CineMart at 35 - just a number

Big anniversaries can kick-start serious bouts of existential navel gazing. Not so for festival chief Bero Beyer and head of IFFR Pro Marit van den Elshout, for whom CineMart activity is just part of an ever-evolving funding and production continuum…

… and the pair knows a lot about this.

As a writer/producer Beyer pitched the Oscar-nominated Paradise Now at CineMart in 2005, and later Atlantic., the first film screened at IFFR Live (2015). As a commissioner for the Netherlands Film Fund he was in demand as a soft money investor, whose approval of projects worked as a ‘quality guarantee’ for further investment. Van den Elshout has headed CineMart and most industry events of IFFR for 15 years. Since 2017, she has integrated the market, fund and talent development programmes such as Rotterdam Lab and Boost NL and innovation projects (Propellor) under a more holistic IFFR Pro Programme.

“It has always been one of those fundamental factors within the cinema landscape, knowing that there is a CineMart which has an eye for some of the best independent stuff out there and this huge platform where you will meet people that you will either directly or indirectly find yourself working with further down the line on your project – or on theirs,” says Beyer.

But for Beyer and Van den Elshout, the one constant of IFFR is that it is in a state of flux, as evidenced by its history. Thirty-five years ago, CineMart embraced (some say invented) co-production, while the Hubert Bals Fund was revolutionising the funding and production of cinema from emerging industries. The festival was the first to pioneer radical art cinema and it laid down the principles of crowd-funding before anyone else. What’s more, IFFR programmers have always looked to the mavericks at the margins of the industry (auteurs and entrepreneurs alike) to discover how the future of cinema is likely to be shaped.

“Within all of this, the establishing ethos of CineMart was to create connections between filmmakers and potential partners on a very intimate and individual level of open creativity – and that principle must always remain intact,” comments Beyer.

But the industry has moved on – and so has CineMart. Which is why it’s no longer a stand-alone co-pro market but a key component of IFFR’s overall offer to the industry. This means continuing investment in projects months, even years, after their initial pitch, courtesy of initiatives like BoostNL and ongoing funding via HBF. It means examining the industry framework so that producers and filmmakers genuinely understand the context in which they are working, as in this year’s Reality Check dissection of the distribution sector. It means re-evaluating the relationships with producers and filmmakers, looking beyond their debut film to help them prepare for a career in film, and not just a one-off all-consuming flash of brilliance.

“I can tell you from past experience, if you are a filmmaker or a producer with a core idea for a film and a little bit of finance in place, if you stop to think about all those elements that come into play that are necessary to get your film made and your career on track, then it is kind of daunting. Actually, it cannot be done. It’s impossible without help,” Beyer underlines.

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Which is why, for Van den Elshout, greater emphasis is being placed on emerging talent over established talent. “The market has become so tight that many of the more established directors don't need co-production marketplaces so much because they know which companies they are happy to work with. But for young producers and filmmakers these markets are really crucial to get a sense of reality, to get out of their bubble and to properly test the project, and to help them build a network – this is where we can really make a difference through the people we work with, the logistics we use and the processes that we apply.”

“We are a feedback platform, a helping hand and a safety net and we provide specialists for everything a new filmmaker has to be aware of throughout the entire trajectory,” adds Beyer. “Which means that he or she is not alone. We will always host investigative conferences like Reality Check, we will always look to promote innovation, as with Propellor in 2017, and we’ll always try to push other forms of distribution so films are seen [by wider audiences].”

“And then we try to figure out how all of that relates back to the very beginning of the creative process, which is the script,” he concludes.

Photo in header: Tekst: Nick Cunningham