Berlin jumps with deals

Finished product selling at EFM

More Berlin International Film Festival news and reviews on pages 7, 10.

BERLIN — Before the fireworks, there always has to be a long, slow-burning fuse. After a slow start to this year's European Film Market, the wheeling and dealing has exploded with some high-profile deals.

A brace of pacts lit up the market Monday, with GreeneStreet Films set to announce a North American rights deal to "Gary the Tennis Coach" — directed by Danny Leiner and starring Seann William Scott and Dennis Quaid — to Sony Pictures. The bawdy high school comedy details the life of a janitor-turned-tennis coach.

And Competition titles here also are shifting off the shelves, with Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky" expected to go to Miramax in the six-figure range for U.S. rights. Leigh described the movie as a lighthearted comedy drama.

Elsewhere, Berlinale Competition entry "Quiet Chaos," directed by Antonello Grimaldi, has spread to nine territories ahead of its official screening Wednesday.

While Leigh's buzz title attracted a flurry of U.S. interest before its gala screening today, "Quiet Chaos" — also ahead of its official screening Wednesday — is being sold by the production company's own sales entity Fandango Portobello Sales.

"Chaos" is produced by Fandango's Domenico Procacci from a screenplay by Nanni Moretti, Lauro Paolucci and Francesca Piccolo. Backed by RAI Cinema, Portobello Pictures and Phoenix Film Investment, the film centers on a husband and father dealing with the immediate aftermath of the sudden death of his wife.

Deals struck include France (BAC), Spain (Alta), Benelux (Cineart), Switzerland (Filmcoopi), Canada (Seville), Portugal (Midas), South Korea (Jin Jin), Brazil (Imovision) and Israel (Lev).

Since selling U.S. rights to Sony Pictures Classics for "Frozen River" at Sundance last month, William Morris Independent has sold Australian/New Zealand and Latin American rights for the drama to Sony. "Frozen River" garnered accolades at Sundance for director Courtney Hunt's portrayal of a single mother in upstate New York who partners with a Mohawk woman to smuggle people across the Canadian border.

Ole Bornedal's "Just Another Love Story" has been sold by Nordisk Film Sales to Netflix outfit Red Envelope Entertainment and Koch Lorber Films for U.S. distribution. Bornedal, who hit the radar with the horror film "Nightwatch," took "Love Story" to Sundance this year in the world dramatic competition. The deal was negotiated by Thom Zadra of Red Envelope Entertainment, Richard Lorber of Koch Lorber Films, Mark Ankner of Endeavor and Tine Klint for Nordisk.

Billed as a grotesque mix-up yarn, the film centers on a suburban dad who takes over the identity of a friend's exotic boyfriend. The film has sold to Seville Pictures (Canada), Revolver Entertainment (U.K./Ireland) and CIS (Russia), among others.

Meanwhile, South Korean sales, distribution and financier CJ Entertainment has seen a German spending spree, with local distributor Splendid snapping up four titles from the Korean company.

CJ Entertainment said Splendid has taken German rights to period drama "The Divine Weapon" from director Kim Yoo-jin. The other titles packing their Korean bags for all rights at Senator are "Open City," "Our Town" and "Fate."

CJ Entertainment international sales and acquisitions chief Tom Oh called the European Film Market "steady" rather than spectacular. "We have a very strong lineup, and that has been reflected in business as well as traffic to our booth," he said.

Entering the market, much of the chat from sellers centered on reasonable prospects despite a backdrop of fluctuating currencies, more conservative investment behavior and the ever-present threat of a global economic downturn.

"If you have quality product, deals will be done" was the mantra. That might need to be changed to "finished product," or at least projects close to production. It's the presales market that seems to be suffering.

"There isn't anything new here," one acquisitions chief said. "There are films here that have been at three markets already."

Also at the market, the usual postweekend exodus from overseas attendees is well under way, with those U.S. and British executives who left to attend Sunday night's British Academy Film Awards in London opting not to return.

Moscow-based Raisa Fomina of Intercinema said there was plenty of activity, but for Russian titles, the marketplace is tough. "Since there are no governmental or intergovernmental foundations supporting foreign sales of Russian films, European distributors are not willing to take a risk," Fomina said. "If for a European film they have all sorts of foundations to cover losses in case the film is a boxoffice failure, they have no such luxury with a Russian film."

Borys Kit and Kirill Galetski contributed to this report.