GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – CANNES WRAP-UP 2013!

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I hope your weekend was fun. Mine consisted of taking our daughters to San Diego to enjoy the zoo, Sea World, and seemingly endless hours in our friend’s pool while the sun drenched us. It was so beautifully relaxing, that I actually forgot about the 119,027 reasons for me to be stressed, which is exactly how it should be. Since the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Film Market are now history, I wanted to give all of you a wrap up of a) how things went and b) where things are going. So without further adieu, here’s what we learned from Cannes 2013:

Sales, Like the Rain, Were Steady
The one thing that I noticed about Cannes throughout the market, was that sales not only started early, but continued past the opening weekend, which is a sign that things are getting better. Usually, the best sales days are the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with Monday usually being pretty good. However, this year, sales still occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday and even Thursday – which had been unheard of over the last several years. While part of the reason for this is that some buyers opt to embark on Cannes after the first weekend, because flights and hotel rooms are cheaper, they’re still coming and exercising their checkbooks, which is a good thing.

Action Film Lose a Bit of Luster
While action films will always have a place in the international marketplace, the recent failure of several big budgeted action pictures has weakened the buyers’ appetite for such films. I’m not talking about the Iron Man 3’s of the world; I’m talking about the Jack Reacher’s. Clearly, testosterone driven stories with bombs and bullets aren’t performing in 2013. Thus, when the big budgets stumble, buyers are less interested in small-budget versions of the same thing.

Buyers Paying a Bit More Per Film For Fewer Films
The good news is buyers are paying a bit more for films in 2013, than they were in 2012 (or 2011, 2010, and 2009 for that matter). However, the not-so-good news is that fewer films are being purchased. Then again, that’s not all together bad news. All it means is that you’ve got to make your film more “bionic,” i.e. bigger, better, faster and stronger, in order to compete in the current marketplace.

Sales Companies Producing More In-House Projects
This trend started last year, but now it’s in full swing. Even my company is now packaging more feature films then we are selling completed films. Why? It’s simple arithmetic. More money + more control = more fun. The bottom line is, seasoned sales companies know exactly what their buyers want, and how much they are willing to pay for it. Thus, here’s how sales companies think: instead of dealing with 100 directors and 300 producers on indie films that were all completed without input from the sales company, why not just do-it-yourself and get involved from the ground-up, so they (the sales company) can guide sales from the get go. The result is that may sales companies are morphing into very well connected production companies that also handle international sales.

Sales Companies Repping Slightly Fewer Films
Since more sales companies are producing in-house, they are generally representing fewer films that they aren’t tied to producing. While you won’t see a sharp shift happen overnight, you will see a gradual change over the next few years. The main reason for this is because independent films are worth less today than they were worth in 2007. Secondly, the easiest way for sales companies can regain the income they had prior to the world financial crisis of 2008, is to have an ownership position in the films they represent. Thirdly, sales companies have to decide how much of their 60-hour workweek is dedicated to their in-house films, versus the films they represent. Trust me, in every single case, they will opt to spend at least 95% of their time on the projects they’re tied to produce, and the remaining 5% on the films they represent. While this doesn’t mean they don’t like the films they represent, it clearly done mean that they’ll spend 95% of their time on the projects that will earn them 95% of their income. Thus, if you want a seasoned sales company to spend a considerable amount of time on your film, bring them your script and collaborate with them to make your film.

Okay, friends. That concludes this, 161st edition of Going Bionic. I thank all of you once again for lending me your eyes, and I’d be honored to borrow them again next Tuesday. Until then, have a wonderful week! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on May 28, 2013 in Features, Going Bionic by
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