Prepare for Launch

The Shooting Stars program has become an invaluable launchpad for up-and-comers

Related: International casting directors descend on the Berlinale to talk shop

Judging the potential of young talent can be a tricky business. Just ask any baseball scout. Today's little league champ is tomorrow's major league bum.

Which makes the Berlinale Shooting Stars' batting average all the more impressive. Over the past 11 years, the talent scouts at European Film Promotion have picked a hall-of-fame-worthy gallery of winners. All star talent such as Daniel Craig and Rachiel Weisz; solid European mid-fielders including Germany's Daniel Bruhl, France's Ludvine Sagnier and Thure Lindhardt from Denmark, and a bullpen of promising up-and-comers, including Sweden's Gustaf Skarsgard and Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca.

European Film Promotion, the Euro cinema cheerleading association which organizes the Shooting Stars, has honed its scouting skills over the years.

While initially the selection included a token star from each member nation of the European Union, last year's line-up was slimmed down to just 10 talents. This year, those 10 were picked by an independent jury of film professionals -- among them U.K. film writer Peter Cowie, Belgian producer Marion Hansel and Portuguese casting director Patricia Vasconcelos.

"We wanted to get more professional help on this, to make sure we find the best talents out there as well as the ones who would be the most interesting for international agents and producers," says Karen Dix of EFP.

Judging by the talents on display this year, it seems to have worked. Front of the class are Germany's David Kross, who had his English-language debut being seduced by Kate Winslet in Stephen Daldry's multi-Oscar nominated "The Reader," and Carey Mulligan, the British actress who is turning heads thanks to her own ill-advised romance with Peter Sarsgaard at in Lone Scherfig's Sundance entry "An Education."

Of course, it could be argued that talents like these hardly need a platform like the Shooting Stars to attract attention. Kross, for example, had been on every German agent's up-and-comer list for years and had signed with and international agency well before the Shooting Stars line up was announced. It seems likely that future A-listers Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, Franke Potente and Daniel Bruhl would have achieved international success with or without the Shooting Stars.

"It's hard to point to what exactly contributed to the future success," says German agent Andrea Lambsdorff, whose client Hannah Herzsprung was a Shooting Star last year and has since appeared in Oscar nominated "The Reader" and "The Baader Meinhof Complex." "When Hannah was nominated, she had just come out with (Chris Kause's) "4 Minutes," which had a huge impact and went around the world. She got a lot of attention after the Shooting Stars, but it's hard to separate out what was the result of the event and what was because of the work."

But anecdotal evidence suggests former Shooting Stars do enjoy a post-Berlinale bump.

Romania's Anamaria Marinca picked up an agent at last year Shooting Stars (London-based Conway van Gelder) and launched her international career -- appearing in Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth," Hans-Christian Schmid's Berlinale competition entry "Storm" and "The Countess" from Julie Delpy.

In 2003, the Shooting Stars event put Daniel Bruhl in contact with a Spanish agency, a meeting that led to the German actor, who is fluent in Spanish, setting up a parallel career in Iberia. He has since starred in Manuel Huerga's "Las Madres de Elna" and "Salvador" and Aitzol Aramio's "Un Poco de chocolate."

"Having been a Shooting Star has helped a lot, it's a seal of quality," says Lene Seested of Denmark's Panorama Agency, which represents Thure Lindhardt, a Shooting Star in 2000. "It is like Thure had won a Danish Oscar or similar prize. It helps to be able to say, especially to American casting directors and producers, that he was chosen for having the qualities needed to become a real international star."

Lindhardt, who starred in the Danish seems to be fulfilling his Shooting Star potential. Seested hopes this year's event will have a similar effect on the career of Cyron Melville, also a Panorama client, who has made the cut for 2009.

For ambitious European actors, there could hardly be a better time to come of age. Cross-border co-productions are becoming the norm and producers are casting their nets wide for on-screen talent.

"Europe in particular is opening up, you are seeing Swedish and Danish actors in German productions, Germans in Spanish and French films -- something that would have been unthinkable just a short time ago," says German casting agent Simon Bar.

That's evidenced by the cosmopolitan casts in this year's Berlinale line-up. Julie Delpy's "The Countess" features Germany's Daniel Bruhl and Maria Simon alongside Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca. Italian actor Riccardo Scarmarcio stars in Costa-Gavras' Berlinale closer "Eden Is West" together with Germans Ulrich Tukur and Juliane Kohler. Theo Angelopoulos' "The Dust Of Time" includes Germany's Christiane Paul, Swiss actor Bruno Ganz and France's Michel Piccoli.

"I think it's helped that European actors have been so successful internationally -- you see that last year the best actor and best actress Oscars both went to Europeans," says Lene Seested. "U.S. agents have started to call me. Which never used to happen before."

It's anyone's guess where the 2009 crop of Shooting Stars will be in a few years time. The names Celine Bolomey, Orsi Toth, Sarah Bolger and Veronica Echequi might be completely unknown or world-famous, but given the event's track record, it wouldn't be be wise to bet against them.