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As film distributors and exhibitors seem to take fewer risks in what they'll buy, one small film festival in Paris is quietly turning the tables, and is offering filmmakers Australian ones included - big opportunities, as Wendy Nye, herself a filmmaker, reports; applications for 1998 close end of July.

The Rencontres Internationales de Cinema a Paris. Never heard of it? Neither had I until late last year. Found it accidentally on the internet just prior to leaving Sydney for Turkey. It's offering filmmakers big opportunities with little outlay, for French and/or European distribution of features, docos and shorts. But as I discovered, not a single Australian filmmaker had a title in the 1997 programme.

Left Istanbul mid October 97 and flew to Paris where the festival was underway. The New Zealand feature, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives, had already screened, with major distributor/exhibitor interest.

"All you need do is send a VHS copy of your feature, doco or short for consideration"

What makes this festival attractive is that it will pick up the tab for French subtitles of English works, if selected into the festival. All you need do is send a VHS copy of your feature, doco or short for consideration by the selectors. If you get in, they'll do the rest, including "making" exhibitors and distributors come to the festival, hosted by the Videotheque de Paris - a space equivalent to Sydney's Chauvel Cinema - buried deep inside the underground Les Halles shopping centre. Showing for 12 days is anything up to 30 features, and all films screen three times during this festival.

Ironically, according to Festival Director, Marie-Pierre Macia, the amount of film titles for distribution is shrinking. Ironic, when, in a film-crazy city like Paris, up to 300 titles are showing in any one day.

"It's economic, it's like everywhere," Ms Macia says. "If in the first days you don't make the number of entries a film should have, [or sell enough cinema tickets], the film is out of the theatre in a week and the next film is on the screen. This is why distributors and exhibitors do not want to take the risk anymore. They don't buy as much as they used to do. They don't release film as much as they used to do."

By refusing to release video copies of the selected films, the festival "encourages" distributors and exhibitors to see for themselves the public reaction to films chosen for screening. The festival has two theatres: one 300-seater, the other 100.

"If a distributor can see a film here with an audience he can have an idea of what to do with this film." And, know how to position films bought at the festival for both the metropolitian and regional markets in France.

There is a market for short films in Paris, but Recontres doesn't actively broker these like it does for features.

"For a filmmaker of a short film it's really important to be exposed here."

"We do expect distributors will pick up short films to show before features." She says the other benefit for directors of short films, is getting the attention of producers in Paris with a view to making their first feature. She adds word of mouth is fast at this festival, compared to many other festivals, except for Cannes.

"Considering there are so many professionals in Paris, for a filmmaker of a short film it's really important to be exposed here."

The festival has only been in existence for three years. In Years 1 & 2, of the 34 features selected for screening, all without pre-existing distribution deals, 15 found distributors. And by end of week one of the 1997 festival, three features had secured distribution deals, including "Topless Women....".

Television buyers also attend this festival, mostly looking for documentaries. In its first year, it screened a doco about the death penalty in California which was picked up for national distribution.

More theatrical and television distributors are adding Recontres to their calendar of events and public attendences are also increasing: from 9000 in Year 1 to more than 12,000 in Year 3. But Macia says Recontres is not Cannes, and wants to stay small.

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To submit for 1998, send a VHS PAL tape of your feature, doco or short before the end of July. Or, if you have a print of a feature or short somewhere in Europe, let the organisers know.
Email: jbledsoe@vdp.fr (Jeff can email you in English)


Website: (French Only) http://www.vdp.fr/rencontres/

The snail mail address is:
Marie-Pierre Macia - Program Director
Recontres Internationales de Cinema a Paris
Videotheque de Paris
Les Halles
Paris, France


Topless Women Talk About Their Lives

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