The MEDIA Selective Distribution Scheme discussed at EWIP Cologne
by Ioana Florescu
- Experts came together to talk about key aspects and the latest results of the Selective Distribution Scheme
On 16 October, continuing its cooperation with Creative Europe Desk NRW, European Work in Progress Cologne 2019 hosted a panel entitled “The MEDIA Selective Distribution Scheme in Practice – Key Aspects and Latest Results”. The scheme has recently been subjected to a series of changes, the main one being that the sales agent is now responsible for sending the application. Distributors can no longer submit their own application and receive their own individual grant. Instead, the sales agent has to submit the application on behalf of the entire grouping after collecting information from the distributors. Subsequently, a single grant is awarded to the sales agent, which must then allocate the funds to distributors within the grouping.
The panel, moderated by Heike Meyer-Döring, head of Creative Europe Desk NRW, and Björn Hoffmann, CEO of AG Verleih - Association of German Independent Film Distributors and managing director of German distribution company Pandora Film, was split into two parts. The first panel guest to speak was Gregory Parr, Selective Scheme manager at the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) in Brussels, who presented the key aspects of the scheme as well as the results of the last two funding sessions. Following up, Jenny Walendy, managing director of German-based world sales company The Match Factory, presented the case of the company’s title Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story [+see also:
interview: Icíar Bollaín
film profile] (directed by Icíar Bollaín), which received MEDIA Selective Distribution support in the first funding session after the scheme was subjected to changes (call EACEA/28/2018). Also explaining how the distribution scheme works in practice, Eve Gabereau, managing director of Modern Films (the UK distributor of Yuli) and Hans Christian Boese, CEO of Piffl Medien (the movie’s German distributor), talked about their experiences releasing the film in their respective territories.
Gregory Parr started his presentation by talking about the objectives of the scheme. Aimed at supporting coordinated projects revolving around pan-European releases, the Selective Distribution Scheme bolsters synergies between the sales agents and distributors by encouraging the development of real cross-market strategies that lead to efficient pan-European releases, the selection of quality, reliable partners, as well as efficient cooperation between world sales agents and producers for the promotion of the movies. Moreover, Parr explained that the new scheme can help distributors make substantial financial savings owing to the increased cross-national sharing of material. In addition, he pointed out that the Selective Distribution Scheme encourages the implementation of global strategies for securing additional revenues – for example, the online promotion of the films.
Furthermore, Parr emphasised the importance of ensuring a strong relationship between the world sales agent and the national distributors, which can be attained by having all of the parties involved at an early stage, as well as by guaranteeing that there will be transparency between the parties involved. This implies that the world sales agent needs to inform the distributors regarding the project and about the rules governing the management of the grant. As a further means of ensuring a strong relationship between sales agents and distributors, Parr mentioned the setting out of clear frameworks for reporting, as well as for informing on the costs and results.
In the second part of his presentation, the Selective Scheme manager described the satisfying result of the last two Selective Distribution calls for applications: strong groupings, strong films, strong sales agents and very well-coordinated projects. For the first session after the change, 17 applications were submitted, while for the second, this number increased to 28. Afterwards, Parr presented the criteria according to which the projects are selected to receive support, and elaborated on the aspects considered within each evaluation category, as well as the scoring system used. During his presentation, he also mentioned the most common mistakes made by applicants and reminded those present that sales agents are the party responsible for the project and that there is a financial risk on their shoulders.
In the second part of the event, Jenny Walendy, MD of The Match Factory, presented a case study on the film Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story. After an introduction during which the company’s reasons for becoming interested in the film were explained and some key facts about the movie and its international release were presented, Walendy focused on four aspects connected to the agent’s handling of the film: the timeline for the project, the marketing strategy, the collaboration with and between distributors, and the box-office results. Taking the case study further, the German and British distributors of the film talked about their different strategies for handling the national releases.
When asked about the benefits of the modified Selective Distribution Scheme, Walendy responded: “When the new scheme was introduced, while we were reading the guidelines, it all sounded like a revolution – it seemed as though we [as sales agents] were being asked, in turn, to ask the distributors to release the film on the same day and to all have the same campaign. What we came to realise when we were preparing the application was that it’s quite a good process to talk to everyone and exchange ideas. It’s the first step in making distributors aware of what is happening outside their territory. It prompted a thinking process, and this has already had an effect on everybody’s strategies. As I said [while talking about the case of Yuli], the release dates are spread out and everybody has a perfectly good reason for scheduling the release for a certain day, but the new guidelines prompted us all to think more about our strategies. Nowadays, this kind of collaboration is extremely valuable for everyone. However, it would be good not to expect the revolution to happen right away, but to understand that a very complex process is required to implement all of the ideas. Yet the sense of the Selective Distribution Scheme is very clear to me.”
Parr replied by specifying that the pan-European distribution strategy that the EU is implementing does not imply using one unique marketing strategy for every territory. “We are well aware of the need to decline implementing the same strategy in various territories. But the question is: how many times is it truly necessary to decline? By encouraging dialogue, the application process lets us explore what is the added value of slightly modifying the strategy each time. In the end, what we’ll manage to do is to encourage the production of a few sets of materials that are adapted for different target groups and which can be reused by different distributors.”
The closing discussion, which was also open to the industry representatives present in the audience, led to the conclusion that the MEDIA Selective Distribution Scheme has helped to improve the collaboration between the sales agents and distributors, as well as the cooperation between the different distributors of a film. However, a few problematic aspects of the Selective Distribution Scheme were pointed out by distributors who were attending the event. Amongst these were the fact that there are only two calls for applications organised per year and that the deadlines for these are set before the European Film Market in Berlin and the Cannes Marché du Film take place.
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