Magazine article Screen International

Alison Thompson: Sales Are Tougher Than Ever

Magazine article Screen International

Alison Thompson: Sales Are Tougher Than Ever

Article excerpt

During her keynote at Film London's Production Finance Market, Alison Thompson remarks on the glut of films made today, but also sees some bright spots like the arrival of Netflix.

British sales veteran Alison Thompson said market conditions for sellers are as tough now as they have ever been.

"As we all know, the situation now is just about as bad as it can be," Thompson said during her keynote speech at the Film London Production Finance Market. "The television business, which was frankly driving the boom in film for 20 years, suddenly came a cropper so that independent distributors were losing their TV output deals, which were essentially underpinning the business they were doing. That, combined with the change to the DVD market - we've had a double hit. It has been really, really challenging. In fact, we are working in the most difficult time I have worked in in my entire career."

Even so, Thompson pointed to causes for optimism. "I am encouraged by what is happening in the US in that there does seem to be very renewed competition in distribution," she said. "There are now some premiere VOD windows that are really beginning to work." She also pointed to the revival in some of the markets that had been struggling, among them Italy, and the arrival of new buyers like Netflix.

In a frank and wide-ranging discussion, chaired by PFM project manager Angus Finney, Thompson also covered a range of subjects including her own history in the industry

"I did experience sexism," She declined to give precise details of how this sexism manifested itself. However, at one point in her career, working with French partners, she said "I did feel that I was the little woman that no-one wanted to listen to."

Thompson came into the film business as a junior assistant at the Rank Organisation. She then moved to ITC/ATV and then to Channel 4, where she worked with Colin Leventhal. She then joined industry legend Carole Myer when Myer launched The Sales Company in 1987. The original partners in the venture were British Screen, Zenith Productions and Palace. When Palace left, BBC Films came on board as a producing partner.

In the late '80s and early '90s, the business was (Thompson suggested) "easier" for sellers. "You probably had a similar number of distributors working but with far fewer films to go around."

Carole Myer, Thompson revealed, was an executive who made even Harvey Weinstein "quake in his boots." She was famously brusque with distributors. "She would say 'Are you buying a movie from me? …

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