EFM ends with mixed blessings

4:00 AM PST 02/15/2007 by Stuart Kemp, AP

Depending on location, sales were brisk or slow

"Location, location, location" runs the mantra that applies to this year's European Film Market as it shutters today.

The majority based at the Martin-Gropius-Bau and the fancy schmancy hotels are heading home reporting brisk sales and good business levels, while those located at the Business Offices on Potsdammer Platz complained it was a mystery to most, with only light foot traffic.

The entire fifth floor of the EFM office location, barring one exhibitor, was prepping a letter of complaint to market organizers about the lack of signage, buyer awareness and isolation anxiety that peaked after being invited to the EFM opening party just hours before it kicked off.

"We only got invited to the EFM opening event as an afterthought," one exhibitor said Wednesday. "They (EFM organizers) even told us they had forgotten about us."

But EFM co-directors Beki Probst and Karen Arikian were quick to defend the office location, which is only in its second year.

"We started those offices late in the day ahead of last year's EFM because of the demand for them," Arikian said. "There is no denying it is the second facility, but people were happy to book it."

The duo said the price for the offices on Potsdammer is considerably lower than those in the main Gropius building and that the surge in demand for those wishing to come to Berlin led to a lot jostling.

Said Probst: "There are a lot of locations this year. We have to give priority to our clients who have been with us from Day 1 of the EFM, when we started over at the Debis building. We can't just drop them because everyone suddenly decides they have to be in Berlin."

For sellers and buyers trawling the hotel suites and Gropius, the market was a tale of strange rhythms but satisfying activity.

"It has been very slow," said one leading Korean sales agent. "AFM has been getting slower every year but there we still had 10-15 meetings a day. Here it was, like five. I think its all a bit too spread out."

New York based sales and finance house GreeneStreet Films said Wednesday it sold U.K. rights to Optimum Releasing for "The Nines".

GSFI president Ariel Veneziano said: "It [EFM] started kind of slow then it heated up and even today (Thursday) we are still busy with meetings."

Fortissimo Films co-chairman Michael Werner said: "We've had a great market. We love our space and foot traffic was pretty heavy."

Werner reported strong sales on the Annie Liebowitz doc "Life Through a Lens," Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones pic and strong interest on Wong Kar Wai's "Ashes of Time: Redux."

First Look International president Stuart Ford described the market as having a strange rhythm. "I was expecting an upward spike at the weekend before it slowed but it has been extremely busy at the beginning, flattened out over the weekend and has become busy again."

Bankside Films sales chief Hilary Davis said: "If you have the films and the names, you will always do deals. It is always about the product and talent attached."

"It's been a good market and festival for us," said Tom Oh, head of international sales at South Korea's CJ Entertainment. "Both our festival titles — "I'm a Cyborg" in Competition and "Like a Virgin" in Generation — have been very well received."

Myriad Pictures president Kirk D'Amico said: "It's a great place to get scripts out and launch films and then close deals at Cannes — as opposed to AFM, which is a bit too far away and also has the distraction of the Christmas holidays."

D'Amico also said EFM is an "effective market to screen films that have premiered at Sundance where the European buyers may not have attended."

"We've had a good market, it has been steady," said Bavaria Film International co-managing director Thorsten Schaumann. "There are more buyers than last year and sales have been good."

But for one market virgin, selling zombie horror flick "Awakening: Death Is Only the Beginning," it has been a costly learning curve. "It's a lot of money for a small company like ours to come here," said David Francis of Toronto based production company Primal Films. "Buyers who came said we had been really hard to find."

Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.
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