Blogging from the Berlinale Talent Campus: Day three

Toronto-based filmmaker Jason Lapeyre shares his experiences from the European film festival.

Jason Lapeyre is a Toronto-based director, blogging from the Berlinale Talent Campus during the Berlin International Film Festival.

Six Lessons From the Talent Campus – #3: How to become a millionaire

I’ve had a combined total of seven-and-a-half hours of sleep since the campus started two days ago.  I just have to make it through this day and I can get a real night of sleep.  Coffee and adrenaline are the only things in my veins right now.  I don’t even remember breakfast this morning.  I think it involved a croissant.

All the actors in the Talent Campus assembled this morning for a master class in the Alexander Technique from veteran acting coach Jean-Louis Rodrigue, and the directors were permitted to observe.  Rodrigue taught the actors some of the exercises he’s used with Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Binoche and Ian McKellen to get the most out of their bodies when it comes to creating a character.  Fascinating to watch, and definitely some names worth remembering for future projects among the students.

The Canadian Embassy had yet another event for the Canadian filmmakers at the festival – they really are going all-out this year with a near-constant program of support and promotion for the Canadian films here.  This time it was a press lunch, getting journalists in from of the filmmakers screening at the Berlinale.  I sat next to a distinguished-looking producer from Quebec who was there with his new film Rebelle (War Witch) and got into a great conversation about why the batting average for quality Quebecois films, in my opinion, is higher than the English-language average, and how every couple of years we seem to get some kind of breakout film from Quebec, like Incendies or this year’s Monsieur Lazhar.  I asked him if he had ever seen C.R.A.Z.Y., another great example, and he told me that yes, he had actually produced it.  I introduced myself to Pierre Even and then excused myself to go anywhere else.

Oh, and Melissa Leo was there, because she’s starring in Melanie Shatzky’s Francine.  That wasn’t bad either.

I sat in on part of Werner Herzog’s new documentary series, Death Row, in which he interviews American inmates sentenced to death for murder.  Incredibly, he revealed that for each of the four hour-long docs he was only allowed to interview the prisoner for 50 minutes!  And only had 10 minutes to set up the camera.  At the end of his talk, he told the audience that any one of us could have made the movie, and wished us luck on our future projects as he left the stage.  Damn.

Following up on yesterday’s distribution-world breakdown by Sydney Levine was an actual tour of the EFM focusing on documentary, led by Ms. Levine again.  Once again, she unlocked what had previously been a totally enigmatic world and made it explicitly clear what the process was for approaching a sales agent or a distributor to gauge their interest in your film, which is exactly what I spent the next hour doing.  I quickly amassed a giant stack of business cards and even a few requests for screeners, and even sort of felt like I knew what I was doing.  Couldn’t have done that two days ago.

The best part of the market was when I was walking through each territory’s section (the market is roughly divided up by nationality) and as soon as I walked into the US section, there was a 3D softcore porn playing on a 50-inch TV.  God bless ‘em.

The day rounded out with a panel called Distributors Sharing Their Secrets, featuring Michael J. Werner from Fortissimo Films and Adeline Monzier of Europa Distribution.  Lots of great insights in this talk – someone asked them what the biggest problem for them as distributors was right now and it wasn’t, as I expected, the total destruction of their raison d’etre by the internet, but rather that digital deliverables were complicating their lives because European cinemas simply aren’t converting over fast enough.  In fact, many European exhibitors are charging a “toll” of sorts to distributors in order to finance the conversion, making it even more frustrating.

Best line of the day went to Werner, who asked the audience if they wanted to know how to become a millionaire through film distribution.  His answer:  start off as a billionaire.