GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – MIPTV 2011!

On October 12, 2010, my article titled, “Indie Film Trends From MIPCOM 2010,” discussed the MIPTV television market in Cannes, France, as being haven for independent filmmakers. Six months later, MIPTV is taking over Cannes this week from April 4-7. The October based MIPCOM, and the April based MIPTV are simply the most influential television sales markets in the world. They are twins; a tag-team if you will, run by the same organization and held at the same venue, which incidentally, is exactly where the Cannes Film Market (aka Marche Du Film) is held during the Cannes Film Festival in May.

MIPCOM and MIPTV are strategically placed six months apart in order to lasso the world’s finest content for international television buyers to consider. For those of you who are saying to yourself, “these markets don’t apply to me, because I made an independent feature film, not a TV show,” please consider the following excerpt from my “Indie Film Trends From MIPCOM 2010,” article:

TV Markets Are Better Homes For Independent Films
TV markets like MIPCOM are better homes for indie film sales, because the prices offered for TV sales are more in tune with what most indie films can wrangle – and that’s if they’re lucky enough to get an offer in the first place. Like film buyers, TV buyers will expect your film to have solid names. But, if it doesn’t, you still may have a chance to land a TV sale because your film may fit into an open slot that needs to be filled by various networks and cable outlets.

As MIPTV charges into gear this week, I thought it’d be a great time to give you an overview of this market, as well as to look into what new sales trends have emerged since my MIPCOM article in October.

MIPTV 2011 OVERVIEW
In addition to hosting thousands of qualified international television buyers, MIPTV offers an amazing array of collaborative opportunities, conferences and new media exhibits. Here are a few choice events that all independent filmmakers should be aware of:

Branded Entertainment Summit
Thanks to TiVo and related DVR’s, fewer and fewer viewers have to watch commercials. Most people just record whichever shows they want to watch, and then forward through the commercials when they view the program. That’s where “branded entertainment” comes in. Now advertisers want to be in the actual show/film, as opposed to being an advertiser around it. Thus, the Branded Entertainment Summit explores a myriad of opportunities on how filmmakers can exploit the new age of branded entertainment for their products.

Elevator Pitches With The World’s Greatest Brands
This segment of the Branded Entertainment Summit allows production companies to make brief pitches to representatives from the world’s biggest brand leaders. This means that the pitching hopefuls will have a few minutes, or a few seconds, to convince representatives from major brands to get intrinsically involved with their project. This is no easy feat, but if successful, the major brand will jumpstart the collaboration process with the production company immediately.

The Art Of The Deal: How Branded Entertainment Works
This panel is showcases how branded entertainment works, as told by it’s industry leaders. Since one of the biggest keys to success is to have a deep understanding of the playing field you’re competing on, attending, reading articles about, or watching video clips from panels like this one can tremendously benefit independent filmmakers as a way to find financing for their current and future projects.

Co-Production Initiative: Matchmaking Events
While “Matchmaking Events” may sound like a dating service, it’s actually a series of conferences designed to help filmmakers who have content that’s appropriate for certain parts of the world, to meet with networks, studios and production companies from specific territories. “Working With Latin America: Connecting and Dealing,” and “Working with Asia: Connecting and Dealing” are the two conferences offered.

The thing to remember here is that Latin America and Asia are “open for business,” and seeking co-production partnerships. So, even if you don’t attend these conferences, at least know where you can take future projects, if of course you deem those projects appropriate for the Latin America and Asia markets.

Content 360: Digital Creativity Festival
According to MIPTV, This innovative yet nerve-wrecking competitive stage experience “connects developers of future-defining creative concepts with the most influential audience in multi-platform content.” In other words, creative content presenters will find our rather quickly if their plan to innovate the development and delivery of creative content as we know it, has the wherewithal to work globally.

The good news is that new revolutionizing concepts can emerge quickly from the Content 360 Digital Creativity Festival. However, the bad news is that new revolutionizing concepts can be stolen just as quick. Thus, for those who are interested in engaging in this festival, or others like it in the future, make sure your concept is copyrighted, has a patent, or is at least “patent pending,” before you pitch it.

Trends Emerging From MIPTV 2011
The film/TV sales trends from MIPTV 2011 seems as though there might be a light (albeit a small one) at the end of the tunnel. Back in October, my MIPCOM article focused on morbid, end-of-the-world industry insights like a) distributors opting for bankruptcy and opening their company the following Monday under another name in order to avoid paying filmmakers what they’re due, b) The Euro losing value, making it less attractive for European buyers to acquire American product because they got used to buying American product on the cheap when the Euro was stronger, and c) even “well packaged films with stars” have lost a healthy portion of their value. However, six months later, the pendulum is swinging ever so slightly toward the positive end of the spectrum, showing signs of life for recovering international film and TV sales.

While it’s not time to pop open a few bottles of Cristal quite yet, here are a few positive signs of recovery:

Contract Term Lengths Are Getting Shorter
My company recently signed a few foreign territory distribution contracts for eight- year terms, which are significantly shorter than the 10, 12, and 15-year norms as early as two years ago. While there are still plenty of distributors who will demand 10-15 years on their contract, just know that “8” is the new “15,” so filmmakers should do a little demanding of their own and not agree to more than 8-10 years, unless they are being given a healthy advance payment.

Territory Prices and Back End Payments Are Creeping Back Up
Moderately sized territories like France are now paying more then they have in recent years for well-made independent films in sellable genres (sci-fi, action, thriller). In fact, vales for such films has risen from $8,000-$12,000 in 2010, to $35,000-$50,000 today. In addition, distributors are starting to offer back-end payments for DVD and V.O.D. sales. Of course, offering back-end payments doesn’t mean the sales thresholds needed to initiate those payments will be reached, nor does it guarantee the filmmaker will ever actually see the back-end payment even if it is actually due to them. However, having reputable international distributors even offer back-end payments in contracts are a step in the right direction.

The European Content Log Jam May Be Clearing
As I’ve stated in previous articles, European buyers overbought and stacked on American product like they were at a “fire sale,” when the Euro was a mighty currency in 2007. But, that was four years ago, and now most of Europe needs more programming. Thus, more buyers are actively looking for product to buy for 2011, not for 2012-2013.

MIPTV is an amazing sales, development and co-production market for television and small film product. While it may not capture attention like its bigger, more posh brother, the Cannes Film Festival, MIPTV has certainly captured the attention of every international television and small film content buyer on the planet. Simply put, the most successful fishermen have a knack for knowing where the fish are, and hence soon-to-be successful filmmakers should develop a knack for knowing where the buyers for their product are: MIPTV!

Thank you for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them again next week!




Posted on April 5, 2011 in Features, Going Bionic by
Buffer


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