“I’m really not a good networker, as you’re about to find out,” Jan Stahlberg tells me. I’m with Jan and his Chilean director Victor, who has turned the treatment for Pornstars into a nifty little booklet, complete with a trailer on DVD, ready for the meetings. Or meeting, anyway. And it’s a bit sketchy – we’re waiting for a Canadian documentary TV executive who vaguely agreed to meet Victor and Jan and “point them in the right direction”.
“I sent out thousands of emails,” says Victor, looking determined, and sporting a very business-like little rucksack. “Hardly got any replies. It’s all codes here. Codes. You meet someone and talk, and maybe you’ll work with them in five years or so.”
“Really this is someone else’s job. We’re not producers,” says Jan while we’re waiting.
This is the European Film Market at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. The venerable Prussian art gallery has been ruthlessly occupied by movie business people, blue “Market Badges” swinging from their necks. Distributors and production companies have their shiny stalls set out around the galleries, but most people are sitting in the gallery’s vast atrium, which has become a café festooned with banners that say things like, “You need to watch more Brazilian movies in 2013.”
And there are lots of posters of future movies. There’s no way of telling if they’re finished films, or if they’re just titles that someone has come up with a good poster for. The EFM is, I realize, a huge building full of wild guesses at what a 13-year-old boy will want to see in 2014. I feel like a 13-year-old – overstimulated and hyper-distracted. There’s a trailer of an eardrum-shattering war film playing on a large monitor, then a sexy young woman in an 18th century costume wanders past. There’s a poster of a film called Antboy, which features a seven-year-old dressed in what I suppose is meant to be an ant costume. He appears to be looking into a phone box filled with smoke. Phone boxes don’t exist anymore, I think. There a film called Conception, whose tagline is: “It takes more than sex to make a baby.” There are a lot of monster movie posters – Poseidon Rex, Mega Spider, War of the Worlds Goliath. The best one is Avalanche Sharks which seems to be about a giant prehistoric shark adapted to swim in mountain snow. Another species threatened by global warming. The “sexy-women-splashed-with-blood” trope features on a lot of posters. Meanwhile, the grown-up film titles are basically just flat-out non-sequiturs – The Cyclist, Ethnic Wedding, or my favourite, The Commander and the Stork.
The Canadian TV exec – who turns out to be Scandinavian called Lars – arrives, hungover. “Sorry, I didn’t want to promise anything. It was a long night last night.” Victor produces the Pornstars booklet. There is a long tense pause as the Canadian-Scandinavian laboriously changes his glasses and goes through it. Without a flicker of emotion, he takes in the hilarious media satire of sexual depravity on a Mediterranean island. Jan and Victor mention Ricky Gervais and Charlie Brooker.
Finally the exec speaks. “Canadians have a very weird attitude to sex, because they’re so burdened by British culture,” he says. “Have a look at this picture.” He opens a brochure of Canadian films and points to a still from a comedy called My Awkward Sexual Adventure, featuring a naked man and woman who appear to have been interrupted while having sex. They’re both grimacing towards the camera, looking comically surprised. There is blood running from the woman’s nose.
“To me this picture looks totally staged and fake,” says the executive. Everyone nods. We all agree that the photo is a perfect illustration of Canada’s weird attitude to sex, and the way Canadian culture is too self-conscious about its British roots. “This is exactly what we won’t do,” says Jan.
“Why are you interested in Canada?” says Lars, checking his email on his smartphone.
Victor’s answer is quick – he’s ready for this one. “Because we heard they have money and an open-minded attitude for something like this.” Lars replies to one of the emails.
There follow some negotiations about all the possible Canadian connections for Pornstars. “Well, we couldn’t film there, because it’s too cold,” says Victor. “But we could have a Canadian actor.” Jan agrees that there’s no reason why there couldn’t be a Canadian actor in Pornstars.
“What about a Canadian screenwriter?” asks Lars.
“Yes, why not?” says Jan. “The important thing is that they are a native English speaker.”
Lars takes out his Macbook, and turns it round to show Victor the email address of a colleague based in Toronto. Victor scribbles it down. We say our thank-yous and leave.
“Canada? Pfff. It’s really got nothing to do with Canada,” says Jan. “But you never know.”