Melbourne: Australia’s best film sales market

Ed GibbsThe renewal of Melbourne’s 37 Degrees South film market’s partnership with London’s Production Finance Market is offering local film-makers an opportunity like no other says Ed Gibbs, in an opinion piece that first appeared in Encore

Among the more vital aspects of any film market is how producers, sales agents and financiers can engage, do business, talk shop and, one hopes, get projects up and running.

Earlier this year, in Berlin, Film London announced the renewal of a partnership that will see its Production Finance Market (PFM) offer Australian producers the opportunity to do business with the international market during the London Film Festival. Three key Australian players will be selected from the 37 Degrees South film market, run by the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), and flown over to pitch.

In return, MIFF hosts a series of talks by Adrian Wootton, the chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission adding cultural weight to its festival program.

Of the exchange program he has helped foster, Wootton says: “The real benefits are that Australian producers come with live projects to meet financiers to get their films financed.”

The benefits of such a relationship are obvious, and exclusive: no other film festival in the southern hemisphere has a market environment like Melbourne. Hence, this is a unique opportunity for producers to prove their worth to selectors at this year’s 37 Degrees South film market.

Wootton, whose talks kick off on August 1, is understandably upbeat about the renewal of Film London’s partnership with Melbourne (the London Film Festival itself is, coincidentally, now run by Australian Clare Stewart, formerly head of the Sydney Film Festival). The relationship remains strong, the opportunities evident. What’s needed, of course, are savvy producers willing to engage and take risks (both in Australia and the UK), with material that connects with audiences locally and globally.

Among those who attended London’s PFM last year as a result of this partnership was Perth-based producer Stephen Van Mil. Currently, his company Impian Films has six major features in various stages of production. Following meetings at PFM, period drama The Drowner – scripted by John Collie, with Fred Schepisi down to direct – now has significant interest from independent British international sales, distribution and marketing company Hanway, London film company GFM and international sales and film finance company Bankside.

“It’s one of those rare opportunities, to sit at the table with the big guys,” says Van Mil. “The point of difference is, you get your wishlist: you’re allowed a maximum of 15 meetings. We got all the meetings we requested. Some of them weren’t suitable for either party, but if you get three great bites from 15, you’re doing really, really well. And we did. We’re currently getting prepared for pre-production, and looking to shoot in the second half of next year.”

Another beneficiary of the London-Melbourne exchange is Sydney-based producer Jamie Hilton. He describes last year’s PFM as being “instrumental” in getting an upcoming feature, Michael Petroni’s Backtrack, fully financed. Screen Australia announced its support of the project – described by its producers as a “spine-chilling supernatural thriller in the vein of The Sixth Sense and What Lies Beneath” – earlier this year.

I, too, had the pleasure of attending last year’s PFM, albeit briefly, and was struck by the willingness of all sides to engage. Clearly, there remains an appetite for viable projects – and an arena to help make them a reality. Those few who do get to attend this year’s PFM in London will not be disappointed.

Ed Gibbs is a film critic, journalist, broadcaster and curator based in Sydney.

Encore issue 25This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit for a preview of the app or click below to download.


  1. Richard Moss
    2 Aug 13
    3:19 pm

  2. “Opportunity for producers to prove their worth” “opportunity to sit at the table with the big boys”

    Same old stance (well and truly on the back foot) by those who think they know the way the truth and the light. .

    What about an opportunity for the British (and other) inverters to invest in Australian films? What about an opportunity to open new relationships with Australian film makers, writers, photographers, art departments and …who are those other people?….er..Oh yes.. actors.

    What about an opportunity for the investors from other places to seek Australian theatrical and artistic investment projects?

    We have been stooping to satisfy others for around 80 years, seeking approval and muttering phrases like “Not bad for a local film” “Blockbuster Hollywood style movie ” and at the same time, waving goodbye to film makers, actors, writers etc as they leave, many having had little success at home, to live and work, at first in the UK, now in the US and UK, and actually basking in their glory and proudly claiming them as our own from afar.

    Stop looking overseas for approval. Start making Australian films. Start sharing theatrical and cinematic ideas, start investing in the arts and start making a statement that will turn the worlds attention.

    Well may one hope to “get projects up and running” we have been trying for decades and here we are in 2013 still marking time.

  3. Ed Gibbs
    4 Aug 13
    4:39 pm

  4. If only it was that simple. Financing non-studio pictures is incredibly difficult — and is getting increasingly more so. Aus film relies on international investment for a variety of reasons — and the PFM exchange program remains incredibly valuable.

    For the record, this year’s PFM recipients are: David Parker, Leanne Tonkes and Tim Sanders from New Zealand. Congratulations to you all.

    I should also stress that a significant number of international film financiers (50 in total) were in attendance at the Melbourne film market, so there is indeed a two-way arrangement. Sadly, at the time of going to press, the festival was unable to provide any current data, despite repeated requests in the weeks leading up to the market.

  5. Richard Moss
    6 Aug 13
    9:01 am

  6. Respectful reply to Ed Gibbs.

    I agree that it is not simple, but “that” simple is perhaps a misreading of my intent.

    The term “Australian films” covers a wide range of artistic endeavor, and though it includes them, it does not warmly embrace the dodgy ones or the “comic book” efforts.

    Film making is a collaborative exercise, but it is an artistic exercise, not a corporate one or a producers playground, any more than it is a writers, an actors or a directors.

    It is interesting to reflect that Sir Don Bradman did not have the benefit of the Australian institute of sport, neither did he have a campaign to raise millions of dollars; he did practice with a golf ball and stump though and by hitting a ball against a water tank , and he did play Australian test cricket; in fact, he played it better than anyone else.