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“Festivals are now the main theatrical distribution option for independent films”

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

Francesca Breccia • Sales agent, Coccinelle Film Sales


A chat about the sales agency’s unique business model and about how the market has changed, both during and since the pandemic

Francesca Breccia • Sales agent, Coccinelle Film Sales

Cineuropa met with Francesca Breccia, the founder and sales agent of Italian sales agency Coccinelle Film Sales. In the course of our conversation, we notably discussed the firm’s business model, its editorial policy and the market transformations which have taken place since the onset of the pandemic.

Cineuropa: Could you elaborate on Coccinelle Film Sales’ business model and editorial policy?
Francesca Breccia: Our editorial policy and sales model is quite different from that of most other international distribution companies, especially since we only take films from producers for 12 months from the moment they’re delivered. After that time, producers are free to carry on with us or to go elsewhere if they’re not happy with the results. This has helped us to build strong relationships of trust with the people we’ve worked with, which is why they tend to come back to us with their subsequent films. The second difference is that the distribution costs we need to recover are very low. We believe that, nowadays, digitalisation, especially in the B2B market, helps to lower costs, because we’re a small outfit and our indirect costs aren’t too high. By lowering these costs, we’re able to recuperate them almost immediately, from the very first sale. From that moment onwards, producers see profits and they don’t have to wait for reports to understand the state of play. Also, at the same time that we’re recuperating these costs, the producer invoices our client directly, so the cashflow will be in his hands. At that point, we invoice the producer for our commission. That’s our policy. Editorially speaking, we work with a lot of arthouse and independent films from all over the world. They all convey socially-engaged messages, regardless of whether they’re comedies, genre films, dramas or LGBT movies. Socially relevant messages are essential.

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How many of you are there?
There are three of us. There’s me, someone who looks after the legal side of things, and another who deals with festivals. We also rely on a series of external consultants, and we have a laboratory which takes care of the film copies.

How many titles do you manage each year, on average?
We don’t take on too many, precisely because we only manage films for 12 months – even if they usually keep their films with us and they stay in our catalogue. That’s why we always treat the films we take on as if they were new, bringing them to every single market and continuing with festivals for two, two and a half years, as far as is possible. In general, however, we manage between four and six films per year.

How big is your catalogue then?
We have 25 fiction films and 14 documentaries.

Do you contribute to the production process or their funding?
If we’re working with the sales model I’ve been talking about up to now, then no, we don’t offer minimum guarantees. We might consider them in some cases, if there are films with internationally relevant casts and directors. But in these cases, we adopt the standard sales policy model. This has probably only happened once in all these years. But getting involved with projects early on– if producers need us – does happen more often, and we offer help in terms of funding, especially if they need a sales agent representing them in order to apply.

How has your work changed over the course of the past two years and what’s the mood in the post-pandemic market?
In terms of the company’s set-up, nothing has changed. We started out as an online firm, back when we were founded in 2013. We’ve had collaborators in other countries for many years now, and our meetings were already taking place online. From this viewpoint, we were ready. What did change during those two years – the first was especially hard, with all the cinema closures – [was that] festivals became a crucial resource, because, arguably, they moved faster than anyone else. Straight away they offered virtual screenings and moved into on-demand distribution. Our relationships with festivals became far stronger. We’re continuing to strengthen them because we believe that festivals are now the main theatrical distribution option for independent films. In situations where films are released in cinemas first – which happens less often these days, because we tend to think a lot more before buying, and we only buy certain films which have won particular prizes – festivals become an incredibly important  showcase, or better still, a genuine form of theatrical distribution.

What are your plans for the Berlinale market?
We’ll have two market screenings – Narcosis [+see also:
film review
film profile
, which is the Netherlands’ candidate for the Oscars, and a Ukrainian film called How Is Katia? [+see also:
film review
interview: Christina Tynkevych
film profile
– and we’ll be touting two new titles in post-production.

How do you work towards diversity within your company and in terms of content?
In terms of staff, over the years we’ve collaborated with people from China, Latin America, Poland… The fact that we’ve always worked online means that it’s easy for us to have a wider range, from that perspective. In terms of content, our line-up speaks for itself: we’ve got films from Israel, Iran, Latin America, Europe, and they’re also varied in terms of genre. For example, when you apply to take part in certain festivals, they ask you to categorise your film as “European,” “Hispanic,” “transgender,” “gay,” “indigenous”, and so on. The thing we’re most proud of is that we’re able to “tick all the boxes” because our catalogue is genuinely transversal. We also believe that variety makes for good stories.

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(Translated from Italian)

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