky, a producer at Bullion Productions, with her project Holiday at The Seaside to be written and directed by Cristina Grosan and in her blog below she tells us what she made of it:

Tom Wood has worked in the film industry since 2007, starting at London-based Autonomous with producers Cat Villiers and Chris Simon. In 2009 he joined Nottingham-based Wellington Films, working as their development producer. Tom has since returned to London, working in development with both Wellington and Chris Simon, Felix Vossen, and Barnaby Southcombe's company Embargo Films. He was an observing producer at Euro Connection 2013, and in his blog below below he reports his findings from the two-day event and asks what the UK could learn from the continental model.

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  • 20th February 2013Dora Nedeczky at Euro Connection

    This was my and my director’s very first visit to Clermont Short Film Festival. I had heard the rumours about its personal atmosphere but after regularly visiting major festivals such as Cannes or Berlin I was a little sceptical. This feeling gradually disappeared as our train got closer to Clermont’s small town among the Alps.

    Then, when we finally reached the accreditation hall inside the festival’s main location, the Maison de la Culture, we immediately got immersed in the vivid and positive atmosphere around us. This was the time when I started to believe that the rumours were true. I think being treated ‘small’ at a ‘big’ film festival can be frustrating sometimes for young film makers who are still only making short films. But since Clermont is dedicated exclusively to short films, and because we were Euro Connection participants, we were considered as much of an attraction as those filmmakers screening in competition.

    It was evening when we arrived, and the final round of our pitching rehearsals was still ahead of us but first we needed to double-check whether our visuals would work on the big screen inside of the presentation room. To our relief everything was fine and we were lucky enough to meet Laurent Crouzeix himself, the head of Euro Connection. His professional approach and enthusiasm was just thrilling and really motivating for us.

    Next morning after a long night spent fine-tuning our pitch we met on the breakfast terrace of our hotel, and sense of anticipation was more refreshing then any coffee I’ve ever had. At this point I was finally able to gaze through the ancient volcanic architecture of Clermont, and to see its beautiful Cathedral quite nearby.

    Our pitching slot was quite late in the afternoon. We were set to pitch right before the last project, so we had a chance to check out the space, invitees, and the other Euro Connection projects. It was nice to see that most of the producers were pitching alongside their directors as it gives you a great sense of the team dynamic and that always tells you a lot. Some of the groups followed the traditional way of pitching, some were extremely funny, some were touching, and some weren’t able to transfer their message properly at all. The room was packed full of representatives from European film funds, festival professionals and independent producers and Laurent and his team had made sure everyone got the info book of the selected projects beforehand.

    We weren’t pitching for a prize but it was still a real fight to find our perfect co-producer. Our pitch went really well and we had a huge number of people trying to get hold of us on the spot, which we thought was just stunning. Project leaflets were distributed, screeners with previous work were handed out, business cards were exchanged and the next day’s meeting slots were booked.

    The UK Film and the Euro Connection receptions were organized for shortly after the pitching event itself which was perfect timing! Everyone was extremely relieved to have finished the pitching part of the programme. We finally had the chance to congratulate our fellow participants and managed to line up even more meetings for the next day.

    The meetings took place inside of the festival market, an enormous gymnasium converted into an international village for the purpose of buying, selling and promoting short films. We finally met Anastassia Deltcheva-Mathie the other face of Euro Connection in person, who guided all of us through the prep work and made sure our meetings were going well and running to schedule. The structure and nature of the meetings reminded me of Berlinale Co-Production Market or Rotterdam’s CineMart. Ours were more than promising and we’re currently in the middle of further negotiations with some of the potential co-producers.

    While the meetings were going on we popped in and out of the market itself because we had organized meetings with quite a few festival representatives to promote ‘Carry Me Away’, Cristina’s latest short that I produced. We’ll find out the festival premier of the film in the coming weeks, so fingers crossed.

    After a delicious French dinner, and armed to the teeth with catalogues and other swanky festival goodies our group of young filmmakers decided to finally climb up to the marvellous Cathedral and walk around the narrow streets of Clermont’s old town. This was the moment when it was clear I have to come back each year. Hopefully next time I’ll get to see more films but we’re already working really hard to get our upcoming work screened here in competition.

     

  • 20th February 2013Tom Wood on Euro Connection

    With the support of the British Council, I attended this year’s Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival as an observing producer at the Euro Connections short film co-production market. The event was entering its fifth year and served, much like Cinemart and the Co-Production Market in Berlin for feature films, as a means of bringing producers from across Europe together to encourage co-production in short filmmaking. While I was there I was invited to take part in a round table discussion with producers, funds and promotion agencies across Europe to talk about the state of short filmmaking and funding across Europe. Members present were from Federation Wallonie Bruxelles Image (Belgium), S.P.I (France), Nisi Masa (various), C.N.C (France), CNC Centro Nazionale Del Cortometraggio (Italy), MEDIA Desk France, AG Kurtzfilm (Germany) among others.

    It was an enlightening experience. Plenty of us have heard how healthy short film budgets on the continent can be, and that certainly proved to be the case. Nobody would bat an eyelid at the prospect of a short film budgeted at €100,000 – a remarkable figure given that the latest batch of BFI shorts were given a ceiling of £50,000, and this funding was targeted specifically at experienced short film directors with a recognized track record who are poised to make the leap into features.

    The BFI’s short film support is not to be balked at given it is one of only two funds operating in the UK (Rankin’s Collabor8te scheme being the other) designed to develop fresh filmmaking. UK filmmakers are grateful for it, and it should be embraced. That said, it doesn’t do any harm to make an observation over how short filmmakers get their work funded and their projects put together overseas, and to ask whether there are elements of their approach that we could begin to embrace at home.

    For example, there are a few notable differences between the approach to short film funding in UK and that in France. UK filmmakers have been offered two fund applications in the last year, both with fixed deadlines: the £10k Collabor8te scheme and the BFI’s short film scheme through Lighthouse. If you make it through to approval, then this final budget figure that the BFI or Collabor8te offer you (in accordance with how they interpret what is needed for your film) works as a final offer which you take or leave. The prospect of taking that money and trying to add to it and increase the production levels of your film by bringing on board co-financiers or, importantly, partners from overseas, is not really discussed. Presumably (and it’s important to note that I’m making a presumption, not suggesting that I know all about the inner workings of the nation’s film funds) this is to streamline the funding and contractual process, particularly given the workload of extremely busy business affairs departments. In any case, it seems that short film funding in the UK is confined to limited funds, with set turnaround times and with capped budgets.

    In France the CNC, with its rolling short film submissions policy (much like the BFI and Creative England’s development funds), receives up to 190 submissions per month. This is a lot, and gets cut down to around 4 or 5 films funded per month. So, yes, there is risk of over saturation, but the real perk here is that they seem to take the short film making process as seriously as they do for feature films. This is helped by the fact that television channels such as Arte and Canal+ (who actually have cultivated audiences for short films) are known to offer as much as €1,300 per minute as a pre-sale on a short film. A filmmaker is able to build a finance plan for their film in the hope that they can meet the exact budget that they’re trying to reach. So the money you receive from the CNC is not your final figure, it’s a fund which goes some way to help you achieve what you set out to, and it’s up to you to bring together the rest of the finance and find a way of shooting on the money that you have.

    Is there a better way for young filmmakers to learn how to co-produce? Moreover, would this not be perfect training for producer talent: learning how to seek finance from multiple sources, including pre-sales and of course national and regional funds?

    The roundtable I attended was concluded with the assertion that it is better to put together a well-produced, well-financed co-production than a badly produced low budget national production which constantly fought a battle with its limitations. I certainly feel that a few short films I and some of my associates in the industry have been involved in over the last few years would have benefitted greatly from co-production, allowing us to get much more money up on screen.

    Four action points were agreed upon by the group at the end of the session:

    • They favoured a study into the production, distribution and promotion of short films across Europe – the last time this was undertaken was 1996 by the Council of Europe and Unifrance.
    • An analysis of barriers to co-productions that stem from the national support systems.
    • The development of the existing European support framework to the short film sector (markets, co-production forums and festivals) and the creation of a specific European fund for short film production
    • The consideration of short films in bilateral and multilateral initiatives existing between states

    The BFI’s Film Forever Plan suggested that co-production is something that we should embrace. Can this not be discussed in relation to short films too? It might encourage a much more open and collaborative filmmaking culture between ourselves and our European counterparts, and must surely be a building block for the future of British film. We’re far from under privileged in comparison with the majority of Europe, however it strikes me that we could reach much higher levels of quality in our work if we embrace the rest of the continent.