Magazine article Variety

Full Sales Ahead

Magazine article Variety

Full Sales Ahead

Article excerpt

WHILE THE OVERSEAS market for French-language films is becoming increasingly competitive, Gaumont's international sales team is proving, market after market, that buyers are still game to venture off the beaten path to find gems.

"Our motto at Gaumont is 'Stay local to be international,' and we stand by it. Unless you're handling a franchise, the only factor that can help a movie cross borders today is not a cast but a good local story that people can relate to or a truly original concept," says Cecile Gaget, who was upped head of international sales in 2010 and brought in Yohann Comte, a cinéphile with an auteur-friendly sensibility and background in finance, as deputy head of sales.

Gaget and Comte were later joined by international sales manager Adeline Falampin, a dynamic, well-rounded and highly personable executive. Together they form a complementary team with experience ranging from arthouse shingles to bigger media groups.

Gaumont's international sales team has become, in many ways, the company's backbone. Not only is it generating more revenue than theatrical distribution - in 2013, it hit euro31.6 million ($43.8 million), but Gaget and Comte, a duo of thirtysomething workaholics with a creative streak, have managed to broaden its scope, elevate its international profile, and attract up-and-coming foreign directors and ambitious producers.

"We have the means of a big studio but we operate like an indie company," says Comte, pointing out that Gaumont CEO Sidonie Dumas has given them great freedom and flexibility to build a long-term strategy and allow them to bet on new talent, as well as invest in emerging distributors like Germany's Neue Visionen (with "Paulette") or Italy's Notorious (with "Belle and Sebastien").

"Paulette," a social comedy about a retiree living in the projects who becomes a drug dealer was 2012's top-grossing French-language film in Germany, where it scored $4.5 million and helped put Neue Visionen on the map. Meanwhile, "Belle and Sebastien," based on a children's series, was a big hit in Italy where it grossed $9.4 million.

"We're not the kind of sales agent who takes the money and runs. We're willing to work with backends on some deals and we take into account the profile and dedication of distributors," Falampin says.

When it handled "Intouchables," Gaumont worked with Spain's new A Contracorriente, and Germany's Senator Film, which at the time was struggling. The phenomenal success of the movie helped jump-start Senator and provided A Contracorriente with a stellar launchpad. The Spanish distrib now releases every major Gaumont movie.

"Gaumont's team has a sharp vision of the international market and has had the ability to adapt their editorial line to the needs of the business," says A Contracorriente's co-founder Adolfo Blanco.

Operating as an autonomous entity within the French major, Gaumont's international sales team has also recently opened up to third-party acquisitions, picking up smaller, edgier pics like first-timer Jonas Alexander Arnby's werewolf coming-of-age tale "When Animals Dream," which bows in Critics' Week.

"The sales team's R&D efforts are driving the company's growth," points out Jean-Baptiste Babin, co-founder of finance group Backup Media. "They're part of a powerful French group with a high-quality brand name and at the same time they've proven that they could get the necessary leeway to attract and help develop the careers of up-and-coming directors like Arnby."

I^st year, for the first time, Gaumont joined forces with Gallic indie Wild Bunch to co-produce, co-finance and co-sell Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives." It's now teaming with South Korea's giant CJ Entertainment to rep international sales on "The Target," the Korean remake of Fred Cavaye's "Point Blank," set to world preem in Cannes' Midnight section.

Gaget says her team was also looking to do more in Asia, seeking to pact with Thai, Japanese and South Korean partners on more interesting genre films. …

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