Tips for attending the European Film Market

5 February '24 Comment
Berlin film Festival 2

In just over a week, many of the world’s film industry professionals will be trying to keep warm in Berlin.

That’s because it’s the start of the annual ten-day film industry gathering in Berlin which is half film festival (the “Berlinale”) and half trade show (the “European Film Market” or EFM). 

In a previous article, I looked at the films ‘In Competition’ over the past six decades of the Berlin Film Festival so today I thought I would focus on the experience of actually attending the festival and market.

The EFM was steadily growing in size each year but was majorly affected by the pandemic. Attendance in 2023 was on par with 2015/16, so it remains to be seen how big the 2024 edition will be.

In order to help those making the trip this year, I interviewed 237 film industry professionals who will be attending the EFM this year and asked for their advice for first-timers to the Berlinale and EFM. Below you will find a collection of tips and recommendations from EFM veterans.

Note: Many of these tips were collected pre-pandemic, but this year I have canvases the opinions of over 100 film industry professionals to ensure I only used the ones still relevant in 2024.

Tip 1: Be organised

EFM 04

A major comment from the respondents was to plan your trip well in advance.  This means knowing who you’re going to meet, what you want to see and how you’ll achieve your business goals.

  • Get there a day or two before the market and find your way to the key points ahead. Take advantage of the first visit “trainings” by the market.  Ask people you meet.
  • To be well organized. It is a big event with many options and one should be well organized long time ahead.
  • Book tables for lunch, or it can be difficult to get space.
  • Keep your meetings short, and try to get a good feel of where your contacts are so you don’t waste time on transport.
  • Know your goals before attending should it be pitching, selling, buying. Research the people you are meeting and know what they are looking for so you won’t be wasting your and their time and book your meetings before arriving in Berlin because you probably won’t get many meetings when you are there if not pre-booked.
  • Do your research and come prepared – it’s stressful and hectic enough as it is.
  • Get a badge, you can’t do the EFM properly from outside in the cold (literally)
  • Plan your schedule in advance, people at the European Film Market are having meetings from the morning until the evening and mostly all of it is pre-booked. Also plan the films you want to go see.
  • Plan your meetings with big companies in time – they don’t have free time spots left. Especially distributors.

Tip 2: Go for the first weekend

As with most major film festivals, the opening weekend is far busier than the second weekend. This is something which has shown up time after time when I’ve looked at film festival / market attendance.

The chart is a typical Berlin attendance pattern, with the weekends highlighted in orange.

Tip 3: Wrap up warm

German Frozen poster

Warm clothing was a frequently-mentioned tip, as was comfortable shoes. The events are more spread out than at some other festivals, so you may be in for a lot of walking.  Often in the rain and more often than not in the cold!

  • Dress warmly, get up early (especially if you fancy queueing for free film tickets)
  • Pack warm clothes, wear comfy shoes, there is a lot of walking ahead of you!
  • Get warm clothes. The freezing wind during Berlinale is a bi…ch.
  • Wear great solid warm hiking type shoes…with a good pair of socks….Style is less important than warmth and dryness…in Berlin
  • Be prepared for ugly weather and quick weather changes from cold to sunny from rain to snow…
  • Wrap up warm, wear comfortable shoes and make sure to leave time for some currywurst.
  • Grow a beard, if you can. If you can’t…. bring a hat. Berlin is COLD at this time of year.
  • Bring waterproof shoes.
  • Don’t hug and kiss too much, many people have a flu.

Tip 4: Where to go

  • Screenshot 2016-02-10 21.57.45If you are a film maker: Go to the Coffee bar area in the Martin Gropius house, and to the lobby in the Hyatt and set up your meetings there
  • Acquaint yourself with the MGB, the Hyatt, The Ritz Carlton and The Marriott as these are the principal meeting points for industry professionals.
  • Use shuttle, runs really well. You can make it here and there – Marriot, Cinemax and MGB.
  • Go to the Media/Creative Europe or Berlinale Talents Stand to orient yourself with the building and stands around. There is more to do than just wander around lost, also the locations are spaced apart and the festival is really, really big.

Tip 5: Network, network, network

Both the festival and the film market are a great place to expand your network and meet new people.

  • EFM 02Don’t forget business cards.
  • Just hanging around the Martin Gropius Bau is a great way to bump into people.
  • Schedule a couple of films/events/talks to attend each day, but leave time for meeting new people and get to know fellow filmmakers. Many filmmakers meet their future co-workers, financiers, etc at festivals.
  • Mix film screenings, industry talks and mingles into a nice cocktail as too much of only one ingredient will wear your senses down! Do not hesitate to present yourself to festival programmers and financiers you meet and find out what they think of things (films screened, seminar topics, etc) rather than pitch your own project first thing.
  • Don’t hassle sales agents – they are there to sell. When they are selling your film in the future you will not want them being hassled by new producers. Say hello by all means but ask if you can meet them in London (if they are London-based), or towards the end of the market when they are less busy. And research who they are – take an interest in what they are selling and have sold.
  • For Industry meetings go to the Martin Gropius Bau – it is the best place for networking.
  • Walk around the MGB and the Marriott. You will be able to see all the sales agents and see what they are offering. In Berlin, everyone is approachable.
  • Don’t stay too long at parties and keep it slow on the alcohol: you want to be ready and fit for the next day and nobody wants to having to avoid the drunkard.
  • Follow up after the Berlinale!

Tip 6: Buddy up

Berlin buddy

Many people mentioned the power of finding someone who has been before and asking them for help, certainly in the first few days.  Otherwise, by the time you start to get the hang of it everyone will already be on their way home.

  • To check somebody who was there before how the system works
  • Find someone to show you around where to find   a) the companies   b) good food
  • Talk to people who have been regular visitors – at least for the last three years
  • Just hanging out with people who’ve done it all before is probably the best bet.

Tip 7: Learn how to get tickets to screenings

  • Berlin screeningThe amount of movies screened is overwhelming. Learn what you are really interested in and make sure to get up early to get the tickets you want.
  • Once the programme is out you don’t have a lot of time to work out your screening schedule, and as screenings sell out quickly, make sure you have other options for the given time slot. You will not get a ticket if screenings overlap, so you can’t leave one screening early in order to make the next.
  • If you have a ticket you’re not going to use, return it. All tickets are issued to your unique ID, so you will not get another ticket for the same film.
  • Unless you have a EFM Market Badge (which gives you the benefit of picking up tickets at EFM/Martin Groupius Bau) you should get to the ticket centre in good time before they open – the waiting line will be long, so get there at least one hour before they open. At least. Bring coffee and fill out your ticket request form while you’re in line.
  • With a market badge you get access to market screenings, which means working out your schedule can be a nightmare. You can get into a screening without a market badge, but you will need an invitation from the distributor/sales agent.
  • Admittance to the screenings are strict, so you won’t get in unless you have both ticket and badge. Tickets are colour coded to match your accreditation level.
  • The EFM is extremely valuable, efficient, comprehensive. Attend as many screenings as possible there and avoid waiting on line to get tickets to “regular” shows.
  • If you’re from a festival or cinema and have a shitty accreditation (which you will have by default), don’t miss your chance to go to the European Film Market (your normal festival badge will get you access, don’t worry!) and find out about market screenings of the films you need to see. then go to the sales companies of those films and ask for invitations to market screenings. If you get one, you can actually attend a market screening which will be much more convenient than standing in line at the ticket counter each morning and being frustrated that all tickets to the films you wanted to see are already gone.
  • If you want to pick up tickets for the next day, get to the ticket dispensing areas early (8-9am). Also, try to stay around Postdammerplatz for most of your screenings (CinemaxX and CineStar) so that you’re not wasting a lot of your time on travel to remote destinations/theaters.

Tip 8: See the city

  • brandenburg_gate_berlin_cityTake a map of Berlin
  • Use booking.com for your hotel, much cheaper than the hotels EFM suggests.
  • Stay not too far from Potsdamer Platz
  • Try to also escape from Potsdamer Platz even though most important festival places are in this area. It is not a place that represents Berlin because it is a rather soulless square. Try to get to other city districts like Kreuzberg, Mitte, Schöneberg and Charlottenburg. Try to organize your meetings in those districts, they are all close by.
  • Try to have a proper lunch and save money on dinner.
  • Keep away from expensive and crowded cafes. Enjoy the small cafes in the premises which are not targeted by the mass.

Tip 9: Have fun!

Berlin fun

The consensus seems to be that the Berlin festival and EFM are both very well run.  The only complaint I heard frequently was about the weather, which may be the one thing out of the control of the organisers!

  • Be happy and leave your worries back home
  • Stay hydrated and don’t get hit by a taxi when staring at Berlin Wall stone markings.
  • Have a hot chocolate in the Hyatt (memorable experience)

Epilogue

Thank you to all of the people who took the time to share their wisdom.

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