Why the Producers on the Move Program Faces an Uncertain Future (Cannes)

Cannes Film Festival

Funding for the European Film Promotion's event may dry up by 2013.

CANNES -- Make hay while the sun shines might be the mantra for this year’s Producers on the Move program in Cannes.

Come 2013, it might be that the funding for such networking events has dried up or been axed altogether by Eurocrats in Brussels.

Certainly during this year’s Cannes there will be lobbying, cajoling and debate from industryites and euro suits looking to secure the future of the €755 million ($1.2 billion) MEDIA Program subsidy pot, some of which is sent to POTM program organizers, the European Film Promotion.

But for this go round anyway, the funding continues to flow to the EFP meaning the POTM program is as large as it has ever been in its 12 years in existence.

Last year the program helped 23 upcoming producers to come to the Riviera for the annual four-day meet and greet and enjoy the odd glass of rosé. This year, 25 lucky souls have been handpicked by each European country as their very own up-and-comer.

The air will be clogged with conversation among reps from Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, FYR of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the U.K.

French producer Justin Taurand, Ireland’s Rebecca O’Flanagan, Italy’s Marta Donzelli and Spanish producer Borja Pena are among the 25 up-and-comers named for this year’s shindig.

And the 12th event marks the first time Albania is repped among the POTM candidates on the Croisette.

Producer Dritan Huqi, who works out of the Albanian capital of Tirana, has earned his movie chops, having co-produced German filmmaker Johannes Naber’s feature debut The Albanian. Stick to what you know.

For Huqi and the other 24 producers jetting in to Cannes, the POTM event means an opportunity to come to grips with what the movie industry is built on: A good old-fashioned all out flesh-pressing networking platform over a cocktail or two against a backdrop of palm trees, sea and potentially sunshine.

Back in 2008, British producer Samm Haillay and filmmaking partner Duane Hopkins landed at the Edinburgh International Film Festival to talk about Hopkins’ big screen directorial debut Better Things.

Haillay, contributing to a panel entitled The Producer — Writer Relationship and hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, discussed the dynamics between creative producers and their writers then.

Haillay told the gathered crowd back in 2008 that a big part of his role as producer was to present the writer and director to financiers “in a way they might not think to do so.”

Haillay will almost certainly be doing just that this year in Cannes.

Three years on, Haillay is the British producer selected to be part of the POTM platform and is coming to France to drum up interest on Hopkins’ project Bypass.

“Being UK’s representative for EFP’s Producer on the Move means I can not only highlight current work and enhance its profile but also make new connections and networks as well,” Haillay said in an interview with European Cinema website and EFP partner Cineuropa.

Hopkins’ installation movie Cigarette At Night is to screen during Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes so Haillay plans to use that as a platform to push on the financing for Bypass. “I’ll also be on the lookout for opportunities to meet new talent and projects to consider working with,” Haillay added.

The Producers on the Move program certainly seems to work on various levels.

From the past three editions 60% of the participants have worked with one another on concrete projects, some of the films have already been realized and others are still under negotiation or at the planning stage.

Germany is repped this year by Gian-Piero Ringel, a producer who has been working for none other than Wim Wenders and his Neue Road Movies for the last four years.

Part of his gig at Wenders’ company includes heavy lifting for The Palermo Shooting and Pina, which unspooled during the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.

Ringel is typical of participants in the POTM lineup because he is already immersed in the world of European co-productions. His resume also boasts a stint as co-producer on Greek filmmaker Filippos Tsitos’ latest movie and is working with Romanian director Bogdan Mustata’s Wolf, itself selected for the Festival de Cannes’ Atelier.

“Cannes remains a good option to find the right partners: we are still looking for a German TV partner and we could also consider working with a third co-producer. That depends on what fits best,” Ringel said on the eve of this year’s Marche du Cannes.

He also plans to source finance and producer talent for Wenders’ next movie, Everything Will Be Fine, billed as an episodic drama about a man who runs over a child and deals with guilt a year later. Sarah Polley is already on board according to Ringel.

Haillay is not the only producer from this year’s roll call to have output in the various Festival de Cannes sections.

Iceland’s producer rep Hlin Johannesdottir, under production banner Zik Zak Filmworks, co-produced Runar Runarsson’s Volcano, a movie also unspooling in Directors’ Fortnight.

Also, Cinefondation, the Cannes platform for the promotion of “innovative productions” has also chosen Hungary’s Attila Csaky’s project Hier by Balint Kenyeres to participate alongside Mustata’s Wolf in the Atelier.

Also, making an appearance in the Cannes Junior category will be Sebbe, directed by Babak Najafi and produced by Swedish POTM participant Mimmi Spang.

A portrait of a 15-year old boy that lives alone with his mother in a small apartment, Sebbe sees him escape to the junkyard, where he uses his power to create, making dead things come to life.

Spang hopes Cannes will bring financing opportunities and potential partnerships.

Which is why the moneymen form an important part of the Producers on the Move partner program.

Reps from Eurimages, the largest European co-production fund, and Germany’s Commerzbank will no doubt find themselves doing a lot of listening to pitches and better plan on taking a load of biz cards.

Eurimages has dished out more than €10 million ($14.5 million) in the first three months of 2011 across 16 projects and the German bankers have long supported European filmmaking efforts.

Organizers said reps from both would be on hand to “provide the participating producers in Cannes with information about complementary financing opportunities.”

The event has good recent form also. Bettina Brokemper of Germany (Producer on the Move 2006) and 2009 participant Daniel Mitulescu from Romania know.

Their projects -- Brokemper-produced Turkish drama Honey and Mitulescu’s teen prison tale If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle from director Florian Serban -- respectively won the top two prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2010.

And of course there is hard cash hopefully.

Participants currently profit from the Producers on the Move label, which is now linked to the names of such internationally successful (co-) producers as Janine Jackowski of Komplizenfilm, Daniel Mitulescu of Strada Film and Ferenc Pusztai of KMH Film.

Certainly this year should be a vintage year with organizers boasting that all 25 participants land in Cannes with “projects in the pipeline” and all carry “great potential and a European orientation.”

So for U.S. Europhiles looking for the next big thing from overseas, the POTM participants might be worth talking to.

The firm hope will be that Eva Vezer, president of the EFP, the network of organizations promoting and marketing European cinema worldwide, will be able to stand up at this year’s annual POTM luncheon and repeat last year’s claim.

“I think this is one of the most successful initiatives by the European Film promotion,” Vezer said. Time and money will tell.

Producers on the Move runs May 14-17.