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European Films Vie For Attention at AFM

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LONDON – A couple of idiots trying to outdo rock band U2, a 3D animated young barbarian with low self-esteem and a movie about four girls, three days, two cities and one chance are three titles from European shores vying for attention amid the hustle and bustle of this year's American Film Market.

The duo trying to outdo U2 are self-proclaimed idiots in Killing Bono, a movie that sees rising stars Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan as hapless brothers Neil and Ivan McCormick who set up a band in Dublin, Ireland in the late 1970s.

Sadly for them, so did their classmates and rivals, who go on to become the global phenomenon U2. Based on a true story and grounded in Neil McCormack's book of the same name Stateside, the screenplay is written by British comedy writing royalty Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais alongside Simon Maxell. Nick Hamm directs.

The comedy is being sold during the AFM by U.K.-based international sales and finance banner the Salt Co. and is just one of hundreds of titles from the Eurozone aiming to do well Stateside.

Comedy is an oft-found element to movies looking to get ahead at the AFM. Or at least noticed amid the myriad titles being touted.

And if jokes can be combined with the clear and present appetite at the box office for 3D and animation, then Danish sales company LevelK might just be laughing all the way to deal memos.

LevelK, in losing its AFM virginity this year, is bringing a project to the market which certainly boasts key ingredients necessary for success during the Santa Monica buying and selling jamboree: Humor and animation.

Set up by experienced sales executive Tine Klint -- this will be her eighth AFM but her first as the head of her own company -- buyers bustling towards LevelK's office will be treated to teasers on the prospect of Ronal Barbarian, from the writer/director team behind popular Danish sci-fi spoof Journey To Saturn.

Ronal is billed as a barbarian with a pageboy haircut and twig-like arms and not much of a hit with the Barbarian ladies. Filmmakers Thorbjørn Christoffersen, Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen and Philip Einstein Lipski plan to make the comedy 3D animation feature in Danish and English.

Klint said she is also bringing Spanish-language teasers, "because the humor will go down well with Spanish speaking territories." It's a serious business selling foreign comedy titles across borders.

The project is co-produced by Danish commercial broadcaster, TV 2/Danmark, and supported by the Danish Film Institute.

Klint doesn't have any finished films on her growing sales slate, but is confident that buyers will sign deal memos on the basis of established filmmakers working in proven genres.

At the AFM, Klint will also be pushing Turkish director Umit Unal's The Voice, a movie about a bank employee whose routine life is brought to an end when she hears an inner voice and cannot escape unless she submits to it, and Polish director Jan Komasa's Suicide Room (Sala Samobojcow), which follows the son of a wealthy businessman and woman who is subject to a series of humiliating events 100 days before graduation.

Both Salt and LevelK have benefited from cash support from the trade promotions body European Film Promotion for selected titles on their slates.

More specifically EFP's Film Sales Support program, which is made available to selected European sales agents for their marketing campaigns of European films, is out in force at the Santa Monica shindig.

"It's funny because initially EFP wrote and said they didn't want too many applications because they were worried about being over subscribed," Klint says. "It's good to get backing for taking projects to market at such an early [script and promotional materials] stage."

"Demand for FSS is great for the AFM. We would have been able to support twice as many films if it hadn't been for our limited budget", said Hungary's Magyar Filmunio chief and EFP president Eva Vezer.

This year marks the second year the EFP has backed efforts by sales and financiers from the European Union member states to travel to the AFM in the quest for distribution deals and finance packaging. It's certainly proving a popular source of marketing help.

With eight production and sales companies from Finland alone garnering support, the EFP help is certainly in demand as the indie sales sector casts its net ever wider for financial partners.

EFP is also propping up efforts from Denmark and Sweden alongside other Eurozone participants from the U.K., Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland.

"The AFM is a key market in the yearly film business calendar between Toronto, Rome and Berlin, and EFP's umbrella office makes it much easier, especially for smaller companies, to be present here", said Finnish Film Foundation head of international promotion Jaana Puskala.

The FSS program specifically is rallying behind 25 movie titles from Spain, Germany, the U.K., Hungary, France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Norway, Finland, Portugal and the Netherlands.