Agathe Valentin, Laure Parleani, Bérénice Vincent • Sales agents, Totem Films
"It’s a time of change, where it’s essential we reinvent ourselves"
by Fabien Lemercier
- Agathe Valentin, Laure Parleani and Bérénice Vincent discuss the very first Cannes line-up of international sales firm Totem Films and their market view
"We speak with one voice". With just a few days to go until the Marché du Film at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival (running 14 to 25 May), we met with Agathe Valentin, Laure Parleani and Bérénice Vincent, who each honed their solid expertise within a host of structures well known to professionals (notably Les Films du Losange, Pyramide, Celluloid Dreams, Wild Bunch, and Les Films Pelléas) before joining forces to helm the new and ambitious, international sales firm Totem Films.
Cineuropa: How would you describe Totem Film’s editorial line? What type of films are you looking to represent?
Totem was born out of a desire to move towards new perspectives and films capable of reaching out to audiences in need of strong narratives and stories to share, which are conveyed through the particular perspective of a filmmaker, male or female. There is no set type of film that we focus on; we don’t want to set ourselves any limits in terms of genre or territories. As a trio, we look for films which bowl us over.
Your first Cannes line-up includes two full-length films which will be showcased in parallel sections of the Festival: And Then We Danced by Levan Akin is in the Directors’ Fortnight and Land of Ashes by Sofia Quirós Ubeda is competing in Critics’ Week. How did you discover these films and why did you decide to take them on?
And Then We Danced was presented in the Work In Progress session at the Les Arcs Film Festival and we were immediately hooked by this story, which mixes tradition and modernity in a country that we don’t very often see in film. Levan’s film is a great ball of energy with remarkable fluidity in terms of its mise en scène. We’d been following Land of Ashes ever since the last short film put out by Sofia which was a "prequel" to this feature film. The film talks about old age and what we believe with great sensitivity. We would also like to continue working with Levan and Sofia beyond these films, as part of a wider commitment to supporting directors in the development of their careers.
What other titles feature in your line-up?
We’ll be presenting the new film by Juho Kuosmanen; he won the 2016 Un Certain Regard competition with The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, which was sold in over 40 territories. Compartment No 6 takes us on a journey aboard the Trans-Siberian railway, in the company of two characters who are totally opposed in every way. C.B. Yi’s Moneyboys will be shot at the end of May and explores the different sides of modern-day China. Kiss Me Before It Blows Up is the next romantic comedy by Shirel Peleg, a young Israeli director who now lives in Berlin and who won us over with her "sharp" and modern tone. Finally, we’ll also be presenting Michaela Pavlatova’s animated film, My Sunny Maad, the adaptation of Petra Prochazkova’s Freshta, which tells the story of a young Czech woman who follows the Afghan man she loves to Kabul.
What are your views on the state of the global market for auteur films? What are distributers looking for nowadays?
Distributers are becoming more cautious because cinema releases are increasingly harder to negotiate with operators. They’re looking for films with engaging topics and clearly identifiable target markets. The global market has become more concentrated. Online platforms have real clout, both from a financial point of view and in marketing terms, and distributers have to move quickly so as not to miss out on sought-after titles. As for vendors, we need to be able to adapt on a case by case basis, according to the film, and keep the lines of communication open with all parties.
On that subject, what is your position vis-à-vis online platforms?
Online platforms are key players now and we talk to them regularly. The link they have to a whole new generation of film-lovers is undeniable. In terms of our collaborations, it’s a discussion that we have on a film-by-film basis.
The international sales sector is highly competitive, especially in France. In this context, what sets Totem Films apart and what are your ambitions in terms of development?
The sector is highly competitive, but it’s a time of change, where it’s essential we reinvent ourselves. Totem brings together three different ranges of experience and three outlooks, which, in and of itself, sets us apart in terms of the editorial choices we make and the way in which we work. We’re looking to represent around ten films a year by mixing the genres and the nationalities of films, and to work with people who are as passionate as we are!
(Translated from French)
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