Cannes 2013: How did the Greek Producers do on the Croisette?

How did Greek producers fare at the Cannes Film festival? A conversation about veni vidi vici…under circumstances.

During the 66th Cannes Film Festival, Greece’s new generation of producers, those that sustain Greek cinema and keep it alive, came to the city in search of new international collaborations. Read their account of the festival below.

The Cannes Film Festival, apart from being a launchpad and springboard for movies that are already finished, is also a large movie market, where projects that are just starting or are in production already can find new allies, for funding and/or for promotion abroad. The process is tiring and costly but it can produce the most amazing results, especially for Greek movies that rarely have the opportunity to be made with only local means.

Many of Greece’s new brigade of movie producers, professionals that have been working towards the local industry’s extroversion, made their way to Cannes this year. Most of them financed their trips on their own and made their way to Europe’s most important film festival to claim a share of the market.

Read below how they fared and what they accomplished at the Côte d’Azur.

 

Faidra Vokali (Marni Films)

Project Info: I’m here with Stergios Paschos’ ‘Pigs In The Wind’ project. At the moment we are in the early stages of development and writing the screenplay.

Flix: How have you been greeted by the international markets? Has anything changed, compared to previous years?

FV: I can’t really make the comparison, since in previous years I came to Cannes in a different capacity to that of producer. However, in the meetings I’ve had, the mood has been quite positive towards the Greek film industry and its ability to produce movies of high caliber despite the country’s financial difficulties.

Flix: Was the trip to Cannes worth the effort and the expense?

FV: A visit to Cannes is always worthwhile, especially when you’re planning a film, because the whole industry is present. If you are organized and schedule in advance, you can make the connections and find the resources your project needs. Furthermore, the opportunities the festival offers for enlarging one’s network of potential colleagues can’t be compared to any other festival.

 

 

 

Maria Drandaki (Homemade Films, Pan Entertainment)

Project Info: I came for 2 projects. Sylla Tzoumerka’s ‘A Blast’ which is in the final stages of funding and George Zois’ ‘Stage Fright’ which is in development and in the early stages of funding and which participated at the festival’s L’ Atelier.

Flix: How have you been greeted by the international markets? Has anything changed, compared to previous years?

MD: I wasn’t in Cannes last year, so I can’t make the direct comparison, but my impression is that we are conversing with ease on a European and International level. The co-ordination of Greek producers and directors in recent years, with many films in production and others being planned, has really opened a channel for communication and co-operation. Also, because I met people I’ve already been in contact and negotiations with for ‘Blast’, and since for ‘Stage Fright’ I was under the aegis of L’Atelier, but also because of the fact that Greek film-makers’ network of contacts is so large, access and co-operation are on a similar level to that of other European countries. Also of importance at this level is Greek projects’ access to funding both private, but especially public. The Greek Film Center being back in business and Greek public television channel ERT’s 1,5% rebate on all its co-productions (albeit with some delay) but also the existence of specific private investors, has helped create good will. If this access isn’t strengthened, or even worse if it is cut off, the the momentum which has been created may be lost.

Flix: Was the trip to Cannes worth the effort and the expense?

MD: For this particular visit, the greatest part of my expenses was covered by L’Atelier. But regardless, for all the reasons I mentioned, my trip to Cannes was both necessary and successful. Cannes is the biggest film market. If you have specific goals, it is very important to attend.

 

 

 

Giorgos Karnavas, Konstantinos Kontovrakis (Heretic)

Project Info: We came to Cannes to promote various films in different stages of production, from early development to advanced post-production. This means we did everything, from meeting up with festival and sales agents for the promotion of movies that are almost finished to contacting likely co-producers and investors, for movies that will be filmed two years from now. Also, we got in touch with certain foreign directors for the production of their films, since we plan to produce foreign films as well. All in all, we worked on 8 different projects. However, our most important project was the launch of our new company ‘Heretic’, which encompasses all the activities we mentioned above. A perfect end-note for all our endeavors was the announcement, on the day we were leaving Cannes, of the films selected by the Berlinale for this year’s Residency. Elena Psikou’s latest project ‘Ivo and Sophia’ was among the six finalists.

Flix: How have you been greeted by the international markets? Has anything changed, compared to previous years?

Heretic: Interest is noticeably on the rise. This is mainly due to international interest (especially on the festival’s part) for current Greek film production which has been on the rise for the last four years. But this isn’t the only reason. Interest has increased because of the methodical work people have put in for years. We have also become more familiarized with the demands and expectations of the international market and we’ve systematically cultivated personal relationship with people in key positions.

Flix: Was the trip to Cannes worth the effort and the expense?

Heretic: Cannes is the ultimate film event. We couldn’t possibly have missed it. It’s not coincidental that so many thousands of people from all over the world, from Australia to Chile, come to Cannes to do business, spending a lot more money than us. Us Europeans should consider ourselves fortunate for having the luxury of hosting the world’s biggest movie festival. Also, playing ball in your home court is a big advantage.

Flix: What impressions did the  «Regions Capitales pour le Cinema» meeting leave you with?

Heretic: We went there separately since we were attending for different reasons. One of us (Konstantinos) combined his strengths with Christos B. Konstantakopoulos and Kostas Kefalas from Faliro House Productions for the promotion of Margarita Manta’s ‘Gia Panta’ (Forever) and to secure funding for the film’s post production. The other (Giorgos) overlooked Heretic’s presence at the event.  Generally speaking, the event functioned like any other co-production forum, with the main difference being that it took place in Cannes and that this year’s honored country was Greece, which obviously can only be regarded as positive developments.

 

 

 

Fenia Kossovitsa (Blonde)

Project Info: I came to Cannes for multiple projects in different stages of production.  Firstly, for the film I made with my friend, producer Konstantinos Kontovrakis ‘Standing Aside, Watching’ (‘Na Kathesai Kai na Koitas’) directed by George Servetas, which is in the final stages of post-production. For this film we worked on organizing its festival route and contacts with sales agents. I also came for the development of director Rinio Dragasaki’s new film ‘H Diplani Mou’ with a screenplay written by Katerina Kaklamani. It is being co-produced by French company AGAT Films, for which we are very excited, especially since the company and producer Patrick Sobelman joined at an early stage. Also, I worked on the first film by Lebanese-Greek-French director Joyce Nashawati, a French-Lebanese-Greek co-production titled ‘Heatwave’, which will be filmed in Greece in its entirety. Finally, because the market at Cannes is so multicultural and varied, opportunities arose to express ideas for other projects. A cocktail, an acquaintance or a lunch would spark new cinematic adventures.

Flix: How have you been greeted by the international markets? Has anything changed, compared to previous years?

FK: Every year is better than the one that came before. There is a big difference and for the better. I’m happy we made an impression!

Flix: Was the trip to Cannes worth the effort and the expense?

FK: It was worth it one thousand per cent! It was well worth it, even despite the rain! The cost was definitely not negligible, but I think what you get in return is much greater. You’re at the center, at the source, at the very heart of the movie market. Apart from the work we did on specific projects, with meetings we had planned ahead of time or other meetings where we went to see and be seen, to get to know colleagues better, as simple as it may sound, it was worth it because these acquaintances and connections one day, at some point in the future, will be useful. But even if they don’t prove to be useful, who doesn’t enjoy meeting different new people, even if only for the joy of discovery?

 

 

Amanda Livanou (Beben Films)

Project Info: I came to Cannes for Sophia Exarhou’s ‘Park’ and for Babis Makridis’ new film. Both are already being developed, so my presence here was less stressful, to meet up with some colleagues and friends, and exchange thoughts on a professional and personal level. Both are very important. Also, we met agents representing specific movies that are already finished (like ‘L’ and ‘They Glow In the Dark’) so they could give us an idea of where we’re at. It was good to see them. It reminds them that they’re working for you and your film, so they don’t forget their responsibilities!

Flix: How have you been greeted by the international markets? Has anything changed, compared to previous years?

AL: International response in recent years has been heated, even though things have been getting harder for European cinema. The presence of everybody who is anybody at the small Greek party – agents, film funds, foreign festivals, important producers – was impressive. Notice I pointed out it was a small party, because I’ve heard of inaccuracies and malicious remarks regarding it and things shouldn’t be misconstrued. We shouldn’t talk about things we don’t fully understand as David Byrne sang in ‘Psycho Killer’. Every country participating throws a small cocktail party at its kiosk every afternoon. That’s just what we did at the Greek  kiosk. We offered raki that we had brought along in our suitcases. And we invited the people that support and promote us, and often fund us. Internationally.

Flix: Was the trip to Cannes worth the effort and the expense?

AL: The cost was big and the trip tiring. That’s why, personally, I only come once every two years. However, in whichever phase your film may be, it is important for you to keep in touch with your contacts. For this reason, the trip and the cost are inescapable. And to be quite honest, a dinner and wine with friends you only get to see once a year, often compensates for the day’s madness.  And of course, if during the day you manage to watch a great film, then you realize that it was worth the effort and you remember why you’re in this line of work.

Flix: What impressions did the  «Regions Capitales pour le Cinema» meeting leave you with?

AL: Sophia Exarhou’s ‘Park’ was one of the projects discussed at the meeting. It was a relaxed day at the non too relaxed International Film Market and this was reason enough to make it interesting.  We saw some well-known producers and film funds and talked a bit about our projects. ‘Park’ is only just beginning its journey abroad and for this reason, we hope to have more to say about it in the future.

 

 

Alexandra Boussiou (Wrong Men)

Project Info: I came to Cannes in the middle of the filming of Panos H. Koutras’ new movie ‘Xenia’, so I came for a short stay that was quite stressful. Despite this, I was in Cannes for five days, for two movies Wrong Men are developing, Philippos Tsitos’ ‘Dexioseis’ and Vardi Marinakis’ ‘Xrysi Mera’ (‘Golden Day’).

Flix: How have you been greeted by the international markets? Has anything changed, compared to previous years?

AB: The truth is, personally I’m not at ease working with colleagues I don’t know in spaces that I’m not familiar with. I’m more or less familiar with my network of potential colleagues at the level of production at least. So meetings are more ‘follow-ups’, since potential co-producers are already aware of projects from early on. As far as sales agents are concerned, there’s mostly interest from companies that specialize in art house cinema, since Greek language films have international potential only if they can make their way to the festivals.

Flix: Was the trip to Cannes worth the effort and the expense?

AB: Yes it was. I’m not sure if I’ll always be able to attend, mainly because of the cost, but it remains the most useful market and a place where all past and future colleagues have an opportunity to meet up in a climate that, despite its excess in many ways, is nevertheless interesting.  During these five days we signed a co-production deal, talked about an other, found buyers for future films and most importantly we strengthened ties of trust that existed already. Cannes also offers a valuable learning experience about the way people behave in this so-called industry, since you observe their evolution every year.  Some succeed and handle their success well, others become more superficial, others become wiser and more thoughtful, while others remain idiotic and petty. Generally speaking, Cannes is a learning experience.

Flix: What impressions did the  «Regions Capitales pour le Cinema» meeting leave you with?

AB: I participated in theory since, even though my projects were initially forgotten, from what I was told, they were added during the course of the meeting. I didn’t attend on the day of the event because I had to be back in Greece.  Overall, the Regional Funds Programs are hard to use if you’re coming from a country which doesn’t often manage to have a majority participation in the funding of a movie. This is mainly because they are very sought after and they have reached the point of asking for an up to 300% coverage of costs in their region in relation to their funding (this is the case in Germany, for instance). So, in order for you to receive 100.000 euro from a regional fund, you have to spend 300.000 euro in this region. Also, you have to have a movie which has a reason to be filmed in a particular region. Otherwise it’s too much of a hassle and the rewards are miniscule.

Furthermore, Philippos Tsitos’ and Vardis Marinakis’ films have already been planned to a large extent, as far as funding is concerned, without Regional programs, so there was no dire need for this kind of contact. On the level of public and media relations, local and other, it was useful of course, since the program focused on Greece, regarding the producers that were involved as well as the plans for movies that were discussed. All in all such activities are useful, so long as they are carefully planned.

 

 

 

George Tsourgiannis (Horsefly Productions)

Project Info: At the moment we have two movies in post-production, Michael Konstantatos’ ‘Luton’ and Yannis Veslemes’ ‘Norway’. Also, we have an international co-production for Efthimis Kosemund Sanidis’ first short-film ‘II’, Michael Konstantatos’ next project with a  working title of ‘Home’ (a German co-production, participating in Torino Script and Pitch) and Yannis Veslemes’ ‘1901’ (A French co-production)

Flix: How have you been greeted by the international markets? Has anything changed, compared to previous years?

GT: I think international interest in Greek films has been solidified. In recent years there has been a lot of mobility and success where Greek films and projects, directors and producers have been concerned. Also in co-production forums we have been personally acquainted with many colleagues and representatives of groups and organizations with whom we are in constant contact. They are also aware of which projects are in development and production and which stage they are in.

Flix: Was the trip to Cannes worth the effort and the expense?

GT: If you can handle the expense, you have to be there. I think Cannes is always worth the cost.

Flix: What impressions did the  «Regions Capitales pour le Cinema» meeting leave you with?

GT: As is the case with similar platforms, co-production forums and networking meetings, which take place at other festivals and markets, it offered an opportunity to meet new professionals and catch up with those we already knew. The fact that Greece was honored there gave them the opportunity to get a better idea and taste of current Greek film production and the people that are involved in it. It was also a good occasion to converse about the projects we have been working on, which may flourish into collaborations.