MIFED Links With Venice To Fend Off AFM Assault

By Dom Serafini

“MIFED 2005 will be split between the Venice Film Festival and Milan,” announced MIFED boss Carlo Bassi. “If the AFM wanted only three markets linked to the key film festivals, now they got them.” Bassi is president of MIFED and CEO of Exp-CTS, the company that organizes most of the events at the Milan Fairgrounds, including MIFED.

Meanwhile, on October 12, the opening day of MIFED 2004, there were some 20 U.S. exhibitors making up the second largest contingen after Italy with its 50 companies. Some of the Americans were “ecstatic” about their pre-MIFED screenings trip to Lake Como. “It was wonderful,” commented Reel Media’s Tom Moore, “there were over 50 buyers and it was lots of fun.”

As for next year, Bassi explained that MIFED will start August 28 in Milan and on September 2 it will move to Venice’s Lido, where it will conclude on the 4th or 5th. MIFED will conflict with the moribund Montreal Film Festival, but will end just in time for the Toronto Film Festival.

In effect, according to Bassi, the film industry will now finally have its three market-festivals: Berlin, Cannes and Venice.

Thus, in the poker game between the Santa Monica-based American Film Market and the Milan-based MIFED, Carlo Bassi has checked and raised. Last year, the AFM played a joker by moving its traditional market from February to November, which conflicted with MIFED and forced the Milan market to shift its opening day to mid-October, just fter the MIPCOM TV market in Cannes.

In Venice, MIFED will make up to four screening rooms available to distributors. These plans have been coordinated with Pier Giacomo Ferrari, president of Milan Fairgrounds; Davide Croff, president Venice Biennale, under wose auspiced the Venice Film Festival is oranized; and Marco Muller, director of the Venice Film Festival.

“No-one wants MIFED to die,” said Bassi, “and if the AFM is hoping for that, it’s very wrong. MIFED has the trust of the whole Italian film industry and that of France, Spain and Germany among other. Plus, we don’t have money problems. Naturally, this year, MIFED is sufferng from the boycott of the U.K. and U.S. companies spearheaded by the AFM, which, in this case is operating like a cartel.”

Bassi is very critical of the AFM, accusing it of being “disrespectful of the international film market by creating even more markets,” and for having “started an unusual competition between markets, placing difficulty upon the European film industry.”

“This MIFED will not be its best, but neither its worst,” said Bassi. For the record, 142 exhibitors signed up (versus 203 last year) and, among the 700 pre-registered participants, 43 were buyers. Plus, were recorded 134 film premiers, and 333 pre-reserved screenings, out of the 222 films for licensing.

In addition, concluded Bassi, “the companies that participates at MIFED this year, will receive enormous advantages at MIFED 2005.”

However, many details of MIFED in Venice still need to be worked out, one of which is the locations of the screening rooms. One idea is to use the Lido’s Casino to house digital TV screens. Another is to use a cruise ship anchored in the Lido for both hotel accomodations and screening rooms. A third element facing the market is the Laura Marcellino factor. She’s the Venice Film Festival executive who now organizes the festival’s buyers and seller services, and someone who has to find a role in the new arrangement.

Overall, this MIFED has proven that Europe is solidly behind the market, with more than10 German and 18 French exhibitors. Also, the maket enjoyed a good showing from Japan and Honk Kong. MIFED, thoug, clearly faces difficulty. The large empty spaces at the Milan Fairgrounds certainly did not help to boost morale, and, now, only a concerted and intense marketing effort can save it.

On the press side, among the major international publications, Screen Inernational and VideoAge have shown balanced MIFED-AFM accounts, while The Hollywood Reporter and Variety openly favored the AFM. This is likely because the former are concerned that the AFM will lose its current fairness, and, once again, tilt toward Variety and The Hollywood Reporter if the market were to succeed over MIFED.