BEHIND THE SCENES AT MMP 2012 – Part 2: the Rationale
Each year Mannheim Meeting Place makes an attempt at refining its profile. After last year’s 3,400 emails in the preparation of the 12 projects taking part at MMP 2011, the organisers decided to take it a little easier in 2012 – from over 200 organised meetings in 2011, somewhat less than 100 are expected at the time of going to press with this catalogue. But on the proviso that less means more, or course!
To illustrate how MMP attempts to break barriers:
1. Many of our world co-production market colleagues will gather a group of industry and/or cultural experts to make a final project selection for their event based on artistic merit. We don’t do that. Each project is checked for that budding artistic merit of course, but finally it is the interest of Mannheim Meeting Place client producers examining the projects which brings about a natural selection.
2. Many international co-production market organisers gather projects, select, provide a short listing of data for each project, send it out to interested participants and set up appointments for introductory talks during their “Market”. We don’t do that. The projects from our Majority Producers – e.g. those producers who own a project and are looking for Minority share partners to join in completing the budget and work for the film, are compacted into short MMP Project Outlines. These contain the essential information for a project seen particularly from a co-producer’s point of view. (Usually 6 to 8 pages long). The professionalism these Outlines show, when they are distributed to our Minority Producers (often the more experienced professionals), in the months from August to October before November’s MMP, help each reader assess better the writer’s producer qualities and the possible risks and pitfalls involved. (Indeed there are tests built into the Outline structure that help establish very quickly the amount of job-understanding a start-up producer is likely to have.) MMP Project Outlines can take weeks of constant dialogue to put into shape, even though their structure is based on a straightforward skeleton. Some producers can produce one in one or two days. But each Outline at the end carries a message to the reading producer – this start-up producer is showing a level of understanding of the process of co-production. And so a first support in the professional bridge is built, and that is a first take-home value of this “Mannheim Method” that all start-up producers at MMP amass for the future.
3. Many of our co-production market colleagues choose a come-one-come-all participation structure. MMP does not do that. At MMP the feedback and interest (or lack of it) from our Minority producers decides if a project survives or dies for MMP. So in fact this also helps us decide how far we can truly help a producer by visiting Mannheim, or whether we might be just wasting his or her time.
Mannheim is not a Film Festival of the size or scope of a Berlin or Cannes. These are behemoths where the world meets the rest of the world, and where help for start-ups is usually an organized niche part of a whole. Faced with a choice, at MMP naturally we put our eggs in the start-ups basket.To illustrate our workflow - in 2012 34 projects from 31 producers landed on the MMP table after August 1st for the November Meeting Place. Of those proposals, 15 became tailored MMP Project Outlines. That selection from 34 to 15 happened mostly from natural criteria – most often producers dropped out, especially because they found themselves much too early on in the film development process to start talking to further co-producers at a strong enough level. Furthermore, on two occasions in 2012 proposals were refused due to content - though that occurrence is fortunately very rare. Those 15 Outlines, developed as written “pitches”, then went out to relevant Minority producers and other experts such as heads of development at international film sales agencies – some of whom will look at a project from a financial angle, others from the relationship of budget to content, - not only looking for possible creative value. Feedback is anonymous and the MMP Outlines undergo a constant re-shaping as more and more constructive criticism arrives while the months to November and the Festival pass.
4. Many co-production markets gather professionals with the local market in mind. . We don’t do that. Our far larger market colleagues in Germany do extremely well in capturing the whole local industry under one roof – in Mannheim we go diametrically the opposite route. MMP mostly limits guests to ONE per country per industry sector or local funding source.
So from e.g. Turkey we would invite 1 majority producer looking for partners outside of Turkey, then 1 minority producer available for projects brought INTO Turkey, 1 Turkish theatrical distributor, 1 Turkish Television buyer and 1 Turkish-based International Sales Agent.Thus in Mannheim you won’t find half a dozen producers from Bavaria and another half dozen from Berlin – there would be a maximum of just two German producers (Minority and Majority) per local funding Medienbord, leaving room for more producers from India, Bolivia, Russia, or other parts of the world, and a larger variety of international co-producers for start-up producers to meet.
5. Many co-production markets invite producers who are expected to attend. We don’t do that. Due to our largely unique method of working intensively in the 3 months before MMP at a distance,(and employing simple modern techniques such as Skype and straightforward email successfully to do that ) our Guest Listings can also contain the phrase “not physically attending” for e.g. producers who have already devoted many hours to MMP in the relevant year but cannot come to Mannheim quite simply because they are – producing. This flexibility also means we can “import” an e.g. S. Korean producer to Mannheim when there is a relevant need –indeed in some territories we can choose between several producers for different types of project, and thus we indeed have the world as our partner. We now come back to the story of our 15 Project Outlines for MMP 2012. A further 9 of them then found no interested partner among our producers and film sales agents – again in the months before the Festival in November.This does not mean these projects were bad – rather that MMP could honestly do nothing for them.
One project was indeed unlucky – the favourite of a busy minority producer, it fell victim to his success – he needed to stay home and work instead of coming to Mannheim and so no visit with the hopeful majority producer could be made. But all elements have been put in place to optimise the chance of their relationship being profitable, as MMP will continue to oversee matters long past the Festival’s end.
6. Many co-production markets stop when their festival ends. The process of matching co-producers, as well as other talents, is what all co-production events are about. But because MMP starts much earlier, it can come up with solutions way ahead of MMP - in 2011 a project between Norway and Colombia was matched by September, while in October 2012 there has already been a match between Bosnia and Bulgaria.
Again, using Skype and email, the partners spent the run-up time working at aspects of the project in preparation to meeting in Mannheim. Such projects only stand to gain with the extra time, the partners also using the process to gain confidence in and assess each other before meeting face-to-face. And this year of the final half-dozen MMP projects, at the time of writing three in all seem on the way to bring realised as full feature films.
And so what of the other trio of MMP Project Outline producers we haven’t mentioned yet? Well, even without a definite match their work attracted sufficient attention so we are happy to expose them to the interest of, and contact with, their peers. And why so few? – Well, we are studying the answer hands-on, and started with the question how many people can you get to know better within 2 short days? Because finally, Mannheim Meeting Place is also a bit about the passion of Festivals, and not just the passing out of visiting cards…