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IceDocs 2023

Informe de industria: Distribución, exhibición y streaming

En IceDocs, Wouter Jansen, de Square Eyes, habla de la venta de documentales fuera de la corriente dominante

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Durante el encuentro, el agente de ventas ha hablado de las estrategias de los festivales, la distribución en salas y la comercialización de títulos que no pertenecen al género de ficción

En IceDocs, Wouter Jansen, de Square Eyes, habla de la venta de documentales fuera de la corriente dominante
Uno de los momentos de la conferencia

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

On 23 July, Akranes’ IceDocs (19-23 July) hosted a talk by Wouter Jansen, CEO of the Vienna-based sales outfit Square Eyes.

First, Jansen touched upon his career. He began working for film festivals in 2008, and later started his own business, Some Shorts, in 2012. In 2016, Jansen handled his first feature, Guido Hendrix’s IDFA-bound Stranger in Paradise. In 2017, one of his titles, A Gentle Night, won the Short Film Palme d’Or. In 2020, Some Shorts was rebranded as Square Eyes. 

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Hot docs EFP inside

Currently, the outfit sells about 15 shorts and 6 features per year. Square Eyes focuses on non-mainstream films characterised by a bold aesthetic and artistic approach, “films that can really do well within the festival circuit” but need to be “pushed hard” when it comes to theatrical distribution. Documentaries of this kind in particular are difficult to handle, since the biggest sales usually come from broadcasters, which are not normally keen to acquire unconventional content.

Jansen highlighted that Square Eyes aims to stay in this niche, working with films that can benefit from their services and networks, which at times allow  the team to skip distributors and talk directly to cinemas or museums. Some of the recent titles handled by the firm include festival doc hits such as the features Anhell69 [+lee también:
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, and the short Neighbour Abdi.

The small line-up is managed by a staff of three – Jansen handles sales and acquisitions, whilst the other two team members are in charge of festival-related tasks. Like many other players of this kind, Square Eyes receives several new films daily, in addition to titles sought at markets or forwarded upon recommendation of other industry members. The team wishes to board projects at a very early stage so that they can help out more, even though in most cases they still get involved at the rough cut stage.

Jansen then spoke about a new feature set to play at the upcoming Venice International Film Critics’ Week, Tana Gilbert’s debut Malqueridas (see the news). Jansen first heard of the film when it was pitched at Nyon’s Visions du Réel in 2021. The 72-minute Chilean documentary follows a group of women in prison, reconstructing their experience of motherhood through videos and photographs captured with their forbidden cell phones while serving their sentences. The picture offers a reflection on the severity of motherhood when faced with confinement and the loss of affections.

Jansen met with the film team at DOK Leipzig and Cannes Docs, before seeing 20 minutes of footage. Last December, he saw the first 60-minute cut and felt confident that the project could be successful. “Since then, I saw eight edits of the film, and I was constantly giving feedback. [...] This year, I started pitching it to festivals at the Berlinale. It’s something you can do as a sales agent if you board the project early on,” he pointed out.

Jansen stressed the importance of a festival strategy and the need to focus on one essential question: “How do we want this film to be perceived?” Answering this question determines the choice of where and when to premiere a film, the expectations around it and where to sell it.

He talked about how IDFA, for instance, is the right place for TV buyers, but less useful when it comes for theatrical distribution, where non-documentary-focused festivals like Sundance, Venice and the Berlinale serve as better launchpads. That is also the case for Malqueridas.

Next, Jansen spoke about the importance of working with capable publicists who can secure coverage of the film (especially if it’s screened in a sidebar or by smaller gatherings), create buzz early on (with a sales announcement, for example) and prepare a press kit that is as informative as possible. He also discouraged the use of the word “experimental,” especially when dealing with broadcasters, and underscored the fact that the biggest festival may not always be the best fit. 

Finally, Jansen touched upon how to measure the success or failure of a film within the festival circuit. According to his business, features should get at least 40 selections (and not fewer than 25, the number which indicates that “people are at least aware of your film”), and roughly 50-60 for shorts. The most successful features record 100 selections, whilst a couple of shorts manage to be selected by some 200 festivals.

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