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BLACK NIGHTS 2015 Industry

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Sales and festivals: How to get films out there


- The Black Nights Film Festival's Industry@Tallinn hosted a panel on sales and festival strategies

Sales and festivals: How to get films out there
From left to right, Loïc Magneron, Tom Hollander, John Von Thaden and Annick Mahnert, at Industry@Tallinn (© Black Nights/Pastakeda)

Taking place from 16-20 November, Industry@Tallinn, the Black Nights Film Festival's industry section, is putting the spotlight on one of the key activities of the film industry this year: the one developed by sales agents, distributors and festival programmers. How to market a film and how to select the right target on the festival circuit? What to expect from sales agents' involvement in the film? Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing's John Von Thaden, Screen Division's Annick Mahnert, Tribeca programmer Ian Hollander and Wide Management president Loïc Magneron addressed these questions in order to try to give an overview of a possible way of finding coherence between the work of filmmakers, distributors, sales agents and festival programmers.

“In every industry, you can't have all the knowledge of the business – in this one, you need to have a sales agent to explain how the market is and how to achieve visibility at festivals,” explained Magneron. “It is very important for a film to have one involved, whether it is from the beginning of the project or at the very end of the process. In any case, these film-agent matches are like a wedding. We have to make sure that the relationship can last – we have to guarantee that every agent can get what they expect for the whole contract period, which usually lasts about four to six years. That goes from economical investment to revenue.”

In order to achieve this, Mahnert said, “Producers should approach sales agents depending on what their interests are – no horror sales agent will take on a romantic comedy. That is usually when the deal is successful: when a sales agent works with films they like, the results will be better. If you are in this industry and you are driven only by money, it is not the right profession for you.”

“It is also important to submit a film to a festival by adapting to its profile. Every festival has its own,” opined Von Thaden. Hollander continued, “A good awareness of the festival calendar helps as well. That helps to define the festival strategy, as long as it is based on having a good sense of the film you want to submit. For festivals, what is more important is the world-premiere status – it will enable the festival to get press, and also the film, consequently,” he added. “The life of a film depends directly on the success it sees on the festival circuit – a high-profile film will get critics talking about it, distributors aware of it and the sales agent in control of the movie's marketing,” clarified Magneron.

The connection between festival publicity and finding distribution afterwards seemed quite clear to everyone. “Some sales agents contact the festivals when the line-up is announced to get the films without one attached yet,” noted Mahnert. “Most of the films that we select at Tribeca come out of the festival with a sales agent on board,” remarked Hollander.

After that, Magneron addressed the last step: “Distributors are the main players in the field. They have to invest a large amount of money without any revenue guaranteed, so they want to do it right. In the French case, a 15-screen release implies a €70,000 to €85,000 investment from the distributor, which may lead to just a week in theatres - not enough for them to earn any money. The visibility achieved by the sales and festivals phase helps all of that to improve.”

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