FESTIVALS: The 19th CineMart Continues Its Expansion
by Mark Rabinowitz
(indieWIRE/ 02.05.02) -- On January 30th, the International Film Festival Rotterdam's (IFFR) CineMart closed in its usual fashion: around 2a.m. at the closing night party, the festival staff gathered on stage at about 2am and danced and sang along to "When Will I See You Again" (Precious Moments). It has become a tradition loved by the attendees, and many partygoers held cigarette lighters and candles aloft to celebrate the spirit of CineMart, quite possibly the most enjoyable and convivial business experience in the film world.
An omnipresent fixture during the festival, Ido Abram, coordinator of the invitation-only CineMart for the past 4 years, estimated that he has seen submissions and participants increase between 20-25% during his tenure. Abram is careful to point out that credit for the growth and success of CineMart must be shared with others. "When I stepped in, everything was set, because those that came before had set it up," said Abram. "I didn't have to start from the ground level." CineMart is the brainchild of IFFR co-director Sandra den Hamer and prior to Ibram's arrival, it was run by Wouter Barendrecht (Fortissimo Film Sales) and Janette Kolkema.
There are three kinds of invitations to the market, and each year the list of who receives which level of invitation is updated with input from the advisory board. Invitees are either given the chance to buy an accreditation, or receive free accreditation or a free accreditation plus hotel nights. Guaranteed meetings with the producers of projects in the market are then set up. Abram explained the process, "The financiers we invite let us know what projects they are interested in." Additionally, producers can put in requests that are honored on an available basis.
"This year there were well over 6,000 meetings. Almost 7,000, I think," said Abram. Whatever the actual number, it's clear a very healthy level was reached in the four days. Everyone asked said that the number one reason for their attendance at the CineMart is its mood. "People do business here in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere," said Abram. The pressure is off, since "it's not necessary that deals are closed here [for CineMart to be successful], as long as they are started here." And successful it is, with Abram claiming an impressive success rate for the projects in the market.
Attending CineMart for the first time were producers Andrea Sperling ("But I'm a Cheerleader") and Jasmine Kosovic ("The Adventures of Sebastian Cole"), who along with director Jamie Babbit ("But I'm a Cheerleader"), were representing Babbit's new script, "The Giggle Factor," a comedy about money, child molestation and the odd tendency humans have of laughing at truly horrific situations. They were thrilled with their experience not only because of the dozens of positive meetings that helped them make significant progress towards raising money, but also because they were chosen for the Rotterdam-Berlinale Express, a selection of six CineMart projects that will also be presented at the European Film Market. It begins today in Berlin (see indieWIRE for complete list of winners).
Another group making their first trip to the CineMart was the Cambrai Liberation Collective group, which consists of T. Todd Flinchum, Alicia Kratzer and Dante Harper - three of the four people responsible for 1996's "The Delicate Art of the Rifle," directed by Harper (the fourth member, Steve Grant, didn't make the trip to Rotterdam). Their market project "Dreamland" follows the life of Timothy McVeigh from his early teens to just before the Oklahoma City bombing. On the opening day of the market, Harper was slightly nervous, but much less so than he would have been in a regular L.A. film biz setting. "In L.A. these are the kind of meetings that give you diarrhea," he joked. But echoing the sentiments of the rest of the market participants, Harper remarked that the low-key atmosphere of the CineMart was relaxing.
I spoke to the trio again at the end of the four days, and they had nothing but glowing things to say about their experience. After holding more than 20 meetings, things seem to have gone well. Harper pointed out that because it is a relatively exclusive market for both projects and producers, "the assumption was that if you're here, you're okay." He was also impressed by how uncompetitive the participants were, and how everyone seemed genuinely interested in each other's work. Kratzer added that she doesn't "understand why other markets aren't run like this." Flinchum echoed her feelings, adding that while "there were a few restrictions" proposed by potential financiers, "overall you couldn't ask for a better market." Their only qualm? "They should ring a bell at the end of the half hour sessions," remarked Flinchum. It seems that some meetings were going so well that the participants didn't want to end them, running over their allotted time.
Given the success rate of these projects as well as the positive response this year, don't be surprised if some of these cineMart works-in-progress make it past the festival selection committee next year.