Melbourne market extends hand

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BERLIN -- Australia's fledgling film co-financing market and the country's only one held during a festival just got bigger and organizers hope better.

The highly targeted 37 South: Bridging the Gap meet-and-greet has been extended to four days as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. The sophomore edition of the market will begin July 24 this year, with the festival kicking off the next day and running through Aug. 10.

Organizers also are about to embark on a third round of funding from its Victoria state-backed Premiere film fund, which supplies small amounts of cash essential to Australia and New Zealand productions like completion bonds in exchange for the rights to unspool selected titles during the film festival and a nonexclusive 12-month touring period after the event.

The fund has $1.2 million to spend across four rounds and only accepts applications from market-ready projects in advanced stages of financing.

MIFF is an attractive proposition to filmmakers from Australia and New Zealand as it carries the billing as the Southern Hemisphere's biggest movie shindig. Titles selected by the Premiere fund are invited to take a slot in the MIFF program lineup.

By extending the co-financing market by a day for its second edition, event manager Mark Woods, who also manages the Premiere fund, aims to "bring a little piece of Cannes to Australia" for filmmakers from Down Under.

Woods is in Berlin to speak to sales agents about the co-production event but stresses that only decision-makers with cash get on the invitation.

"We really target people who can make decisions about money and want to work with Australian and New Zealand filmmakers," he said. "It's a very focused market, with one-on-ones between producers, distributors and sales representatives."

Woods already has one participant signed up for the 2008 event, with U.K.-based sales and finance house Bankside Films co-managing director Hilary Davis set to attend.

The second event also likely will see U.S. studio participation again after Paramount attended last year.

Meanwhile, MIFF chair Claire Dobbin, also in Berlin to boost her event's profile, is negotiating with the state funders to get a renewal on the cash supply for the Premiere fund.

"We should hear by May on the funding," she said.
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