For many years the second most needed element for any movie or project to be successful, outside of a Studio deal, was the Sales Agent.
There have been many theories and speculations on the process of getting a sales agent on board of a film or series or project. A lot of it was answered broadly the necessity of a finance plan, talent attachments, and a good script.
However, in today's world, which has ALL the power is the Territorial Distributor. Having an A-List sales agent means very little these days, especially now when Television and Film Markets, as well as major Festivals, are being scrapped due to this pandemic.
For this reason, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at the thinking process of major international distributors and the incredibly vital role they play in the survival of the Film and Television business. I have the privilege of representing 11 major THEATRICAL distributors in key international territories. As a result, I am the eyes and the ears of global trends and buying patterns that are constantly changing and becoming even more challenging.
Let me first debunk a myth about sales agents. Sales Agents do not finance a film, primarily. If they have a track record, they are likely to finance (partially) a film because they can rely upon a certain amount of territorial distributors to commit to any given project they are selling in a Market or Festival. For some sales agents, they even have output partnerships meaning that they have one preferred distributor they deal with on a specific territory that buys all their contents, sight unseen as long as it fits certain credentials.
If no buyer signs a licensing deal for any given film, the film unless bought out worldwide by a Studio or a Major Streaming platform is dead in the water.
The second myth I want to debunk for you is that sales projections mean NOTHING. They can be possibly an indicator of a hopeful performance of a film but almost every single time, these projections are given to a producer to pacify their equity investors and to convince a Producer to sign with XYZ Sales Agent.
The process of evaluation of a buyer is different according to Territory and Rights being acquired. But below are some of the most common questions that are being asked by a Buyer:
This is just a small segment of a very long process that goes through a buyer’s mind before pulling the trigger of signing a deal for any given film or project. Other elements are who reasonable or unreasonable asking prices are and of course the current release trends that change literally every 3 months. For that reason, if a film or project is not sold in major territories within the first six months of being in the marketplace, chances are it will not sell at all.
The Buyers aka Territorial distributors have been burned one time too many by overpaying for films or investing in projects that turned out poorly or never got off the ground. Having the finger in the pulse of the Buyers is even more important than securing a Sales Agent. At the same time, a Buyer interacts on relationships primarily so as a writer, filmmaker or producer, it is unlikely you will be able to form a true bond with a Buyer without the alliance of a Sales Agent or someone who can open those doors for you, who has the authority and the trust of the Buyer.
By the same token, when I am looking at the interests of my Buyer clients, I will also at times explore new alliances directly with producers who have a solid track record. As Sales Agents have the tendency to try to sell more than one picture at a time, pushing often for the acquisition for more than one project to get the project or film my clients really want, it has become almost acceptable to take a chance in acquiring directly from a producer or production company. In that case, much of the same points covered above are taken into consideration.
I firmly believe that despite the emergence In the power of global buyouts of a movie or project, there is nothing like the nurturing of a film that is being handled and released country by country, and seeing the joy in the faces of my clients, who buy truly because they love the cinematic experience of a film, when they have indeed chosen well and the film becomes a hit in their own country, regardless of US box office performance.
As a producer, I have never been so humbled as when I am working as a Buyer's rep, which is my constant and only source of inspiration to create and help see content made that will be enjoyed across cultures and borders.
I hope you will think of Buyers, not Sales Agents when you make your next film. They are the end of the delivery line and the assurance of your investors to break even and hope to profit.
Alexia Melocchi is a partner in LITTLE STUDIO FILMS and has had a successful career in the international marketplace, as both a sales agent and buyer’s rep for eleven territories, giving her diverse exposure to all types of films and functions in the entertainment industry. As producer and development and distribution consultant, she works on packaging films, securing co-productions, casting and arranging for the US and International Distribution of several projects of her clients using her expertise in international sales, international acquisitions, high-level relationships in Hollywood and a global film marketing approach.
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