Berlin: Television used to be something of dirty word at an event like the Berlin Film Festival. 

But now TV drama – once viewed as artistically inferior to film – is increasingly seen as a refuge for embattled independent filmmakers who are struggling to get their films financed.

The talk of this year’s 64th Berlin Film Festival is very much about the difficulties facing the independent film industry.

For sure, this year’s Berlinale has seen a number of strong films playing in official selection – with Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, Yann Demange’s ’71 and Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac all generating strong buzz here. 

There’s also an energetic and highly regarded Talent Campus, a creative gathering for 300 up and coming filmmakers from 79 different countries. Speakers at the Canon sponsored event this year include producer Martha De Laurentiis (Hannibal), DoP Christopher Doyle and Oscar-winning director Neil Jordan. The impressive event proves that there is still no shortage of young talent who want to make their way in independent film.

But the Campus has heard a number of leading filmmakers, including Jordan, speak of the difficulty of getting independent films off the ground.

This was in clear evidence at Berlin’s film sales and financing market, the European Film Market (EFM).

Buyers and sellers complained that the market was slow.

 “The golden age of theatrical movies of our generation was 1995 to 2008, when you could make anything, sell anything. It is now the golden age of television,” Martin Moszkowicz from German distributor Constantin told Variety. 

The UK, for example, is witnessing a boom in television drama production, with recent BFI figures showing that £276m was spend on drama production in the UK between April and December 2013. Over half of this figure came from inward investment shows like Game of Thrones, Outlander and Da Vinci’s Demons. The BFI figures also revealed that the number of independent films being made in the UK had fallen year on year. 

Observers at Berlin’s EFM said that there was a lack of big, quality film projects at the market – and that securing distribution for films in key territories like the US remains difficult.

Others said that there were too many film markets, with EFM sandwiched between last month’s American Film Market and May’s Cannes Film Festival.

Television channels are buying fewer films — and the growth in VOD has not yet compensated for this fall off.

However, Berlin proves that attaching top talent to a project can still make a film fly. The Weinstein Co. is said to have paid $7 million for US rights to The Imitation Game, which sees Benedict Cumberbatch play Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park. There was also buyer interest in M. Night Shyamalan’s Labor Of Love, which is expected to see Bruce Willis reteam with the The Sixth Sense director.


Tim Dams

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