Coronavirus: 'Producers on the Move' Event Goes Digital Due to Cannes Fest Postponement

Courtesy of Neon
The Oscar-nominated 'Border' was one of the projects from 2019 Producer on the Move Nina Bisgaard

European Film Promotion will hold its traditional May event virtually as it adjusts to the COVID-19 world.

The Cannes Film Festival might not be happening in May, but European Film Promotion will be holding its annual "Producers on the Move" networking event in two months, with or without the festival.

European Film Promotion (EFP) will launch an online version of the May event during the period when the Cannes Festival would have originally taken place. Cannes was forced to postpone this year's edition, scheduled for May 12-May 23, due to the new coronavirus.

Cannes organizers have said they hope to hold the 2020 festival at a later date, perhaps in late June or early July, but that is looking increasingly optimistic as the pandemic continues to worsen in Europe and around the world.

But "Producers on the Move" isn't waiting to see what happens. EFP will hold a virtual version of its event, tentatively planned for May 12-15, which brings together top up-and-coming producers from Europe with their counterparts, as well as financiers and sales companies, from around the world.

"We wanted to make sure whatever happens with Cannes this year, our producers could count on 'Producers on the Move' happening, that they could present their new projects, set up meetings with partners and network," says EFP managing director Sonja Heinen.

The bulk of the virtual event will be organized on video-conferencing platform Zoom, with producers presenting case studies, doing roundtable pitches and one-to-one speed-dating meetings with sales agents virtually instead of face-to-face on the Croisette.

EFP is even trying to coordinate virtual cocktail sessions to end each day's meetings. "We have to see if we can find a way to have a drink together, even online. That's part of the whole experience," Heinen says.

The EFP, like many in the independent film industry, has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. With every major spring film festival cancelled or on hold, the regular schedule for pitching new projects, and promoting finished films, has been completely disrupted. EFP also runs Film Sales Support, which provides financing to sales companies to help promote European titles at international markets and festivals — a tough job if the festivals are shut down.

"The films we represent, European art house films, cannot find an international audience without the festivals," Heinen says.

The EFP is currently in discussions with European funding group Media, which backs the Film Sales Support program, to see if funding can be shifted to titles that are being presented digitally at festivals, as were the competition lineup at South by Southwest earlier this month.

But whatever online solutions can be found for the current crisis, EFP is adamant that virtual festivals and markets will never replace the real things.

"We just hope this crisis will be over soon and the festivals can start up again," Heinen says. "We can do a lot with technology today but nothing can replace meeting over the glass of Rose on the Croisette or over a gin tonic in Berlin."