Friday, January 29, 2010

Fans invest in films: Rotterdam invites "producers" to shell out coin

Wednesday's opening night of the Rotterdam Film Festival was a giant pitching session, with fest topper Rutger Wolfson facing an audience of 1,200 potential "co-producers" keen to invest as little as $7 in one of three films.

The fest is trying to persuade visitors to invest in the films, grouped together as Cinema Reloaded. "We have you, a very loyal and dedicated audience," he told a packed house, "and Cinema Reloaded starts from the idea that, just like the festival, our audience is eager to support the development of special films."

People can buy "coins" worth e5 ($7) online, and track their chosen project as it develops. Each project needs $42,000 to get the green light. On day one of the fest, Alexis Dos Santos' "Another World: Rocky and Lulu," about lovers who meet online, had accumulated the most coin, with $3,223.

Dos Santos has name recognition among festgoers thanks to last year's out-of-competition darling, "Unmade Beds." Swiss visual artist Pipilotti Rist had accumulated $2,032 for "Liebling," while Malaysian helmer Ho Yuhang had $1,815 for his untitled project.

Donations have come from around 400 people, with single-coin investments most common. Larger investments are typically for 10 or 15 coins, with the top mark going to a 50-coin investor in "Rocky and Lulu." Initiative is being watched closely by other fest folk at Rotterdam, who like the way it extends the fest's role.

Regular visitors like the idea of connecting with a production and helmers like the link with the audience, although some raise questions about artistic independence. Whether it is the future of film finance is another matter. "I don't believe in that really, not yet," said Wallie Polle of Cineart, which handles Dos Santos' films locally. "For me it's more about awareness, for audiences to get more into cinema." - Ian Mundell

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