Six top international sales agents from the US and Europe attended the AFC's 2006 IndiVision Marketing Workshop in Melbourne 24-28 July, which coincided with the Melbourne International Film Festival. A total of 11 teams were invited to participate, including projects that went through IndiVision Project Lab in February, a project developed through the AFC's SP*RK script development program, and completed projects that have recently received IndiVision production investment funds.
Workshop director Iain Canning (General Manager of Becker Films International) programmed and hosted a series of panel discussions with local advisors and reps from leading international agencies. They covered topics related to film financing and marketing issues at all stages of film production: development, completion, festivals and markets, distribution and exhibition.
The discussions aimed to inform participants about current market intelligence, create understanding of sales and marketing campaigns, introduce the filmmaking teams to key international and local executives, and provide networking opportunities. After the three days of discussion there were two full days dedicated to one-on-one meetings where participants were able to receive marketing feedback on their projects in development.
The international guests for 2006 were:
* Laird Adamson, HDNet Films. Read the interview with Laird in the August 2006 edition of IndiVision News
* Thomas Mai, Katapult Film Sales. Read the interview with Thomas in the August 2006 edition of IndiVision News
* Dorothee Grosjean International Sales and Publicity Manager, Gaumont
* Adeline Fontan Tessaur, Senior VP International Sales and Acquisitions, TF1 International/TF1
* Himesh Kar, Senior Executive of the New Cinema Fund, UK Film Council
* Ashley Luke, Vice President Development and Acquisitions, Fortissimo Films
* Michael Wrenn, independent consultant (NZ/AUS).
Local speakers were:
* Sandie Don, Hopscotch Films
* Kristian Connelly, Village Cinemas
* David Redman, Instinct Entertainment
* Mark Sarfaty, Dendy Cinemas
* Tait Brady, FFC
* Helen Campbell, Zealot Productions
Included here are a few words of wisdom and hot tips from the speakers:
- You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This applies to all stages of financing and sales: sending scripts out to attach investors, sales agents promoting films to buyers, and distributors putting films into cinemas for an audience. As a producer/director you should be confident your project is at the right stage to send to an agent /distributor.
- It is a waste of sales agent's time and the filmmaking team's time if you don't research an agent's slate to see if your project fits. If it doesn't then don't think you can persuade them. Move on and look for someone who wants what you've got. This was the overwhelmingly advice from a panel of sales agents.
- Make contact with a sales agent (phone/email/in person) before sending through your package. Let them know who you are, who the team is and what kind of project you have. It's good to make a personal connection before sending through your script.
- Sales agents are individuals and they don't all work the same way. Ask acquisition executives how they like to receive material and what they like to receive. Tailor your financing campaign to the individuals you are dealing with - do not use a scattergun effect; no one will take you seriously. Understand and articulate why you want a particular sales agent/distributor.
- Only send scripts to acquisitions executives more than six weeks out from a major international market. Don't expect them to read anything one week out.
- Sales agents selling films to buyers (usually distributors in different territories) depend upon their relationship with that buyer. They cultivate these relationships over time, and if a sales agent is aware that a particular buyer doesn't like a particular genre, for example, then there is no point in them pushing those genre films their way. To push a buyer into a film that is not 'their type' can be detrimental to the relationship. It may also taint a filmmaker's reputation with that buyer for any future product.
- Having local finance/distributor in place before you go global is a good thing. International executives will want to know what your domestic market thinks of the project. If attending an international market, make meetings before the market (best to start at least 4-6 weeks prior to the market). Remember that sales agents are at these markets to sell, and buyers to buy, they are generally not looking to make filmmaker meetings.
- For first-time feature producers seeking finance at an international market, consider attending markets closer to home for cost effectiveness (eg. Hong Kong FILMART, Pusan), or smaller European markets for an introduction into the way the marketplace operates (eg. Rotterdam, IFP, Berlinale EFM). Budget accordingly for marketing materials.
- Employ a set photographer - even if only for a few days. Make sure key relationship stills are taken. It is more cost effective to do this during production than afterwards (and in some cases may be impossible to reunite cast etc).
- First-time feature directors are better placed if they have a strong body of alternate works behind them (eg. short films, documentaries, television).
- A good synopsis should not only give broad strokes about 'what happens' but should also evoke a level of emotion in the reader.
- Your trailer is an advertisement for your film; it is not your film. It is best to employ a new editor for the trailer edit or, budget permitting, contract a specialist company to produce your trailer.