37ºSouth – Onwards and Upwards

“Having time to stop and think about things in 2020, and then having the ability to test out everything online…” Mark Woods trails off, considering all of the new initiatives that 37ºSouth is bringing in 2022, now that our borders have opened and Covid restrictions have eased, allowing 37ºSouth participants to meet in person again.

Woods has been the Industry Director at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) since 2007, heading up Australia’s only film market, which brings together filmmakers, producers, distributors, sales agents and IP holders, and the Premier Fund, which has helped bring dozens of local films to fruition through co-financing, and then screening them at MIFF

“We have quite a number of changes and enhancements,” Woods says proudly. “If we had tried to do all these things physically in the same year, I’m not sure that we would’ve pulled it off. When it was online, you could try all these things. People were actually very up for trying new things because the whole experience was new.

“The key thing is what we’ll have a new energy to the market, and we’ll have a new range of people and a greater number of people. Basically, broadening the palette and increasing the foot traffic. And in broadening the palette, we have the Nexus [screen adaptations] people, games people, rights holders, journalistic pieces. That’s a new cohort of people. And development executives from broadcasters [streamers], who are a new cohort. We also have a large number of service companies coming, predominantly post-production but also equipment suppliers.”

Cross-pollination is the keyword for 2022, with 37ºSouth embracing the digital and broadcast sector, after traditionally focusing only on the feature film sector. “We worked very closely with Screen Australia,” Woods says. “It was quite rewarding to bring these new people in, which also has a lot of diversity. You still have sales agents, you still have distributors, they are still gatekeepers to a degree. But you’ve got new kids on the block with deep pockets now.”

A case in point is one of Woods’ proudest Premier Fund moments, last year’s Nitram, which was the first Australian film to premiere at Cannes in a decade. For numerous reasons, government agencies balked at supporting the film, and a streamer was already on board, along with various foreign investors, which is where the Premier Fund came in, co-financed/gap funded the Justin Kurzel film and then premiering it at MIFF.

This year, though, Woods is even prouder, as the 70th edition of MIFF and the 15th edition of the market premiering with a Premier Fund film, Of An Age [above]. “I think it’s such an honour for the Premier Fund,” gushes Woods. “The filmmaker [Goran Stolevski] is a graduate of the Accelerator Lab that we run, it’s a beautiful movie from a minority perspective, and it is very good fun.”

2022 also sees MIFF introduce a competition film prize, which Woods reckons puts the festival and the market in the elite company of Rotterdam and Berlin Film Festivals. “Those aspects of talent campus and market and competition and the fund… MIFF is the largest film festival in the Southern hemisphere, the number of audience numbers are pretty much the same as London, it’s one of the great city film festivals in the world… that’s a pretty good place for MIFF to be.

“But that’s the thing about these festivals that thrive,” he finishes off. “Part of the secret is that people are loyal and have to know what the festival is. But you have to add things because the world changes, people want more.”

Head over to 37ºSouth and MIFF


Dov Kornits

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