Soft selling Rotterdam

Sales Club staff: Matt Blackhall and Marnix van Wijk (photo by Felix Kalkman)Soft selling Rotterdam

When Marnix van Wijk joined the festival full time in July 2006 he was no stranger, having spent a good number of years at Fortissimo. Now, as Head of International PR, he sees his job as reinforcing Rotterdam’s position as both festival and co-production market.

“One of the first things we did,” Van Wijk says, “was to set up a digital newsletter on a monthly instead of quarterly basis. We also started advertising and raising our profile at markets and festivals.”

Among the initiatives were a cocktail event at Toronto, as well as presentations at Rome, London, LA, “and a breakfast for buyers and sellers at AFM,” Van Wijk adds. “We also held a cocktail event at the Dutch Institute in Paris where, together with Holland Film, we screened last year’s Dutch Tiger, NORTHERN LIGHT.”

As part of the increase in information Van Wijk also overhauled the website, introducing the Professionals section. “The homepage used to be in Dutch,” he says, “and was for general visitors. So we created a splash page; left for the audience, right for the professionals. And then we introduced a new team, look and feel for the Daily Tiger.”

With the CineMart well established, together with Rotterdam’s undisputed reputation as a venue for discovering new talent and fostering it, often over years, the next evolutionary step was to make life easier for both buyers and sellers.

“The idea behind the Sales Club,” says Van Wijk “is to facilitate the industry with their CineMart meetings, to provide people with a quiet room for their sales meetings. In the past, sellers were, let’s say, sometimes ambushed by producers. Now they have a safe haven for relatively undisturbed business.” Located on the fourth floor, the Sales Club also offers coffee, Internet facilities, newspapers, trade magazines and helpful, informed staff.

“The concept’s working,” says Matt Blackhall, Sales Club Coordinator. “We’ve had very good feedback too. We’re not bustling yet with activity but people are always coming in and out to check their email or just sit on a sofa with a cup of coffee.”

“We do not want to become a market,” says Van Wijk. “Just give our sellers and buyers a platform. It’s about changing perceptions towards Rotterdam in terms of pre-Berlin business. There is a group which come post-Sundance, but for many it’s a hard three or four weeks.” Among those attending Saturday’s opening bash were Fortissimo, Celluloid Dreams, MK2, Focus Features, UGC and Nordisk Film.

Van Wijk is also keen to attract distributors of new media “and those doing digital distribution; especially for the Rotterdam kind of film which would fit very well with these new platforms. We try to make sure these films come together financially at the CineMart and actually get made. We also want them sold internationally and screened.” (SK)