"Speed-dating" for producers desperately seeking backers is the new buzz at the Cannes film market opening Thursday on the sidelines of the world's paramount film festival.
With 10,000 directors, distributors and producers on hand for a 12-day frenzy of deals worth an estimated billion dollars, the Cannes Market, the film world's biggest, works to keep its edge over rival trade fairs, its director Jerome Paillard told AFP.
"Cannes has a good image," he said. "We've always been the world's most innovative market." Its latest idea, speed-dating sessions that take a page from fast-paced meet-and-greets for singles, brings together 500 producers over two days later this week.
They sit down for 20 minutes with film execs from other countries before changing tables and going on to new talks.
"The idea is that by the time it's over you've met 30 to 40 new people and made a slew of contacts," said Paillard, a former producer who has headed the Marche du Film at Cannes for the past 11 years.
"Our job here is to facilitate contacts between professionals," he said. The continuing popularity of Cannes, this year celebrating its 60th edition, was due to the bonding between its two sides -- the festival showcasing the films, and the movie types in town to line up the next year's business in production and distribution, he said.
"The two are totally linked together under one umbrella organisation, which avoids developing the market side to the detriment of the market, or vice versa."
Outside the 22 films selected to vie for the coveted Palme d'Or, and the 80-odd in parallel competitions, around 900 films are being screened for potential buyers, and a further 4,000, some not yet complete, are up for sale at the market.
"Some buyers first go for the films selected for the Palme, but every year there are a few films on the trade market that make it to the top," he said.
The majority of business generated at Cannes comes from European film-makers and companies, who represent 60 percent of the execs attending, especially from Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium.
North America accounts for 21 percent, Asia for 16 percent, Latin America for three percent and Africa for one percent.
The biggest growing market this year was Latin America, he said, with a 30 percent increase on 2006, specially from Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Chile.
The giant Cannes Market, a labyrinth of screaming billboards and fliers placed in the basement of the red-carpeted palace that hosts the filmfest, gathers around 500 stands, the smallest of them worth 5,000 euros (6,760 dollars) for the duration of the event, ending May 27.
The cost of screening a film for potential buyers varies from 300 euros to 1,500 euros, he said.