In just a few weeks, one of the world’s marquee events in film will be taking place in person for the very first time post-pandemic. Filmmakers, sales agents, and buyers will convene in Berlin for the jointly held film festival and market: the Berlinale and European Film Market (EFM), respectively. Attendees are relieved to be meeting in person once more. In fact, with over 7,000 registrants, including over 1,000 buyers, the market is back to almost pre-pandemic numbers. To help you prepare for a bustling market, we spoke to seasoned market expert, Fulko Kuindersma for his top market tips.
EFM holds a special place in Fulko’s heart as the very first market he attended as an intern, early in his career. Today, with 20 years of markets under his belt, he has visited the market in his work with distribution and production companies of all sizes. This February he’s visiting Berlin as SKOOP Media’s Head of Marketing and Acquisition. A majority of his time at the market will be spent in meetings with producers, acquiring new content, and attending the premiere of SKOOP’s Kiddo, selected for competition this year in the Berlinale’s Generation section.
Whether this is your first EFM, or you’re an EFM veteran, here are five pieces of advice you cannot miss on your way to Berlin! If you’re interested in watching our webinar with Fulko and Arjun, you can find it here.
In Fulko’s words, EFM is like a candy shop, and you’d be remiss not to try a little bit of everything. You’re going to want to get a market badge so that you have access to all of the events and buildings related to the market. If you’re visiting as a buyer, make sure to mark “acquisitions” as your Field of Activity when registering - you may be granted access into more screenings than the average market badge holder.
Next, dive into the program. The full schedule of events won’t be published until the week before the market, but you can expect a cornucopia of panels, seminars, premieres, and screenings. Not to mention the EFM startups program, highlighting new innovators in media & entertainment. Markets are notoriously busy affairs, but Fulko highly recommends leaving room in your calendar to attend some of these events. If you can, make sure to try a little of everything. This is a great opportunity to learn more about what’s been happening in the industry. If you’re a producer, make sure to attend film premieres. They’re a great opportunity to understand the benchmark for selection into the very selective competitions.
In fact across our webinar series, one piece of advice we always get around film markets is to make sure to attend as many film premieres and screenings as you possibly can. You spend your entire year working hard to turn the gears of a creative industry - big premieres are a chance to experience and enjoy the art at the center of it all. Further, when you skip out on a premiere, you never know what you might be missing. During our webinar, MOLTEN Cloud’s very own Arjun, CEO, mused about his experience at Marché du Film when he was too busy to attend a film premiere he had been offered free tickets for. A few months later he stumbled across his ticket and it turned out he had skipped the premiere of the later wildly successful Parasite. Ouch!
On top of diversifying your market calendar, Fulko also warns against approaching the market with too narrow a lens. You may go into the market hoping to distribute to certain organizations, and end up missing out on boutique sales agents who might have been a more suitable fit for your title. Barrett Dungy shared a similar message in our webinar on the American Film Market. While most agree it’s a good idea to arrive at a market with a calendar full of pre-scheduled meetings, Barrett’s recommendation is to arrive with about half of your calendar open. The other half, he recommends leaving open to the serendipity of the market. In his words,
“The most important thing about these markets is having a strategy but also being fluid enough so you can receive things that you didn't even know that you needed in your future."
He elaborates with "The more markets you attend, the more resources you get to actually win. It’s not just for making money, but actually building a foundation so you can survive in this market. That’s really what your goal should be.” More than anything else, the market is a place to build relationships. Don’t be afraid to embrace the serendipity of an in person marketplace, and leave space for the unexpected.
Markets are competitive environments by nature. When asked the best way to stand out against thousands of other attendees, Fulko’s advice is this:
It’s not so much about standing out at the market, but standing out throughout the year.
In other words, this is a relationship driven industry, and one of the key functions of the market is to solidify those relationships. In fact, according to Daredo’s Thorsten Hesse, who offered us his insight into the market, most of the work comes after the market. This isn’t to say that the market isn’t work - you’ll likely be busy from 9am to 9pm. But often, the deals happen post-market.
Fulko advises that you spend the year building relationships and connecting with your buyers to better understand their needs and interests. The greater you’re able to fulfill their needs, the better you’ll stand out. Invest in your relationships, and business will follow. Over the course of 10 years, SKOOP has managed to expand from the Netherlands to Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and beyond.
In conversations around the American Film Market, Jack Campbell and Barrett Dungy echoed Fulko’s message, sharing that one dinner or round of drinks at the market might feed you for years to come. The connections you make at the market are the foundation of your business for years to come. Leverage your time spent at an in person market as an opportunity to make connections, and invest in your relationships. Do your job well year-round and your work will pay off at the market. Build strong relationships at the market, and the business impact will follow in the year to come.
When panelists in our webinar series describe their market prep and post work, it tends to go something like this: before the market they’ll run an email marketing campaign using lists of attendees from Cinando, or the official EFM site. They’ll likely also be tapping into their existing network to set up their meetings at the market. During the market, their days will be filled with meetings, seminars, premieres, and networking. Finally, the weeks following the market they will execute their follow up and close deals!
Fulko elaborated a bit on this schedule to offer some advice around timing. For one thing, he recommends beginning to set up meetings no sooner or later than around 3-4 weeks prior to the market. Reach out too early and you may find your prospects to be a bit standoffish. Balancing a market calendar is a delicate act, you’ll find that attendees are slow to fill up their calendars early as they’re waiting to solidify their most important meetings first. With a few weeks remaining you’ll have an easier time reaching out, and by now a majority of attendees will have registered online.
If you’re new to the market, or looking to make new connections with Acquisitions professionals like Fulko, you’ll have better luck setting up meetings scheduled in the final days of the market. Seasoned market professionals are likely to be schedule sun-up to sun-down during the beginning and middle of the market, with many of their most anticipated meetings happening towards the beginning. However, once the end of the market nears, they’re likely to find themselves with a bit of a lull. If you’re hoping to make a cold open - this is your chance.
An even better time to approach someone like Fulko? Smaller markets. As outlined in tip #3, one of the best uses of your time at a market like EFM is to strengthen your existing relationships. At smaller markets, like Finnish Film Affair, someone like Fulko will be much more approachable, with more free time for new connections.
Last but not least, you would be remiss not to enjoy your time in Berlin. When you’re not attending premieres, screenings, meetings, seminars, or wining and dining your business partners, you’ll want to squeeze in some time to enjoy the city! At EFM you have an incredibly energetic city right at your fingertips. Between public transportation and EFM’s shuttles, you have easy access to all of Berlin’s offerings. If you’re adventurous like Fulko you could even bike around the city!
Fulko recommends that at the very least you enjoy the many options for food and drink around Berlin. One notable mention from Fulko is the Kreuzberg neighborhood. There is also no shortage of sightseeing to be done, for example the Reichstag, a historic government building and popular tourist attraction. Advanced registration is required, and can be booked here. If you’re looking for nightlife, you’re in the right place - though we don’t officially advise clubbing like a local unless you plan on sleeping the market away.
The European Film Market is film market that’s not to be missed. You work in an industry that is incredibly creative, and extremely relationships driven, both of which make for an incredible gathering. It’s an early launchpad event for your year. Don’t forget to enjoy it and take advantage of everything the market has to offer.
If you’re interested in learning more about how market-goers like SKOOP Media are leveraging MOLTEN to streamline their business at markets like EFM, meet us in Berlin, or schedule a virtual introduction.