Opinion

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 encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.

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