April 21, 2024

Berlin’s European Film Market has unveiled a new finance forum in collaboration with conference producer Winston Baker and the inaugural edition of AfroBerlin, focusing on the African film industry, among its new initiatives in its forthcoming edition, which runs Feb. 15-21.

Winston Baker’s Entertainment Finance Forum Berlin, taking place Feb. 16, “will bring an international perspective on the state of the industry when it comes to financing and funding film production,” EFM director Dennis Ruh tells Variety.

Winston Baker already organizes the International Film Finance Forum in Cannes. “We are opening it up more for entertainment,” Ruh notes. The idea for the Berlin forum, which originated at the American Film Market, enriches the EFM’s program by showcasing existing opportunities, particularly when it comes to working with private equity internationally.

While the EFM offers an expansive international focus, the event is taking place amid growing pessimism in the German film and TV sector in particular. According to a recent survey published by German producers’ association Produzentenallianz, the state of the country’s film and TV industry is deteriorating dramatically, with 56% of companies rating the current economic situation as bad or very bad.  

Ruh admits that the mood in Germany is “not so good” — especially for producers — due to a number of factors, including the decision by Sky to end its production activities in the country and local broadcasters commissioning less content as they struggle with higher costs.

“It’s a big issue for the German production scene,” he adds. At the same time, Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) is currently working a new film funding law that may provide the local industry with a much needed boost.

“When it comes to tax incentives, Germany is not the most attractive country in the world,” Ruh says. “The funding system is also quite complicated for people coming from the outside. At the same time, countries like Austria have introduced very attractive tax incentives.”

On the global scale, major emerging and established markets like Saudi Arabia and India boast top-notch incentives, he adds. India in particular recently upped its incentive to 40% of qualifying production expenditure, capped at $3.5 million.

Many industry associations, including the Produzentenverband, are advising the government on necessary changes to the funding law with the hope of improving the situation, Ruh says.

The government is aiming to pass the new funding law next year.

“Of course we take place in Germany as the European Film Market, and we have a big group of German participants in Berlin, but at the same time the European Film Market is an international film market – producers come from all over the world – and I think it’s not the general mood of producers internationally,” he says. “There are emerging markets where the mood and perspectives are much better.”

German producers looking to co-produce internationally are also more upbeat regarding global prospects. Indeed, the EFM’s new AfroBerlin platform will examine a large, diverse and promising international sector with its overview of the African film industry.

Organized in partnership with Prudence Kolong’s Stockholm-based consulting firm Yanibes, which also organizes the Cannes Film Festival’s AfroCannes industry showcase, AfroBerlin will renew the EFM’s focus on the African industry following the end of the market’s Berlinale Africa Hub program in 2020.

“AfroBerlin will offer a unique opportunity for attendees to discuss and interact with the key players of the African film industry and to better understand the rationale behind its phenomenal growth,” Yanibes states.

“The African film landscape is quite diverse,” Ruh adds, noting that the event will focus on various regions. “It will be an entire day with fireside chats and panel discussions on different topics.” Kolong “has a lot of expertise, so it helps really to have her on board as a partner,” he says.

The EFM is also introducing Reel Time, a new showcase that will bundle promo reels from participating sales companies in specific genre categories to better cater to buyers looking for family entertainment, horror films or other specific genres. “That’s our target, to accommodate the needs,” Ruh says.  

The market is likewise celebrating a number of anniversaries in 2024, including the 10th year of the Arab Cinema Center, which represents a number of Arab production companies and organizations, as well as the 10th editions of the Berlinale Series Market and EFM Startups, which focuses on innovative young companies in the fields of production, development and distribution.

In addition, Italy will be 2024’s Country in Focus. The program will highlight the diverse work of Italian filmmakers and offer opportunities to network with producers, distributors and investors.

Among returning exhibitor groups will be the Caribbean umbrella stand, this time organized by the Caribbean Alliance of Film and Television Professionals after making its debut last year with the support of the UNESCO Transcultura program. Also returning is the Latin American Corner at the Gropius Bau, where several Latin American countries will be represented.

The EFM Industry Sessions are returning to the Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation near the Gropius Bau, while market screenings will again take place in the nearby Cinemaxx multiplex at Potsdamer Platz. A new venue, the Gropius Dome, will be located at the Gropius Bau’s south entrance. The Dome will also serve Italian snacks during lunchtime in honor of 2024’s focus country.

Exhibition areas at the main Gropius Bau venue and the Marriott Hotel are nearly fully booked, underscoring the strong interest among international attendees, according to EFM organizers. The market reported record results last year with 230 stands and 612 companies from 78 countries and a total of more than 11,500 participants from 132 countries. Organizers are expecting traffic of up to 70,000 visits over the seven days of the forthcoming EFM.

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