By Michael Roddy
VENICE (Reuters) - The world's leading film festivals must co-operate rather than fight turf wars so that they remain attractive to the top Hollywood studios, according to Venice's festival director Alberto Barbera.
The Toronto film festival, which traditionally started after Venice had concluded, this year began on Thursday, inevitably stealing some of the thunder from the world's oldest film festival.
"I think it's a silly move to start a war, a competition among festivals," Barbera said in an interview on Friday in his office in the Palazzo del Cinema, built in the late 1930s on the Venice Lido.
"We don't need to compete among us. We're here to do our jobs, which is for film-makers to show good films, to help film-makers to get access to the market and so on, no?" Barbera said.
He said he had met the heads of other film festivals, in Cannes and Berlin, as well as top officials from Toronto, to discuss working more co-operatively.
One of the big problems facing all festivals, he said, was that Hollywood no longer necessarily saw them as a good way to launch blockbuster films.
"When you get one you feel lucky because...for most Hollywood films the studios don't consider the festival as the first option to promote a film," Barbera said.
"The producers, they don't like this idea of a war among festivals. They need to promote their films, they don't need to be involved in a war."
He said that despite the huge expense of showing films in Venice, because of high hotel rates and costs of renting water transportation, to name two, the festival was holding its own.
In terms of star power, Al Pacino and James Franco walked the red carpet this year.
Barbera, and Pascal Diot, the French-born director of the now three-year-old Venice Film Market, speaking in separate interviews, said that Venice, which until three years ago did not have a market, had attracted more industry business this year than last.
Diot said demand was so strong to show films in the Venice market that he had to reject some and let in 34, and that there had been 26 sales involving 16 titles.
"I had more market screenings than last year, 34 instead of 26, and I had to unfortunately decline some requests because I didn't have any slots so I will ask for a second fulltime cinema at a wrap-up meeting," Diot said about his plans for next year.
He also noted that participation in the market was steady this year compared to last, which he rated as a positive.
"We have the same numbers of professionals as last year, 1,500...which is good because Berlin and Cannes had a drop this year," he said, naming two big rival European events.
Diot said he was particularly proud of an initiative by the Venice market that brought together the makers of 15 European films that had at least 70 percent of their financing in place with potential backers who could provide the missing funding.
He said the European Gap-Financing Co-Production Market was the "first of its kind in the world" and had attracted interest in the films from 56 companies, including some prominent producing, financing and distribution firms.
It had never been anticipated that deals would be signed on the spot for films that were not yet completed, Diot said, with the aim being to link up the film-makers with potential backers.
"I know that some of them are in negotiations now but I don't know how much (financing) they provided," he said.
(Editing by Stephen Powell)