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Strategic Partners’ business hours 

While you spend 10 nights munching popcorn at the festival, the international film industry is busy crunching numbers, making deals and contacts through AFF’s Strategic Partners program.

W>e know where you'll be this week. You, like everyone else in town, will become a cinephile, seeing documentaries, short films and features at the Atlantic Film Festival.

What you might not realize is while you're opening your mind in darkened screening rooms, the wheels behind the scenes are turning. For the 12th year, the Strategic Partners international co-production conference is going on. A business event---bringing together Canadian and international producers, broadcasters, agents and entrepreneurs to meet and network---it's one part speed-dating, where film biz people meet and see if they have something to offer each other, and one part mixer, with dinners, drinks and speakers gathered together to talk about the economic realities of partnerships across international borders.

Big names scheduled to

attend this year include Damon D'Oliveira, actor and producer of the Halifax-set Poor Boy's Game, who is working an adaptation of Lawrence Hill's novel The Book of Negroes. Also expected is

Polish producer Dariusz Jablonski of Apple Film Production who is working on a picture called Immigrant, based on the story of Robert Dziekanski, who died at the Vancouver Airport in 2007 after being Tasered. The keynote speakers at Strategic Partners are former NFB and Denys Arcand producer Roger Frappier and Simon Vaughan, producer of a new Ben Hur series.

The event, capped off at 200 delegates, creates an intimacy not found at a lot of bigger festivals. What's important for local and Canadian filmmakers is that they can meet people who can help their movies get made. SP director Jan Miller can mention a few success stories right off the top of her head, like Surveillance, the Jennifer Lynch thriller that screened at the AFF last year. It was a USA/Germany co-production that came through SP at one point. Another was the Canada/Germany co-pro Otto; or Up With Dead People, from Bruce LaBruce, and this year's Atlantic Gala, Love and Savagery, a Canadian co-pro with Ireland. "These projects have to go through a million different opportunities," says Miller. "Strategic Partners is recognized by the producers of all those that it was significant in helping them develop."

Former Coast cover star Chaz Thorne made a big splash at 2007's AFF, with a feature he wrote and produced, Poor Boy's Game, and one he wrote and directed, Just Buried. He's a fan of Strategic Partners.

"I think that it's great that an industry event like that takes place in Halifax where you can meet all these international colleagues right here at home. That's pretty damn cool." The film Thorne is working on right now, called Whirligig---he hopes to shoot it in Nova Scotia over the winter---is partly a product of a meeting he had with an international distributor at SP. "When I was putting together the financing for this film, I gave him a call and now we're working together. That one meeting that you have may seem like an in-passing thing at the time but it could actually make the difference if you make a movie in the future."

Producer-director Camelia Frieberg attended SP in 2007 with two projects in the works: a feature script she wrote called Dizzy and the Ami McKay novel she'd optioned, The Birth House.

"Concretely, neither of those projects have yet come to pass, which is not an unusual thing in the film world," she says, laughing. "At the same time, amazing contacts were made out of that. Though they weren't fruitful directly for those projects they were in many other ways. And they may yet bear fruit for those ones. You can't look at these things short-term or you'd just put the noose around your neck."

Frieberg says it's not just the scheduled meetings that benefit filmmakers, it's the dinners and social events. "Those create the non-pressure opportunities to clink a glass, and that's when the real meet happens."

Love and Savagery
Friday, September 18, 7pm Oxford Theatre
$15
Tickets at Video Difference, AFF box office atlanticfilm.com, ticketpro.ca, 422-6965

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