Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dardennes Brothers pick up Cannes script award

I haven't much to say about the Dardennes Brothers' "Silence of Lorna", as I haven't seen it (I thought "La promesse" was a fascinating glimpse into a bleak lifestyle and noble sentiments).

So apart from congratulating the pair for their screenplay award at Cannes, all I can do is point you in the direction of the interview they gave Cineuropa some time back.

Check it here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Out to lunches

Screenplay Europe will be going quiet for a few days, as I am packing for Cannes. I'm shopping two projects, "Protag" and "Tunerz", with a director and a producer respectively. The meetings have been lined up, the pitches honed (a good exercise in itself, of course - funny how you often get new insights into a story by constantly thinking up new pitches) and I'm feeling pretty upbeat about the whole exercise.

Plus, it will be nice to hang out with the film community for a few days. Anyone else down there can look out for me at the Belgian and Irish stands. I'll also be checking the conference schedule at the UK pavilion. Look for the dude with the hat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

European cinema on the rise in Europe

We're so used to bad news generally, that I suppose this counts as good news. According to figures released by Europe's Audiovisual Observatory, the share of European films in European cinemas last year was 28.8%, up by 0.2% This is against a background of slightly falling attendance of 1.3%.

The rise comes from a greater number of films produced in Europe, 921 against 911 last year. Increased production in France, Spain and Italy contributed significantly to overall growth. "With a total of 133 entirely national films (+6) and 52 majority co-productions (+15), France registered the second highest production level of the past five years, up 21 films from the previous year. Spanish production levels hit a record high, increasing 9% to 115 entirely national films (+6) and 30 majority co-productions (+6). Continuing its upward trend Italy counted a total of 109 ‘national’ films split into 93 national (+3) and 16 majority co-productions (+4). In contrast, production figures declined strongly in Hungary and Sweden, falling by -18 and -16 respectively. However in both cases this represents a return to more normal levels against a background of exceptional production activity in 2006," according o the Observatory.

It's interesting as the distribution situation in Spain and Italy is very difficult. So I just have to conclude that it's very difficult to stop film production!

The top 5 European films last year were: "Harry Potter", "la Môme", "Taxi 4", "Hot Fuzz" and "El Orfanato". Get the full press release on the Observatory site.

This article is quoted on Carnival of Cinema.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Belgian distributor drops French-speaking Belgian films

If you read the blurbs for French-speaking Belgian movies over the past few years, everyone was upbeat: the films regularly pick up awards and the directors were celebrated in the world's press. Yet at home, the situation is entirely different. There have been numerous debates over the past few years about the disastrous box office results of French-speaking movies in Belgium. This has come to a head with the recent announcement that Lumière, until now the main distributor of the films, has decided to simply stop showing them.

Needless to say, this comes as quite a shock in a year that has three Belgian movies in competition in Cannes. However, the situation was perfectly foreseeable. For years, the focus has entirely been on so-called auteur movies to the expense of any others. Even the award-winning titles such as Bouli Lanner's "Ultranova" brought in very disappointing results. It should be pointed out that it's the distributors that take the greatest risk in these films. Production is partly subsidised by public funds, but not distribution. Although they are often hailed for their "personal" vision, the truth is that many of the films are personal to the point of being private indulgences.

Too much rope?
I remember a headline one year ago where a politician asked, "When will the Belgian audience be interested in Belgian movies?" It was, of course, the wrong question - as if the audience was there to serve the film-makers rather than the other way around. The Belgian audience will be interested in Belgian movies when the film-makers take an interest in the Belgian audience. That's the way it works in the real world. Many of these film-makers have simply been given too much rope for too long.

Just a short trip up the road, a different mentality can be seen. 2007 was one of the all-time best years for Belgium's Dutch-speaking film-makers, with numerous box-office hits and good results in art-house movies such as "Ben X". In fact, there is so much TV and film work that good scriptwriters are hard to find.

I know this might sound old-fashioned, but you must be doing something right when people are willing to pay to see your movies on a Saturday night. Deep down, I think too many people had gotten used to too much easy money for too long. I welcome the new constraints. They were a long time coming.