Film and Television Rights: Frankfurt’s ‘Books at Berlinale’ March 4 and 5

In News by Porter Anderson

The 15th edition of Books at Berlinale, the annual books-to-film event for film producers and literary agents, will be a digital affair with 10 books to be pitched for possible film development.

The iconic Berlinale Bear. Image: Ines Bachor

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Producers: Registration Ends Monday
Our Publishing Perspectives readers are quite familiar with the annual Books at Berlinale event that annually brings literary agents and rights professionals together with film producers, directors, scouts, and others for a late-winter afternoon at the Berlin International Film Festival.

This year’s event from Frankfurter Buchmesse and the Berlinale Co-Production Market is set for March 4 and will again involve literary agents and others pitching a curated list of titles to filmmakers for their consideration. In the widening world of words-to-screen rights competition, publishers tend to watch closely to see what’s being offered—as a clue to where the market lies—and then follow to see what gets picked up.

As with all else during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the session this year will be held online instead of at the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin, the state house of representatives in Niederkirchnerstrasse.

Film players who would like to register their interest can drop an email to books@berlinale.de for details and admission. The registration period ends on Monday (February 22).

Ten titles are being announced today (February 19) and they come from an initial pool of 160 submissions. They represent work from Germany, France,  Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Taiwan, and the United States. As in past years, the event is to be hosted by media personality Syd Atlas.

And what normally is a session of social mingling and talking turkey after the pitches, this time become a set of one-on-one meetings facilitated for producers, publishers, and agents on March 5, the day after the pitches are held.

Books Chosen for the 2021 Books at Berlinale
Books at Berlinale event in 2018

Pitching a book with host Syd Atlas during the 2018 Books at Berlinale. Image: Julia Biermann

This is the complete list of titles for “Books at Berlinale” 2021 (listed in alphabetical order of the presenting companies): 

  •  Epic Annette / Annette, ein Heldinnenepos by Anne Weber, Germany, pitched by Agentur  Kroll, Germany
  •  Fatherland / Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac, Canada, pitched by Am-Book, USA
  •  My Name is Selma / Mijn naam is Selma by Selma van de Perre, the Netherlands, pitched by De Bezige Bij, the Netherlands
  •  Belle Greene: May No One Discover Your Secret / Belle Greene by Alexandra Lapierre, France, pitched by Editions Flammarion, France
  •  The Confetti Flight Path / La trajectoire des confettis by Marie-Ève Thuot, Canada, pitched by Éditions Les Herbes rouges, Canada
  •  Reptile Memoirs / Krypdyrmemoarer by Silje Ulstein, Norway, pitched by Oslo Literary Agency, Norway
  •  Land of Snow and Ashes / Tuhkaan piirretty maa by Petra Rautiainen, Finland,  pitched by Rights & Brands Agency, Finland
  •  Notes to Pelle / Briefjes voor Pelle by Marlies Slegers, the Netherlands, pitched by Shared  Stories, the Netherlands
  •  The Man with the Compound Eyes / FuYanRen by Wu Ming-Yi, Taiwan, pitched by the  Grayhawk Agency, Taiwan
  •  The Double Puzzle / Das Rätsel von Ainsley Castle by Holly-Jane Rahlens,  Germany, pitched by Verlag der Autoren, Germany
A Two-Part Film Festival This Year

Syrian author Ahmad Joudeh speaks with Books at Berlinale host Syd Atlas about his book, ‘Dance or Die’ during the 2019 event. Image: Holger Heimann

In this year of Frankfurt’s Guest of Honor Canada, Telefilm Canada is hosting the Books at Berlinale pitching session, and the following day’s matchmaking event is organized in cooperation with the Netherlands Film Fund.  

The Berlinale Co-Production Market is funded by MDM, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, and the Creative Europe Media program of the  European Union.

Berlin’s 71st film festival itself is planning a two-part Berlinale.

The industry event running March 1 to 5 includes the March 4 and 5 Books at Berlinale.

Then a “summer special” program has been put onto the calendar for June 9 to 20, in hopes that the mercy of vaccinations may have eased the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic enough to allow, as organizers are putting it, “the general public the opportunity to see the majority of the 2021 selected films in Berlin cinemas in the presence of the filmmakers.”

The Coronavirus in Germany

At this writing, the 4:23 a.m. ET (0923 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 2,374,229 cases in Germany’s population of 83 million, with 67,248 fatalities.

These numbers put Germany at 10th in the world for caseload behind the United States, India, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. In death tolls, Germany is ninth in the world behind the States, Brazil, Mexico, India, the UK, Italy, France, and Russia.

The newest report from Deutsche-Welle Berlin indicates that government officials are at pains to encourage the population to stay the course on spread-mitigation efforts.

“A lockdown that began in December is showing positive effects,” according to the new report, “but Germany’s rate of new infections is still too high, Lother Wieler, the president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, said on Friday.

“The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases for Germany increased by 9,113, according to the RKI. Fatalities rose by 508, the institute reported.”

Jens Spahn, the country’s health minister, indicates that the key problem seems to be a fast ascendance being claimed by the UK variant B.1.1.7, now believed to be responsible for as much as 22 percent of German cases.

Film industry players watch pitches of novels for potential screen adaptation at the 2017 Books at Berlinale event. Image: Berlinale, Silke Mayer


More from Publishing Perspectives on Books at Berlinale is here, and on books to film is here. More on rights and licensing is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.