“We like to work as a kind of ‘discovery’ label, serving as people who can help a filmmaker’s career to grow”
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Jan Naszewski • Sales agent, New Europe Film Sales
The Warsaw-based sales agent gives us an overview of the outfit’s editorial policy and how the team’s workflow has changed over the last three years
We sat down with Jan Naszewski, CEO of Warsaw-based sales agent New Europe Film Sales. We delved into the firm’s editorial policy, its slate of productions and how the team’s work has been changing over the last three years, among other topics. Some of the recent projects handled by the Polish outfit include Rachel Lambert’s Sometimes I Think About Dying, Sacha Polak’s Silver Haze [+see also:
film profile], Goran Stolevski’s Housekeeping for Beginners and Álvaro Gago Díaz’s Matria [+see also:
interview: Álvaro Gago
Cineuropa: Could you please outline your company’s editorial policy?
Jan Naszewski: New Europe Film Sales is a boutique international sales company based in Warsaw. From the beginning, it was important for me to make sure we would not just be a local company focusing on Polish or Eastern European films, but rather a global one. So, we’ve always had movies [in our slate coming] from Scandinavia, the USA, the UK, Spain and so on... So, for example, if we want to take a Polish film, we want to present it in the context of an international catalogue. [...] This international context, which makes those movies stand out, makes them more interesting. And it’s quite a director-driven slate of projects. We always try to find movies that are artistically interesting but that [do] have an audience.
When I launched the company, we were only handling shorts, maybe for two years. Then we expanded, we learned on the job, and we’ve grown organically from that. We managed to pick first films from the directors that had shorts with us, and we helped them grow and enter the market. With some of them, we followed them for two more movies. So, we like to work as a kind of “discovery” label, [serving as] people who can help a filmmaker’s career to grow.
Do you still work on shorts from time to time?
Yes, of course – in a way, we kept them for fun. Every year, we have a couple of movies at Cannes and Sundance, and some other titles are shortlisted for the Oscars. And we keep on working on shorts just to stay fresh and look for new talents. That way, you can take much weirder films – many titles that would be too risky to take as features, but are completely fine as shorts.
How many titles do you represent each year?
We try to rep around seven or eight titles a year. During COVID times, this was slightly disrupted. In 2020, I think we launched five movies, which meant we had a kind of “rollover” in 2021. That being said, we always handle between seven and ten titles. Moving forward, I think we could stick to five or six, and that would be perfect for us.
What about the size of your catalogue?
We’ve been around for 13 years. We have [a catalogue of] roughly 60-70 features plus a number of shorts.
Do you invest in films at the production stage or help to fund projects, somehow?
Ideally, I like to board films at the rough-cut stage, when they are almost finished, so we know exactly what we’re getting. But of course, we are always scouting. I will say that at least half of the movies each year are picked up by us at the script stage, especially if these are movies made by filmmakers we’ve worked with before. And for the right project, we’re able to offer significant MGs. For us, money is one thing, but we also try to be hands-on by giving the project what it needs in terms of networking and attracting co-production partners.
How did your work change during the pandemic?
The pandemic was weird. I mean, 2020 was actually a pretty good year for us in terms of sales, as we had the right movies ready [for release]. And the market was very “curious”, so we adapted very quickly to digital. For example, we had this movie, Sweat [+see also:
interview: Magnus von Horn
film profile], which was selected by Cannes. [...] We decided to treat it as if it were at Cannes physically, so we set up press screenings, reviews, a poster, a trailer, a social-media campaign and so on. [...] So we really went for it, and we won big. And certainly, we try to travel less – festivals are back, but I think quite often about whether we should attend a festival or a co-production market on Zoom for a day, instead of going there for three or four days. We’ve done that, and it’s a bit more efficient.
The problem is that the pandemic has made everybody work more and [for] longer hours, [forcing everyone to] always be available. It shook up the market structures and the pacing of the market. [...] I really felt that in 2020 and 2021, you just had to be on call or on the phone all the time with people. And the results were maybe the same, but you had to work twice as hard. I think it had a big impact on many people. I hope things can normalise a bit going forward.
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