US in Progress: A fruitful intercontinental dialogue
by Claire La Combe
- 11 June saw an intense day of one-to-one meetings between EU and US professionals
On 11 June at US in Progress Paris, American participants met with more than 15 major European sales agents and distributors. These one-to-one consultations, organised in the style of ten-minute speed dating sessions, were the culmination of the three-day event devoted to US indies. From both the European and American participants’ points of view, the day was tough but interesting, with meaningful links being forged.
Since the projects presented at US in Progress were all works in progress, it would have been exceptional for a sales or distribution agreement to be made during those meetings. In fact, for most of the European professionals who were present on the day, the point was rather to discover new filmmakers to follow. “We always make sure that someone comes here every year because we want to keep up to date on what’s happening… What we mainly get out of these meetings is a list of valuable films and filmmakers; we will follow their progress, and in the future, we may actually buy something from them,” commented Emma Yap from Bankside Films.
In the space of ten minutes, participating teams had to briefly pitch their project to the Europeans, together with their future work plan and their wrap-up strategy for the film. In most of the meetings, participants asked for feedback on the potential of their movie - the more specific, the better. “We already have a much clearer view of which festivals to target now,” remarked one participant during the lunch break. While admitting that low-budget US indies could be very local and personally orientated, and thus difficult to export to non-American audiences, Vanessa Saal, head of sales at Protagonist Pictures, added: “For some projects here, Venice, San Sebastian, the side sections of Cannes and Berlin, or Locarno and Karlovy Vary are really interesting options.” Most of the participants recognised that they had very little knowledge of the European markets, so these meetings were the perfect opportunity for them to fine-tune their international strategy. “We talked a lot with the team of Diverge (the awarded film) about whether they needed a sales agent on board before or after having a festival strategy,” revealed Saal.
European agents and distributors all showed an interest in these low-budget titles. They did not differentiate an awful lot between European low-budget indies and US ones. Regarding the difficulties of selling low-budget films, Yap confirmed that the most important qualities were still the story and the talent of the filmmaker, no matter the origin. “I think the difficulty really depends on who you’re selling to and what you want to do with a film… The English language probably helps to make sales easier, but in the end, it really depends on the film itself.”
At the end of the day, some of the participants were more thrilled than others. Some had to hear that, unfortunately, their film would be very difficult to sell to European markets, while others were whispering about potential deals. In the end, they all expressed their agreement about the importance of such meetings, and they will all travel back to the US with a much more open-minded view of the international film market.