Burgeoning programing festivals set to open in Europe

While politicians hit the campaign trail in October, many programers are off to Europe. And this year, those who previously attended the London Multimedia Market and, one week later, the VIDCOM, in Cannes, France, can now fill in the intermission with music videos, at the “1st International Music Video Festival of Saint-Tropez,” from Oct. 8 through 11.

The newest of the three, the Saint-Tropez festival, organized by 23-year-old publisher Rupert Schmid, is really three different activities: a music video competition and awards ceremony, a marketplace in which music video programing will be bought and sold, and four days of seminars on industry topics.

Choosing award winners from among the approximately 400 entries will be 40 jurors, among whom television programers will figure prominently, according to John Nathan, the festival’s U.S. marketing representative. “They are, first of all, visually knowledgeable, and since most of them are not in the production end of the business they have no personal ax to grind,” he said. Among the American jurors will be Mort Nasatir, acting chairman of the Association of Music Video Broadcasters; Seth Willenson, vice president, program development, USCI, and Gale Sparrow, head of talent/artist relations for MTV.

The awards ceremony and other festival highlights will be taped for broadcasting on the French government’s network, TF-1. Nathan said that a number of U.S. syndicators had expressed interest in the show but have yet to sign contracts.

There is no exhibition hall in Saint-Tropez and there will be no exhibitor booths. Nathan said the absence of a facility is not considered a drawback: “We wanted it to be more like the Cannes film festival, where the business takes place in the streets, hotels, cafes and around the swimming pools. The music video business is an informal business; it’s not the shoe business. That’s why we chose Saint-Tropez and that’s why they chose us; it’s their first international festival.”

But not all the talk among the 800 expected participants will take place over kir royales and a view of the Mediterranean. There will be seminars during each of the four mornings: on advertising uses of music videos; production and production techniques; music video programing for broadcast and cable, and rights, exclusivities and payments.

Among the 350 companies that Nathan said are expected to attend, more than 110 will be from the U.S. A list of participants includes nearly all major record companies; a variety of production companies, and distributors of product, such as SIN Television Network and MTV. Some of those companies said their interest stemmed more from curiosity than from active buying and selling. Neither of the two recently proposed music video channels, Turner Broadcasting’s Cable Music Channel and The Discovery Music Network, is likely to attend because of the pressures attendant to their imminent launch dates. Dane Eric, programing director for Discovery, said he wished this were not the case because attending would help give a presence for the channel and facilitate meeting many independent and European companies.

For most American viewers the term music video conjures images of slick productions subsidized by record companies for those under 30. However, the festival will comprise a much wider definition of the term and will include “long-form videos,” such as Hollywood musicals from RKO, big band music from Disney Productions Inc., and European advertising spots–in short anything that combines music with video. Symbolic of this inclusive definition is the moniker on the festival’s press sheets–sheet music for Beethoven’s ninth symphony.

Following the Saint-Tropez festival is VIDCOM ’84 (actually the The 10th International Video communications Market), which will meet just down the beach in Cannes, France, from Oct. 13 to 17. Long-form videos will also be shown in this huge bazaar, along with programing for broadcast, cable, satellite and ancillary markets. Concurrent with VIDCOM is MIJID, also organized by trade show impresario Bernard Chevry, which focuses on software product for personal computers and home video games. A third marketplace that week displays hardware for those producing and distributing videocassettes.

In its 10th year, VIDCOM and MIJID last year attracted a diverse crowd of 15,000 participants, ranging from representatives of U.S. broadcast networks to French videocassette retailers. The number this year is expected by organizers to stay the same or increase by about 10%.

Like the Music Video Festival of Saint-Tropez, much of the negotiation between program suppliers and producers will take place away from the center of action. But unlike Saint-Tropez, there is an exhibit hall, the two-year-old Palais des Festivals, where 300 companies have registered as exhibitors. Chuck Gelini, who represent’s Chevry’s company, MIDEM, in North and South America, said the space taken by U.S. exhibitors had increased from 252 units–one meter by 1.3 meters–to 357 units, accounted for by both an increase in the number of companies and the size of exhibits. American companies attending include NBC Enterprises, Telepictures Corp., Filmation, Western World Television and Metromedia Producers Corp.

The still rapidly expanding world home video market will supply activity at VIDCOM. William P. Gallagher, vice president, MGM/UA Home Entertainment Group noted: “Most of the bigger studios, such as ourselves, Paramount and Fox, have associates around the world, and VIDCOM is a place in October where we congregate. We also look at potential acquisition material. The major companies do nine or 10 films a year, yet this is a ravenous great growth market. So we look into the hinterlands for entrepreneurs who have either ideas to produce for home video or features that we can pick up as third parties where there is already a distributor.”

The strength of the dollar will make it a little less expensive for American companies to attend and exhibit at the three marketplaces. But Frank Miller, executive vice president at Western-World Television, thinks it may also make it a little harder for some companies to do business. He said Western-World will be attending the London and Cannes markets primarily as a seller. Foreign buyers, he said, who want to purchase programing from Western-World, normally in dollars, will have to be more selective in order to make the money they have go further.

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