Magazine article Screen International

French Sales Agents Discuss the Digital Single Market and France's Strict Media Chronology Laws

Magazine article Screen International

French Sales Agents Discuss the Digital Single Market and France's Strict Media Chronology Laws

Article excerpt

Screen International canvassed three highly respected figures in the French film sales scene - industry veteran and Celluloid Dreams founder Hengameh Panahi (top, middle); Gaumont's head of international co-production Cécile Gaget (top, left), who also still oversees international sales; and Daniela Elstner (top right) of independent stalwart Doc & Film International, who is also president of the local sales agent industry body ADEF - on their strategies for the present and future.

How do you adapt and build your business to survive?

Hengameh Panahi: More and more we're channelling our market experience to producers to ensure their projects fit the requirements of market. We collaborate with them on script, cast, editing and marketing, and sometimes contribute to financing. Producers are more open than before to such exchanges. This helps us ensure our buyers have access to good films.

Daniela Elstner: Alongside features, we've opened up our slate to a very specific type of TV series, kicking offwith Bruno Dumont's Li'l Quinquin sequel [Coincoin And The Extra-humans]. We've become skilled at doing separate deals across the different TV, VoD, SVoD and theatrical windows. The one territory/one deal way of selling is increasingly a thing of the past.

Cécile Gaget: Gaumont has built in-house teams covering the whole cinema chain: development financing and production, sales and distribution. This savoir-faire across the whole chain attracts producers and buyers alike. The fact we distribute our French titles ourselves is also reassuring to buyers, not least because it means a marketing campaign is in place. For a couple of years now, we've had a person dedicated to acting as an interface between our distribution team and the buyers. The global release of Ballerina was a perfect example of this strategy in action. We created a marketing campaign and then she kept them informed of every aspect of the film's release in France, from the artwork to how it was being scheduled in theatres, and even organised marketing meetings in Paris.

Do you have to produce and/or finance as well as sell in order to survive?

DE: In general, I think yes. When it comes to financing films at script stage, we have to take more and more risks upfront. But the earlier we are involved, the better we sell.

CG We've always worked closely with third-party producers but we're increasingly producing ourselves. Beyond the reassurance this gives buyers when we're involved in a project, the number of sales companies in France means there is fierce competition for the top projects. I think it's difficult to only be a seller these days.

HP: I've always financed, produced and sold, but this has been driven by a desire to create a one-stop shop when it made sense with specific projects, rather than piling up activities to survive.

What do your buyers need to do to continue to add value?

HP: Theatrical distribution is the key to their survival as distributors; this is precisely where they create proper value and are indispensable. They need to have access to their local media and exhibition partners to ensure the best release possible, which in turn adds value to the other rights. Look at the Amazon model - they use local top-notch distributors for their theatrical releases and do the rest themselves.

DE: It's not only up to our buyers to add value. It's also our duty to work with our clients so that films work as well as possible in each territory. Selling the film is just half the job; we also need to keep buyers informed, exchange marketing ideas, tell stories around the film and secure the promotional tours of our talents to add value.

Do you see your future slate in five to 10 years' time comprising features only, or will there be a greater mix of content formats?

HP: If and when it makes sense to me. For instance, I've not started a TV division while everyone is now into TV, but I've been following a great IP and once I sign it I'll produce it as a series as it's the only way to adapt it to screen. …

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