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THE FILM SALES BUSINESS: INSIDER INFORMATION

Sales agents give the low-down on what they want, the reasoning behind some of their recent Australian acquisitions, and more.

THE QUICK READ

It is challenging for sales agents to exactly express what films they’re looking to represent on the international stage. “Unique”, “authentic” and “distinctive” are among the descriptors used by five sales agents who do more business with Australia than most others. But there is also something more visceral at work: three referred to having passion for the proposed films they signed on for.

Being perceived as special and eliciting emotion is only getting to first base; then business considerations take over. Can the team deliver? Does the sales agent want to sign up for a years-long relationship with that particular producer? How much will it cost to acquire and champion the film? How much revenue can be squeezed out of it?

This examination of the international sales business is in three parts, with the first two the result of interviews with five sales agents. Part one starts with an explanation of why they were chosen over others. It then details their general attitudes to choosing films before narrowing the focus down to Australia. They provide the reasons they signed on for their most recent Australian pickups – Berlin Syndrome, Girl Asleep, Cargo, Backtrack, Teenage Kicks, Rabbit, Downriver, The Daughter, Jasper Jones and Lonely Girl – and their expectations of Australia as a film supplier. There is no doubt that Australia is regarded as a rich breeding ground for talented directors but not everything said is complimentary.

Part two starts with an explanation of what Screen Australia sees as the key elements in deals between producers and sales agents. The five sales agents then discuss market volatility, the components up for negotiation in a sales deal, and other matters. No-one is quite game to predict what lies ahead. New players are throwing their weight around but it’s uncertain who will end up on the ropes.

Big thanks to the sales agents who took part.

The third and final part provides aggregated data on the advances and presales attracted by the 94 Australian films that Screen Australia has supported in its lifetime. Unfortunately actual films can’t be named in this discussion because of the confidentiality written into most film contracts. Part three ends with some recommended reading.