IFFR's Film Office benefits boom
Film Office staff 2008, from left; Mary Davies, Corine Meijers, Nina Pece, Lucius Barre, Thomas Crommentuijn, Rik Vermeulen, Jan Abom, Jannie Langbroek, Matt Blackhall, Marnix van Wijk and Hayet Benkara.
‘The paradox of Rotterdam is that we have a large audience with particular needs alongside distributors looking for commercial art-house fare. And on the other hand, there is a large niche and experimental programme operating outside the usual financial structures. At the Film Office, we have to try to find the balance between these elements’, said Film Office chief Rik Vermeulen.
How he achieves this balance is in part answered by the festival’s decision to widen the remit of the Film Office for the 2008 IFFR edition, and to offer an even more intensive – and bespoke – service to the 2,500-plus filmmakers and industry guests in attendance. ‘This year, the Film Office is a real fusion of services, events and facilities,’ he asserts. The Film Office exists to facilitate interactivity between the filmmakers, sales agents, buyers and festival programmers at the festival, and it is worth pointing out the high level service industry professionals can expect.
Before the festival, the Office alerts interested parties about which films are available for representation, as well as providing full sales contact information on those films that have already secured a rights deal. But as the festival cranks up, the service offered to filmmakers and international guests intensifies.
On arrival, a filmmaker is entitled to a one-to-one monitoring session with one of five industry experts to determine how best to exploit the myriad opportunities to promote his or her current (or future) work to the widest range of industry professionals. The staff of the digitised video library can then offer detailed data to gauge levels of interest in the film. The sales and industry club offers a quiet and comfortable location where the filmmaker can explain, cogitate and negotiate with financiers, sellers and buyers. Then, to help generate even more international interest in the film, filmmakers are invited to attend one of two Meet the Programmer events, at which they will be encouraged to get to know IFFR’s programmers.
In addition, the festival is laying on a series of events to enable filmmakers to network extensively with the festival’s international guests and potential future business partners. These events include the daily festival Late Night Drinks and the Industry Party on the first Sunday night within the festival.
‘For many filmmakers, this may be their first film festival, and they will feel lost,’ comments Vermeulen. ‘They may not know what to do with their film, nor what to expect.’ Head of International PR Marnix van Wijk agrees and stresses the wide appeal of the Film Office’s work to the industry. ‘A festival is a place to meet people. That’s why festivals exist. That’s why we have the industry party and the late night festival drinks. In addition, for the 2008 IFFR we’ve arranged a buyers and sellers dinner in the city hall so that they can talk and follow up on business prior to going to Berlin. It’s all about facilitating the international professional visitors at the festival.’
‘But for us, the starting point is always the filmmaker and his film,’ claims Vermeulen. ‘Every film has its own individual story and reach. A lot of filmmakers are discouraged when they come here and suddenly find that theirs is one of 600 films. They may even play in the competition and yet still feel overwhelmed. So we try and keep their spirits up. Our role is to support, to encourage and to work with them as closely as possible for the benefit of their film.’ NC