Cannes Market Preview 2019: What Are Buyers Looking for This Year?

TheWrap Cannes magazine: “In Cannes, there is a thriving but very selective market for movies that are, I would say, the indie version of events,” Neon’s Jeff Deutchman says

Last Updated: May 13, 2019 @ 2:37 PM

This story about the Cannes Film Festival market first appeared in TheWrap’s Cannes magazine.

British buyers, their economy reeling with uncertainty as Brexit approaches (or does it?), likely won’t be in a position to spend a lot of money. The Germans, with a healthy industry, will be more inclined to shop around.

And Netflix, which isn’t showing its movies in Cannes partly because of festival rules and partly because of pique, will be on the Croisette and in the Palais ready to open the checkbook.

Welcome to the Cannes market, where there’s always somebody willing to buy and never any shortage of people trying to sell.

From the fanciest theaters in the Palais des Festivals, where art-house auteurs vie for attention from the Sony Pictures Classics and IFCs of the world, to the crowded booths and freewheeling bazaar of the Marche du Film a few floors down, the Cannes market can be feverish even in a slow year.

“Cannes is the kind of place, because it’s both festival and market, where there’s usually something for everyone,” said Jeff Deutchman, the senior VP of acquisitions for Neon, which last year bought the Un Certain Regard winner “Border” and also pre-bought the documentary “Apollo 11” on the basis of footage screened in the Marche.

“There’s such a wide variety of things on display,” agreed Michael Barker, who has been coming to Cannes for decades as the co-head of Sony Pictures Classics. This year, his company has the competition title “Pain and Glory,” from Pedro Almodóvar, and before the festival it bought a second competition title, Ira Sachs’ “Frankie.”

“Even at its worst, Cannes lets you get a feeling of the kind of ideas that are out there and the mindset of filmmakers — what they feel they need to say, and what they feel audiences are going to be into.”

So what are buyers looking for this year? Deutchman, speaking a few days after “Avengers: Endgame” shattered all box-office records, said it’s simple. “In Cannes, there is a thriving but very selective market for movies that are, I would say, the indie version of events,” he said. “Hollywood has their own events. But what makes an indie film an event?

“Does that mean it’s the best-reviewed movie of the year? Is there something about it that is uniquely cinematic and demands to be seen on the big screen? We’re all in the business of looking for those diamonds in the rough.”

And yes, it might be harder to find those diamonds if the teams from Netflix and Amazon are also poring through that rough. Barker, who saw the likes of Harvey Weinstein throw money around at Cannes years ago, tried to dismiss the streamers by saying, “Cannes has always been a very competitive marketplace. The names just change.”

But Deutchman, who has been coming to Cannes for the last 10 years, admitted that the playing field is different now. “Yeah, of course Netflix and Amazon change things,” he said. “But one thing that’s different about this is that we’re competing with companies that have very different models from what we do.

“What we offer is so distinct from what they offer, so we’ve found it is still possible to find filmmakers who will go for what we have to offer.”

And that, Barker agreed, is crucial for buyers. “There are so many films out there, so many pieces of entertainment that are fighting for the attention of the audience, that the key is to find a film where you think you have a road map for giving the film the kind of distinction it needs,” he said.

“You have to be able to help that film stand out and get an appreciable audience to go out and support it. That’s very hard, and it’s only getting harder and harder to have a successful film in the marketplace.”

As for this year’s festival, nobody was ready to say it’ll compare to January’s Sundance Film Festival, which saw multiple deals that topped $10 million. “It’s hard to imagine something of that magnitude,” Deutchman said. “But you never know. It just depends on the whims of the streaming companies at any given moment. And the rest of us will keep doing what we’re interested in.”

Read more from TheWrap’s Cannes magazine.

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