Heat is on for dealmakers at Euro Film Market


Complete Berlinale coverage

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

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

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

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

While Leigh's buzz title "Lucky" attracted a flurry of U.S. interest before its gala screening Tuesday "Quiet Chaos" (Caos Calmo), also ahead of its official screening Wednesday, is being sold by the production company's own sales entity Fandango Portobello Sales headed by Janine Gold. Deals struck include France (BAC), Spain (Alta), Benelux (Cineart), Switzerland (Filmcoopi), Canada (Seville), Portugal (Midas), South Korea (Jin Jin), Brazil (Imovision) and Israel (Lev). "Chaos" is produced by Fandango's Domenico Procacci from a screenplay by Nanni Moretti, Lauro Paolucci and Francesca Piccolo. It is backed by RAI Cinema, Portobello Pictures and Phoenix Film Investment and details the story of a husband and father dealing with the immediate aftermath of the sudden death of his wife.

Since selling U.S. rights to Sony Pictures Classics for "Frozen River" at Sundance earlier this year, 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 oufit Red Envelope Entertainment and Koch Lorber Films for U.S. distribution. Bornedal, who hit radars with horror "Nightwatch" took "Just Another" to Sundance in the world dramatic competition this year. 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 details the tale of a suburban dad who takes over the identity of a friend's exotic boyfriend. The film has already 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 a quartet of 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 said the European Film Market has been "steady" rather than spectacular. "We have a very strong lineup and that has been reflected in business as well as traffic to our booth."

Coming into the market here, 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 from sellers ahead of the market. 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 slow burning with the usual, "it's a bit early," trotted out by busy sales execs huddled in suites. "There isn't anything new here," one acquisitions chief said. "There are films here that have been at three markets already."

And the usual post-weekend exodus from overseas attendees is also well under way with U.S. and Brit executives who left to attend Sunday night's British Academy Film Awards, presented by BAFTA, 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 in Berlin contributed to this report.