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London fest's meet-buyers ploy pays off

Speed-dating event helps find indie distributors

LONDON -- There is no such thing as a free lunch these days, but during last month's London Film Festival, industry delegates attending a new-look "meet the buyers" event came as close as you can to securing just that.

A speed-dating initiative was a first for the organizers -- who beaver away annually during the London Film Festival's 15 days -- to facilitate meet and greets for movie executives traveling to the British capital during the historic festival shindig.

This year's daylong event, held Oct. 24, formed the centerpiece for the newly embedded four-day industry screenings, which are held for buyers during the first working week of the festival.

London Film Festival industry development manager Nigel Cross said the event was set up to build on previous success "for movies seeking distribution deals" and "to further enhance the relationship between the festival and industryites alike."

After last year's quartet of days allocated to industry screeners, several titles were snapped up for U.K. distribution, including "Man Push Cart," "Quo Vadis Baby?" and "Heading South."

The event was backed by the London Development Agency and the mayor of London through Film London with, Cross says, "an emphasis on creating an environment conducive for buyers and sellers to do business."

Away from popping flashbulbs and the glitz and glamour of the festival's red carpet premieres and events, buyers were armed with a comprehensive guide to the movies available at the industry screenings.

And the efficient "meet the buyers" event certainly seemed a hit with attendees after a quiet first-day start of screening week.

Channel Four senior editor of feature films Tim Highsted said he spends most of his time at bigger "industry events" viewing films, "so it is good to be able to meet people informally and talk about their movies."

Germany's Media Luna Entertainment sales and acquisition manager Jan Kramer thought the "meet the buyers" event "really worked because it was a good opportunity to meet and greet newcomers and discuss projects at an early stage."

French sales house Les Films du Losange's Juliette Schrameck was fulsome in her praise for the efficiency of the event and how well organized it was.

"But I think maybe the meetings should be longer than for just 10 minutes," Schrameck said. "Perhaps at least 20 minutes would be better and the event could run for more of the day."

Bac Films International's Camille Neel traveled into London from Paris for the day to press some flesh. "It is good for us to meet with people who we just don't get a chance to sit down and talk to at the big markets during the year. It is very informal and there are lots of people here who you can discover as potential partners and future collaborators," Neel said.

Rosie Bilton of sales and production company One Eyed Films said it was a good opportunity to meet buyers in a relaxed forum to talk "about projects and opportunites."

She was marketing Manuel Nieto's "The Dog Pound" and talking about plans for Brazilian cult horror meister Mojica Marins to return behind the lens for another outing in "existential nihilism."

Buyers from Lionsgate, ICA FIlms, Artificial Eye, BBC and Channel 4 attended the speed-dating event, dropping in to take a meeting before popping out again.

Titles taking advantage of the plush screening facilities offered by the Curzon Soho Cinema in the heart of London's West End included Lars von Trier's "The Boss of It All," Jens Lien's "The Bothersome Man" and Xavier Giannoli's "The Singer." Movies from countries spanning Brazil, Argentina, Spain, France and Germany were presented.

Organizers are planning a return to the dating table, lunch included, next year.