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Films Distribution: "Circulating European films"

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Nicolas Brigaud-Robert • Exporter

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Nicolas Brigaud-Robert • Exporter

The library of Paris-based international sales agent Films Distribution, a successful outfit specialising in auteur cinema, features recent films by Pascale Ferran, Rachid Bouchareb, Bruno Dumont, Robert Guédiguian, Radu Mihaileanu, Christian Carion, Philippe Garrel and Denis Dercourt.

However, its line-up is not reserved for French cinema alone, with library titles also including films by European directors, such as Joachim Lafosse, Vincenzo Marra, Nanouk Leopold, Barbara Albert, Jorge Sanchez-Cabezudo, Olivier Masset Depasse, Javier Rebollo, Sólveig Anspach, Lucas Belvaux and Ferzan Ozepetek.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa meets with its president Nicolas Brigaud-Robert before the upcoming Cannes Film Market (May 16-26), in which the company handles the international sales of Raphael Nadjari's Tehilim [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(Official Competition), Nicolas Philibert's Back to Normandie [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
in Special Screenings, Hou Hsiao Hsien's A la recherche du ballon rouge [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and Céline Sciamma's Les pieuvres [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(Un Certain Regard), besides Gaël Morel's Après lui [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and Nicolas Klotz's Heatbeat Detector [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, both at the Directors Fortnight).

Cineuropa: What is Films Distribution’s strategy with regard to French auteur films and, more generally, European?
Nicolas Brigaud-Robert: We’re an independent company and we like working on films, which, for us represent a certain artistic slant. There’s a clear division in the world between Hollywood cinema made in Hollywood and cinema that wants to be like Hollywood produced in each country on one hand and a cinema that wants to express the personality of its auteurs on the other. We aren’t a studio, nor are we linked to an audiovisual or telecoms group, or a pensions fund for that matter. So we have the liberty to pick and choose what we like and what will find a market as an alternative to Hollywood films or similar.

Are films that are sold internationally the ones that screen at the major festivals?
Generally speaking, yes. There’s a clear link between these films and festivals that want to make them known, celebrate them, as well as contribute to their role in making film history. By way of participating at festivals, these films can find support and recognition from legitimate bodies and for the festivals it’s a way of promoting the films of potential interest to the public and journalists.

You have had a string of successful sales with unexpected hits. What is your secret?
We’ve spent the past decade developing a know-how (even if it is difficult to sum up in words), a certain outlook that we have adapted. Today we’re able, albeit with enormous margins of error, to pick out what we think is an impressive film or one likely to impress both festivals and our buyers. Most of the time, we make our decisions based on the script. Last year we received 398. For a European auteur film, finding an international sales agent is the first phase, as this represents a hope of being screened and gaining recognition at festivals at a later stage.

Do you choose films by young European directors by anticipating their future development?
We reserve at least a third of our line-up for first films, not necessarily because we plan to transform a young crop into a miraculous one. Quite simply, it’s a pleasure to see new directors arrive on scene with their energy, with their revolutionary desire. It’s very exciting.

Do you think there are too many festivals?
Perhaps. We need to be careful that the growing number of festivals does not create distinctions among our distributors’ public. Sometimes exporters have films at festivals that are real hits and audience grabbers, but then find it impossible to find a distributor because the press and much of the target audience have already seen the film. Exporters have the responsibility of managing the time schedule of a film’s export. Screening films is all well and good, but creating this parallel market to festivals, risks undoing, little by little, the current economic structure, that of arthouse cinema.

Are some European territories more difficult to access than others?
The UK has this particularity of sharing a common language with Hollywood, while in other countries, we at least have the advantage that a French film is a foreign-language film just like an American film. Also, Italy, a traditional partner of French cinema historically, is difficult to access today. On the other hand, Spain, after a rocky few years, primarily because of mergers of television and satellite channels, is now on the road to recovery. Although prices are lower than they were in the past, more films are being sold.

Films Distribution is one of three most successful French outfits in recent years alongside Wild Bunch and Celluloid Dreams . Where do you position yourselves in this trend?
We have come up with different themes and different ways of working. Films Distribution deals almost exclusively with European films, whereas our two competitors are more interested in Anglo Saxon, independent Hollywood or partially Hollywood films. We, however, remain committed to the niche auteur market, to our vision of working with exporters at festivals and certain types of distributors abroad. We won’t be changing this strategy. Our competitors’ strategy is aimed at bigger budget films, which requires the support of the media and, in order to reach this balance, a significantly higher number of admissions than for the types of films that interest us. We look for what can be circulated in Europe. If today we had a film that is too expensive, we wouldn’t be able to sell films the likes of Wolfsbergen, Falling [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
or Angosto [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Alina Sigaro
interview: Belén Bernuy
interview: Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo
film profile
]
. And I think that we are the only outfit left, in France in any case, that circulates European films.

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