By Monday Feb 10, things were starting to slow down. If five meetings, a film, a reception, a dinner, and a party (which, to be honest, I skipped after the dinner turned out to be huge and German) can be called “slow”. I was feeling pretty good about my ability to not fall asleep during films and contribute meaningfully to meetings and only feeling slightly overwhelmed by the amount of work from back home that had piled up in my absence.
This is my #1 challenge to overcome while I am away on work-related trips: managing the work back home. It’s really hard to be very busy and still maintain a basic grasp on the same workload you would normally have at home. It’s different from being on vacation. When you’re vacationing people assume you will be doing no work, and that is ok. When you’re away on business, people expect that you will at least get back to them in a timely manner and get the work you owe them done on a slightly delayed but still reasonable timeline. You can’t just ditch everything for two weeks, it’s not only unprofessional, it’s also really brutal to come back from once you return home and discover that everything in your life is way behind schedule.
By Tuesday, I was feeling the need for a break, so I made a date with a ladyfriend from the UK to go dress shopping at my favourite Berlin boutique. She got a dress! I got three (I was trying to be so reasonable). I saw no films, but did attend a few meetings and managed to get a really fantastic schnitzel dinner in at a traditional German place before the most anticipated social event of the fest, the Fantasia karaoke party. Walked there from dinner (a 20ish minute much needed stroll to work off some of that delicious veal) with Colin and Tim Reis and talked producing, and sales markets, and all kinds of stuff that he’d been getting a crash course in all week. A perfectly low-key day to end a very high-key (what is the opposite of low-key anyway) five day marathon.
Wednesday was the day I spend literally sleeping ALL DAY. I woke up at an appropriate time for breakfast, made some eggs and German sausages, ate them, and then went back to bed until 5:30pm. I haven’t slept for so long since I was a teenager, but the market really caught up with me and I needed the rest. This is how I avoid getting sick. Listening to the poor exhausted body is a must.
Saturday Feb 8 & Sunday Feb 9. Also known as the busiest two days of the market. By Monday, only four days after it began, lots of people will already be packing up and heading home. Seems crazy, considering the leisurely pace most people approach film festivals with, that a market should be so rushed.
This weekend involves a lot of rushing around, and I’m very grateful for my week-long pass to the public transit system. One of my top tips for anyone coming to Berlin is: get friendly with the subway. It’s efficient, clean, and really the easiest and best way to get around. There are buses and trams too. It’s extensive.
People who come from transit friendly cities like New York (or Toronto) will find this advice obvious, but take heed car-dependent Americans: the Berlin subway is easy to navigate and not scary. You will save a lot by not always taking a cab.
You can buy tickets from vending machines at track level (and the machines have an English option, of course) but if you’re not sure what kind of ticket would suit you best, look for a booth with a human working it – some of the larger hub stations have them. I went for the weekly pass. Since it all works on the honour system, I bought my ticket, validated it (basically a date stamp that you get at track level – don’t forget!) and then popped it into my wallet and forgot about it for seven days. While there are inspectors who come around to check whether you really have a ticket, I’ve never seen one, so I guess I could have easily cheated the system. But honestly, I am happy to pay into something as well run as the Berlin subway, because I still want it to be here every future time that I visit.
Saturday was Colin’s day to hang with other TIFF staff for approximately 100 hours. They had a lengthy staff meeting and dinner, during which I puttered around and then went to see The Guest. I have very high expectations for any Wingard/Barrett joint, and this film met them all.
I didn’t see any other films on Saturday because sometimes you have to end on a high note. Instead, I went to Berlin’s best chicken joint, Henne, where I ate a half chicken with my hands, in the company of some Fantastic Fest / Drafthouse Films pals and several other delightful people. Then off to the Canadian Embassy to party with Canadians. A lot.
The only 9am breakfast meeting of the trip was of course scheduled after the latest night, so Sunday morning we raced out of bed to the Mandala hotel to meet our Replace director, Norbert, and a UK company that’s shown interest in another project of his. Later, I meet a Danish dude who may be able to help with another project I’m working on – my only solo meeting so far.
Later in the day, I saw The Guest again with Colin. I know. Again. It’s that good.
Quick sidebar about market screenings: you’re not supposed to review market films (and I don’t), because they haven’t necessarily “premiered” yet to a public audience. Since The Guest played Sundance, it’s more ok to post about that than, let’s say, the new Nacho Vigalondo film that also had an invitation-only EFM screening. That film’s official premiere will be at SXSW, as they recently announced, so mum’s the word till then.
In the evening, dinner with our lovely Replace compatriots, followed by the enormous Trust Nordisk party, where all the fancy, sweet looking pastries turned out to be savoury (thank you, Danes, you’re my kind of people). Apparently both Stellan Skarsgard and Lars von Trier walked past us at some point in that party but I saw nothing. I am not very observant.
We left Trust Nordisk early-ish in order to hang out with Joe Swanberg at the party for Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, which was much more relaxed. And it turned out to be the right decision, because apparently Trust Nordisk got wild and went late, and several of our friends didn’t make it home from that one until 6am. I would have cancelled Monday altogether if that had been me.
Friday Feb 7.
Yes, this day was full of meetings and running around, but for me the highlight was seeing Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, an experimental-ish, thriller-ish farm based American indie by Josephine Decker, which I went to see because Joe Swanberg stars, and I’m a fan. I loved the film, and I highly recommend it for fans of challenging and cool indie fare (and not just because there’s a five minute cow-POV shot in it).
By nightfall, I was ready for the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” portion of the evening, featuring four separate parties: the British one, held at their embassy; NordMedia, the party for north German films with the greatest buffet room in party history; “Meet the Danes”, held at some cool former recording studio where everyone from Bowie to U2 has made albums, and the Finnish party, held in a church and probably featuring the largest concentration of our actual international buds.
I started the night pretty well.
I held up pretty well at NordMedia but honestly after that buffet spread, I was starting to lose steam.
By the time we got to Meet the Danes, I was feeling pretty Danish myself, if you know what I mean.
Don’t worry, though. By the time we got to the Finns, I’d caught my second wind.
Wake up feeling rested-ish. Take subway down to the Martin-Gropius Bau, the gorgeous old building that houses the bulk of the market booths & makeshift offices. Do a quick tour of the ground floor.
Meet one or two people on the fly. Pick up party invitations for one Scandinavian party and a Korean one. Run into a dozen people I know, feel warm & fuzzy for having such nice international friends. Race back to apartment to meet Tim Reis, producer of The Demon’s Rook, who has just landed.
Take the “walking a colicky horse because if it sits down it might die” approach to helping Tim with his jet lag – drag him out of the house almost immediately for a whirlwind tour of the Martin-Gropius, the area around Potsdamerplatz where two of the main cinemas (the CineStar and the CinemaxX) are located. Take him to the Raven Banner booth (the sales company that is handling The Demon’s Rook) and take sleepy-eyed photos of him under a poster for the film he made.
Attend a few meetings, during one of which we see a totally naked woman through a window across the street romping around in her hotel room with all the blinds open. All parties are distracted, except Tim who is napping in a corner (poor bunny). Discuss werewolves for a while.
Visit the WTFilms office (the sales company handling another film we’re involved with, Devil’s Mile – which screened to cast, crew, supporters and fans for the first time just last night in Toronto) and admire their large Devil’s Mile poster.
Go home briefly to freshen up then head out to Kreuzberg for dinner with a few friends who work for the Fantastic Fest / Drafthouse Films empire. Eat delicious pizza that Eli Roth claims is the best he’s ever had outside of Italy (discovered during extended Berlin stay during shooting of Basterds). Discover that he is correct, it is damn good pizza.
Roll home and tell Tim a long story about a project we’re working on that hasn’t shaped up as planned. Crash into bed, only to wake up two hours later, thirsty. Drink water, pee, and then be unable to fall asleep for two hours, at which point a “full night’s rest” is pretty much shot. Manage to get some weird, freaky-dream-filled sleep, get up at 8am, repeat.
I am working on a regular festival diary for my first (successful!) day in the market but in the meantime, I have to share this fabulous news.
One of the projects I’m working on has finally been announced – a press release went out last night and it’s already getting a lot of great buzz. Replace is a smart and unique horror/thriller from a very talented writer/director. It features a cool female protagonist (a thing that I love) and is, in my humble opinion, totally going to kick ass. One look at the poster image and you’re sold, am I right?
They misspelled my name in The Hollywood Reporter, but y’know what, I’m not gonna quibble too much:
The press release went out today and it’s already hit other sites like Bloody Disgusting and Dread Central among others. We’ve been working on this cool project for over a year and it’s such a pleasure to be able to share it with the world, finally!
Looking forward to sharing the rest of the adventure with our Canadian partners at Agency 71 and 108 Media, and the German Writer-Director Norbert Keil and Producer Felix von Poser, the team who we affectionately refer to as “our Germans”. Congrats to all. A really terrific way to kick off EFM this year.
Today is a day of weird sleeping (fell asleep last night at 2am, woke up at 8am, got a lot of work done, crashed at 1:30pm, slept until nearly 4pm) and schedule-making.
Here’s my method for creating a film market schedule. I’m sure everyone does theirs differently. I request meetings with the people I have to meet with and let those filter back to me. I go through the screening guide and whittle it down to the films I would like to see.
I put all the confirmed meetings into the schedule (highlighted in blue) and all the parties and social events (in pink). And then I list all of the films on my “to see” list on the schedule. All of them. Even if there are five in a single time slot. Like this (except the schedule actually extends from 9am to midnight):
Also, I use the 24 clock. When your schedule stretches over a 15 hour period, there’s a lot less confusion in being able to say “see you at 21:00” than “see you at 9” because lord help you if you forget to put the AM or PM down and screw your whole day.
Obviously, I do this very differently from the way I approach a film festival schedule, where I actually select individual films that I’ll definitely see in a given slot.
Markets are different, and I’m watching these films for different reasons (festival programming, acquisitions consulting, mysterious producing reasons, etc). Sometimes, I don’t watch an entire film, so it’s handy to know what else is playing in the same slot that I can pop into. Other times, I won’t know what my priority is in a given slot until after I’ve consulted other industry pals who may have heard more buzz than I have. And sometimes meetings run long and it comes down to “which theatre can I walk to in 5 mins”. C’est la [market] vie.
Today, I’m really hitting my stride, confirming meetings left, right & centre, and kicking the schedule’s ass. Unfortunately, it’s nearly 5pm the day before the market begins, so, y’know, I could have gotten into the zone sliiiiightly earlier.
This is, however, where the “travel early” advice also comes in handy. Here I am, 24 hours before it begins, comfortably sipping coffee at a desk and responding to emails as soon as they come in. If I was at an airport right now or on a flight with no wifi for seven hours, I’d be a mess of anxiety.
It’s the day before the day before it all begins.
I landed on Monday Feb 3 (yesterday) and spent the day embroiled in various tasks that were made slightly more challenging by the six (or in some cases, nine) hour time difference between me and the people in Toronto and L.A. that I was corresponding with. Luckily, the work was urgent enough and engaging enough to keep me awake until almost midnight, so that I got a good night’s sleep, woke up at 8, and almost feel as though I’m not jet lagged at all. We’ll see how long that lasts.
The festival and market begin on Thursday Feb 6, so I have plenty of time to catch up on work and adjust to the time difference at a leisurely pace from our Berlin Air BnB pad. Flying in the night before and feeling totally out of it for two days would have been the cheaper way to do it, but I would be very miserable. Flying in early is not a luxury that everyone can afford (time wise and money wise) but for very busy, high-stress work trips, I hiiiiiiiiiiighly recommend it if you’re going more than three time zones away (especially if you’re travelling west-to-east, because the jet lag is, for some reason, worse). For me, I’m pretty sure it makes the difference between a killer opening weekend and a “I think I’m getting sick” opening weekend.
I found the place on Air BnB after weeks of hunting (I compared a lot of places and a lot of prices). Since we’re bunking with our pal Tim (Reis, producer/DoP/editor of The Demon’s Rook), I was looking for a two bedroom. I found this insane place for only about 40 euros more per night than what we were paying last year for a bedroom in a 5-bedroom shared rooming house type apartment, where we had kitchen access, but not a lot of privacy or space. I recorded a 2min 45sec tour of the place:
As most of you who’ve been following my bloggy bloggy activity know, I’m here for the European Film Market, more so than the actual Berlinale (aka, the Film Festival), though this year there are a lot of films playing the fest that I’d love to see. There are festival passes, and market passes, and a double pass that gives you access to both. Unfortunately, I only got the market pass this year, because last year I paid for the double and ended up going to zero official festival screenings, so it seemed like a bit of a waste of an extra hundred euros (that’s like, a thousand bucks in Canadian – ok, not really, but it’s almost double). So, I may not get to see the new Wes Anderson, but y’know what? I’m not here for that anyway, so whatever. Suck it up, woman!
The point is, I’m here, I’m taking lots of vitamin C for my immune system and probiotics for my travel-belly, and coffee for my jet lag, and I’ll hopefully be writing posts about my experiences daily, or close-to-daily (gimme a break, sometimes the schedule here goes for 12+ hours with no pauses, or at least no pauses near a laptop with wifi).
If you want a primer on Berlin and the EFM, check my 2013 diary, which I wrote for the now sadly defunct Substream:
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 1
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 2
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 3
- Berlinale 2013 Diary Part 4
I might want to reread those myself, actually, just to make sure I don’t repeat all the exact same EFM tips. And if you’re interested in my other festival and film market diaries, just click the Festival Diaries tag on this site and you can read all about my experiences at Cannes, TIFF and Fantasia.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here consulting the whopping 47 page EFM screening list and trying to cobble together a schedule for myself that nicely balances movies, meetings, social events and networking/schmoozing events. Let’s face it, there is a big difference. Going to the Fantasia karaoke party is social, because I know (and love) everyone who will be there and I will probably spend my time catching up with them about their actual lives and not talking up my projects. On the other hand, going to the Telefilm reception, while it might be fun (and the bar definitely will be open), is a wee bit more of a “networking occasion”.
Anyway, back to work.