“We are very confident about our business model in this fast-changing industry”
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Yuan Rothbauer and Andreas Rothbauer • Sales agents, Picture Tree International
We take a closer look at the work carried out by the Berlin-based sales agency and its editorial strategy
We sat down with Yuan Rothbauer and Andreas Rothbauer, Co-Managing Directors of Picture Tree International, to talk through the outfit’s catalogue, its editorial policy and how its work has changed over the last two years.
Cineuropa: Could you tell us about your editorial policy? How is the company staffed?
We’re about ten people and intentionally represent a very eclectic line-up. We don’t focus on a particular genre; we want to find the right mix with ‘not too many of the same at the same time.’ We want to avoid films cannibalising each other when we launch them and we like arthouse as much as mainstream or genre titles. Nevertheless, we do feel the market pressure to become more selective in our decisions and the last two years have accelerated this tendency.
How many titles do you represent each year? How many do you have in your catalogue?
On average, we represent about 12-15 titles each year and try to release them equally across the quarters of a year, for them not to compete with each other, providing a stronger opportunity for each. We started in 2013, and our catalogue now includes about 120 films.
Cineuropa: Do you invest in films from the production stage, or help to fund films?
Andreas Rothbauer: Yes, and that became even more important over the last few years given the fast-changing market, wherein you need a longer sales cycle to build up awareness and identify the right distribution scenario. The risk for films to get lost in an increasing ocean of content has become rather high. Along with the project itself, timing matters considerably.
Yuan Rothbauer: A representative example for this is A Whole Life, where we got involved during the production. Now the film just wrapped shooting and is planned for a release Q2/Q3 next year. [...] The feature is based on a very famous novel by Robert Seethaler, [it was described as] the “novel of the century” and is published in over 40 languages. We are big fans of the novel ourselves and we’re very much convinced about this project and the overall package from the producers as well as the director’s side. There is a joint vision required to master the challenges of this ambitious project and we believe in this kind of universal story, which anyone will be able to relate to…
Andreas Rothbauer: A Whole Life represents very well what we’re doing now. We got involved early on, at the last financing stages.
How has your work changed over the past two years?
Andreas Rothbauer: It has changed a lot and we haven’t seen the ‘peak’ of these changes yet. I think what the pandemic did was basically to act as a catalyst of challenges that the European — and not only — audio-visual industries are facing. After all, it’s not a bad thing because it shows we all need to adapt dramatically, and not just on a private sector level, but also in terms of film policies. It’s no easy task within a political process and the different interests of the stakeholders, but it’s unavoidable given the overall bad results. That’s where our adaptive capacity plays a key role. I believe sales agents have the most flexible structure of all the industry [segments]. We have a very multifaceted DNA. Our business model is not set in stone, thus we have the potential to adapt. I am very confident in our business model if we can embrace these challenges instead of insisting on outdated dogmas. The so-called sales agents will continue to play a vital role because of their flexible business model and first-hand market knowledge.
How do you work on ensuring diversity in terms of voices and content, as well as within your firm?
Yuan Rothbauer: I’m an Asian woman co-running a company in Germany, a white male dominated country. I’ve experienced a lot of difficulties as a female leader working in this industry. I don’t think this is something that can be changed, but I believe it’s important to raise awareness. In our company, we often talk about these issues. Because of these struggles, I’m well aware of what it means being female or belonging to a certain gender or race. In terms of content, last year we took a film from Constantin Film [Sönke Wortmann’s Contra] and I was fighting for it, since it revolves around an Arabic girl victim of racial discrimination and mistreated by her law professor. […] I think in the old European days, people made some racist jokes. Many don’t even know how offensive they are because they grew up that way and lack sensitivity. As members of the media industry, we are communicators and we have a responsibility over what we choose, the voices we give room to, the messages we deliver and what we show our audience. Within our line-up, we try to provide diversity in the form of upcoming talents, minority groups, sustainable productions, green filming pioneers, female lead content creators or empowerment for female directors.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.