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Karoliina Dwyer • Sales agent, The Yellow Affair

“I feel like we need to get on board and start working on the strategy earlier so that we can help bring the information from the market to the films”

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- During our conversation, we spoke about how the Scandinavian-owned sales outfit is managing its film and TV businesses, and how its work has changed over the last two years

Karoliina Dwyer • Sales agent, The Yellow Affair

We sat down with Karoliina Dwyer, of The Yellow Affair. During our chat, we managed to find out more about the work of the Scandinavian-owned sales agent. In particular, we focused on the company’s latest acquisitions, its work on TV series and how the role of the sales agent is developing, requiring a much broader set of skills and earlier involvement in each project.

Cineuropa: How would you describe The Yellow Affair’s editorial policy? How is your company staffed?
Karoliina Dwyer:
We’re well known for strong festival titles, and the company is 12 years old. About our editorial policy, I’d say that we always look for independent films in the arthouse space. Of course, owing to the demands of the market, [we’re aiming] a little bit more at the commercial edge. We work with well-known directors, but we also always want to support first-time directors, and a lot of producers who worked with us before return with their second or third film. We also moved into the TV space a couple of years ago. So we acquire TV series – including European ones – but our slate includes titles from all around the world, so there’s no specific focus on the nationality of the film or series, or anything like that. We’re a sales team of three people with support from a back office: we cover everything linked to sales, acquisitions and festivals. We’re based in New York, London and Helsinki, and the company is owned by production companies in Scandinavia [Visiorex Oy, Anagram Production Ab, Helsinki-filmi Oy and Marianna Films Oy]. We do work closely with our owner companies; however, we are independent and regularly acquire content from third parties.

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How do you split the tasks between the three of you?
One person mostly handles the festivals, and assists with sales and acquisitions. The rest of the team focuses on sales and acquisitions. We also support producers quite a lot, help with the packaging and financing, and serve as executive producers as well.

Do you happen to invest directly in films?
Yes, but we look at that on a case-by-case basis. Also, we usually get on board early. Sometimes productions need pre-sales and packaging, and this is part of the process of optimising the international distribution strategy.

Could you please mention some of the most recent titles you’ve been working on?
Among our latest titles are the Tribeca Best International Narrative Feature winner and Latvia’s Oscar hopeful, January [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
; the New Zealand drama Punch, starring Tim Roth, which premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, and which we executive-produced; the CPH:DOX-premiered documentary Just Animals [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
; and The Grump: In Search of an Escort [+see also:
trailer
interview: Mika Kaurismäki
film profile
]
by Mika Kaurismäki. On the TV side, we have Rūrangi, a New Zealand drama series and International Emmy Award winner, which is distributed in the USA by Hulu – it’s now in post for season 2. Also in post we have a Swedish dramedy series, Keep It Together, produced by Anagram Sweden. Then we have some titles in production, such as Brothers by Tomáš Mašín, a Czech-Slovak-German co-production and a true story set during the Cold War [see the news].

How many titles do you represent each year?
We handle sales on six to ten titles per year, so we don’t acquire huge amounts, but we aim to keep it quite small so that we can spend as much time as possible on each of them. Plus, we acquire one or two series per year.

What about the size of your catalogue?
The catalogue includes over 100 titles.

How have the last two years changed the situation for sales?
First, I’d say that festivals are really important for us, and of course, some films suffered from the absence of in-person events. Thus festivals will be even more important partners in the future, especially for dramas and arthouse films. Another thing is that, during the pandemic, owing to the demand, our catalogue sales grew. The sales for TV series remained steady. Apart from that, we had to become adaptable and look carefully at our sales strategy with each film.

How do you see the role of the sales agent developing in the medium to long term?
I feel like we do need to get on board earlier, for sure, and start working on the strategy earlier so that we can help bring the information from the market to the films. I think a lot of sales-agent support is needed with financing and positioning, which is very important. I believe the sales agent’s role is more and more to get involved with the films – more than it used to be. There are several avenues, and you want to position the movie as early as possible. Is [a certain movie] for theatres, or does it appeal more to streamers? When you start early, you can maximise the revenues much better than when you get on board right before the international launch.

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