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“Despite all the challenges, people are hopeful and are continuing to focus on their projects”

Industry Report: Film Festival Trends

Martina Bleis • Head, Berlinale Co-Production Market


As the 18th edition of the Berlinale Co-Production Market gears up to run online from 1-5 March, its head told us about what to expect, and the differences between this and the physical edition

Martina Bleis  • Head, Berlinale Co-Production Market
(© Miriam Boixader)

As the 18th edition of the Berlinale Co-Production Market gears up to run online for the first time from 1-5 March, during the European Film Market, we managed to chat with its head, Martina Bleis, to find out more about the differences between this and the physical edition, upcoming trends and the difficulties of organising everything online.

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Cineuropa: Do you feel that the “coincidence” of your turning 18 and reaching “maturity” also marks a turning point for the event?
Martina Bleis:
“Turning point” makes it sound as if everything is going to be held online in the future forever – when, in fact, we all really want to be able to see each other again in person at the next editions. As for maturity, the fact that we always deal with new projects and trends never actually makes us feel like we’ve grown up – luckily, there is always more to learn!

What will be different from what we already know from the physical edition?
We are again presenting 35 feature-length projects and ten series projects, as usual. This time, everything is online, even our Case Studies, Country Sessions and other talks – which means they are also available to more people. Furthermore, one-on-one meetings and talks will mostly not run in parallel, so our participants will have a better chance of being able to attend both meetings and live streams in real time during the market. After all, we all know it’s harder to catch up on a recorded event later. Also, the online one-on-ones will include people who might not have travelled to a physical event even if it had been possible, which makes the online version a bit more inclusive. Luckily, our clientele is quite steady, so there is a continuity in terms of our active participants. We urge there to be in-person meetings in the future, not only for our market, but also to create spontaneous discussions and all of the informal connections that are an integral part of a film festival.

Is there any clear pattern of observable trends in this year’s selection, and are you seeing the influence of the pandemic already?
There is not such an obvious difference; we may have received a few more dystopian projects, with some considering social distancing, but this isn’t reflected strongly in the selection. Many projects came up with co-production strategies that placed less emphasis on crew travel, and which are also more environmentally sustainable. It is still difficult for producers to outline the budgets and financing plans with all the changes being made to health-and-safety regulations, and an overall changing market. Despite all that, people are hopeful and are continuing to focus on their projects, with a strong desire to bring their films to audiences, and that is great to see!

Will the digital edition affect the exposure that the projects get, and have you observed any change in film professionals’ interest levels?
The interest level is more or less the same as it was in other years: we have a similar number of participants, and we’ve had similar numbers of project submissions, with series on the rise, even. Some people are also attending for the first time, which is great. On the other hand, some of our regular attendees simply forgot to sign up – it is understandable that it’s a bit harder to synchronise the schedule of digital events with the one at home, especially across different time zones. We will have to wait and see what the results are. However, what gives us a lot of hope is that last year, despite the pandemic, the follow-up was amazing, and many of the 2020 projects proceeded very well. For example, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn [+see also:
film review
interview: Radu Jude
film profile
by Radu Jude was in the Rotterdam-Berlinale Express last year and has now been selected for the Berlinale Official Competition.

The Berlinale Series Market is expanding further; how has this affected Co-Pro Series?
Indeed, it is doing really well, and it is great that it is so popular with the industry and has developed into such an important meeting point over the past few years. Co-Pro Series is our contribution to the Series Market programme, and so our series makers benefit from the attention that the overall Berlinale Series Market gets, and vice versa.

Could you offer us some of the highlights from the other sections of the Berlinale Co-Production Market?
The Talent Project Market, which my colleague Kathi Bildhauer is organising, once again features ten great projects that come from producers who are currently in the first ten years of their career. Nevertheless, some of these producers and their directors are already quite experienced and have already won awards. The projects are extremely diverse in their topics, genres and characters, and they come from all over the world. The producers will again be mentored individually and in a group, they will have the chance to win the VFF Talent Highlight Award, and they will be meeting with potential partners, just like the projects in the Official Selection.

At Books at Berlinale, coordinated by Henning Adam, there are several highlights as well. To name just a few, there are two books about outstanding female resistance fighters from World War II: the portrait of Anne Beaumanoir, from France, Epic Annette, for which author Anne Weber received the German Book Award in 2020; and My Name Is Selma by Selma van de Perre, from the Netherlands. The genres are also quite different, ranging from the absorbing Norwegian psychological thriller Reptile Memoirs by Silje Ulstein to the stirring Dutch children’s and youth book Notes to Pelle by Marlies Slegers.

Is it harder to organise an online event that runs across multiple platforms in a shorter time frame, or a physical event?
This definitely feels like organising a market for the first time, so it is much harder than organising a physical event, as we have been able to fine-tune it over 17 editions! Quite a few members of our team have worked at other online events over the last year, but still, this is new territory, and we need to touch upon every little aspect of our organisation and communication, on top of any new technical setup that’s required. It is harder and certainly much more work than any of us could have imagined, even though we are in close contact and exchanging views with our colleagues at other markets. As it requires such a spot-on start, it feels a bit like launching a space rocket. Hopefully, we will get it off the ground successfully!

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