Second Venice Film Market Wraps With Positive Reviews as Focus Turns to Toronto

John Curran’s "Tracks" sold at the Venice Film Market this year.

The budding market has grown compared to last year, with participants seeing it evolving into a key European stop.

VENICE, Italy – The second Venice Film Market wrapped up Tuesday with mostly positive reviews and an increasingly clear idea what the nascent event could grow into.

By any objective measure, the market is bigger than it was a year ago: there were more stands (14 compared to 8 in 2012), more credentials issued (around 1,600, compared to around 1,300 last year), and the market created decidedly more buzz on the Lido this time around.

But it still remains tiny compared to the markets in Cannes, Berlin and Toronto. And it carries with it more than its share of disadvantages: space on the Lido is in short supply, Venice remains an expensive city, and it bumps up against Toronto’s massive market, which opens Wednesday.

It is always hard to measure the success of a market based on sales since many deals struck weeks or months later may have their roots in Venice. Pascal Diot, the market’s director, points to Wadjda (The Green Bicycle), directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, as an example of the market’s influence.

“The film earned strong reviews after it screened in Venice last year, and The Match Factory started to talk to distributors about it,” Diot said. “Those conversations continued in Toronto and in the end it sold in around 70 territories and has done very well. People associated with the film told me later it wouldn’t have happened the same way without the Venice market.”

So far this year, Harvey Weinstein bought the U.S. rights to John Curran’s Venice competition entry Tracks, and Film Republic bought rights to Anna Eborn’s Pine Ridge, which won’t even premiere on the Lido until Thursday. Diot says he knows of at least a dozen deals closed in Venice so far, with many more in the discussion stage.

Out of the buyers and sellers in Venice for the market, many, speaking informally, praised the event’s “relaxed” setting and the ease of setting up meetings and bumping into potential contacts.

“The pace here is less crazy,” said Yalun Wang, international development manager with the Taipei Film Commission. “Our stand here is right next to the one from Brazil. It was the same in Cannes, but we never had a chance to speak there. Here we can get to know each other, and there’s always a chance that kind of thing can lead to a collaboration.”

A studio exec from Los Angeles, who asked not to be named, agreed. “Here in Venice you can run into someone you didn’t expect to see and just say ‘Let’s have a coffee’ and maybe you lay the groundwork for something later on,” he said.

But that convenience has it limitations as well. According to Mark Holdom, a New Zealand producer who runs Pantera in Italy, the Venice market is far from becoming the kind of market where a distributor can come just looking for something interesting.

“You don’t come to Venice looking to buy a slate of films,” Holdom said. “People are shopping films that are screening at the festival, but that’s most of it. Ahead of other markets, I get a list of films that’ll be for sale so I can start asking around. That rarely happens here. I love coming to the Venice Film Festival, but as a market you have to adjust your expectations.”

Diot, the market director, said the main goal of the market is to continue to grow without losing the informal nature that is one of its main draws. While he said next year’s event will have a bigger Asia presence, he declined to speculate what the market might evolve into, though most participants said its ceiling was probably to become an important market for films looking to find a foothold in Europe.

“It’s a great spot on the calendar, because on a European level there’s really nothing on the calendar,” said Wang from the Taipei Film Commission. “There’s Berlin, then Cannes, and then nothing big until Berlin the following year.”

It could also become a destination for a certain kind of film, according to Rome-based cinema PR veteran Alessandro Russo. “Venice has cinema d’auteur in its DNA,” he said. “Maybe the other markets will be where you go for the big-budget productions and you come to Venice for exceptional films.”

Holdom, from Pantera, said the market can also offer a competitive advantage to those who start out in Venice before heading to Toronto. “I can see films here when they premiere and get a jump on making a deal compared to the people who wait to see them in Toronto for the first time,” he said.

Twitter: @EricJLyman