International execs from Unifrance, MK2 and TrustNordisk kicked off the annual Zurich Summit on Saturday to discuss the importance of film festivals when promoting a title and if fests are drifting away from what works in cinemas.
Speaking at the city’s Dolder Grand Hotel, where the boutique industry event is hosted each year alongside the Zurich Film Festival, Unifrance’s executive director Daniela Elstner said, “We are in a very shifting world and we of course need the festivals but as a promotion agency in France we are also questioning ourselves and asking what is the best way to to be present at a festival to help the films get out and I think the press plays a major part in that.”
She added, “We get behind festivals but on the other hand we are also rethinking our future right now as we take into account what is actually the best way to help our films get out there.”
MK2’s managing director Fionnuala Jamison, who was behind recent Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall from director Justine Triet, noted that having a film win big at a major international film festival was a big driver for pulling in international audiences.
Jamison said: “I know that Neon [the film’s U.S. distributor] did a little test screening for Justine Triet’s film [Anatomy of a Fall] for 250 cinemagoers in the United States…and the number one driving force for them to go was the Palme d’Or. And that’s really changed in the last few years.”
TrustNordisk’s managing director Susan Wendt said it was important to have a strategic overview for the journey of a film and not just go for festivals that are happening when a film is ready. “It’s really important not to just say, ‘Ok the film might be ready for autumn so let’s go for the autumn festivals’ but to really evaluate creating the right festival platforms for the films.”
Talking about one of their latest titles, The Promised Land, starring Mads Mikkelsen, she said: “The thinking was very strategic from the beginning. We were hoping for it to become the Danish Oscar entry, which it now is and for that the timing was perfect and we tried to get into Toronto, which is not an easy task, but we succeeded in that and then all the other festivals came afterwards.”
She added, “It’s perfect for that film because it’s very tough competition this year.”
Elstner warned that not all films are fit for festivals just for the intention to cross international borders. “We have very big French comedies that do actually cross borders but are not necessarily part of our festivals,” she says, adding that trying to push these types of films down the wrong avenue “could actually backfire.”
She cautioned that it’s not a one-size-fits all approach for international films: “We are really trying to be very careful with that and I have huge discussions with producers about this.”