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Podcast – How to make Marketplace intel work for you

The free industry resource to help finance, exploit and make sure you’re getting the best deals on your projects.

Splice of Robert Connolly, Rakel Tansley and Tess Novak's headshots

Robert Connolly, Rakel Tansley, Tess Novak

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

Back in 2015, there was an initiative launched by the Sundance Institute and Cinereach called The Transparency Project that called on the screen industry to share their data to help other filmmakers fund, market and release their work.

But for the Australian screen industry, that kind of data already exists. It’s been collected through the Marketplace team (called various names over the decades), with intel dating back to 1989. And that data is freely available to Australian screen creatives, regardless of whether they have Screen Australia funding or not, to help make sure they are getting the best possible deals for their projects.

It’s information that filmmakers like Robert Connolly of The Dry has been using since the beginning of his career.

“Even if I go back to my first film The Boys,” Connolly says, adding that because it’s from an agency with large oversight, it’s market intel that no individual producer could ever have. “It’s kind of got this incredible department and opportunity to be a sounding board for where the marketplace is sitting, to have intel, to follow things up, to help be strategic about how we finance and then exploit our work…

“I think there’s a lot to be said for a market like Australia being very aware of its value in the world and all of us helping each other.”

The latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast also features Lingo Pictures General Manager Tess Novak, and Screen Australia’s Marketplace Manager Rakel Tansley, who gives an overview of how you can use this intel at any stage of the production process, from financing, to the shoot, to working with sales agents and getting your project out to the world.

“We look at all the sales agency agreements, the CAM (Collection Account Manager) agreements, distribution agreements, finance plans and basically we capture all domestic and international sales from film to TV – adults TV and kids TV,” Tansley says.

“Doing this allows us to see how each project is performing and the value that is placed on Australian content across various territories.”

Tansley notes that confidentiality with the data is key, so while the team will be able to weigh up potential deals with others that have gone ahead, they cannot disclose the names of those titles it’s being compared with.

Meanwhile Novak points to some of the specific uses for a company working in television, and trends they have been seeing in the sales of their projects.

“There’s definitely a push from Screen Australia to encourage us to get more money for our SVOD rights. I think in the past broadcasters have paid quite small figures for those rights and obviously the SVOD space is just getting… it’s larger and it’s more valuable,” Novak says.

“So encouraging us to push for more money for those rights has been something that we’ve discussed and it’s great to have that support actually, because Rakel saying ‘I’m seeing deals of people getting more money for these rights’, and it’s encouraging them to go and fight for them yourself.”

To contact Marketplace, email here or find out more about Marketplace here  

FURTHER READING

Read through/listen to these resources if you need a refresher on some industry jargon or how recoupment works:

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, SpotifyStitcher or Pocket Casts

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast, I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. So something a little bit different for this episode of the podcast. This week will be joined by Screen Australia's marketplace manager Rakel Tansley, followed by Lingo Pictures general manager Tess Novak and Arenamedia founder Robert Connolly, who you might also recognise from our episode on feature film The Dry, which he co-wrote, produced and directed. Together these guests will be discussing Marketplace, which is a resource here at Screen Australia that's available to anyone, whether you have received funding or not, to make sure that you're equipped with information to help get the best possible deals on your projects. Rakell kicks off the episode by explaining what Marketplace is and what it can mean for Australian and international screen creatives and then rub it and test. Give some examples of how this wealth of data has helped with the financing and sales of projects for Arenamedia and Lingo Pictures. As a heads up, we go over some terms like recoupment and territories in this episode, but there's a little bit of assumed knowledge. So if you're unfamiliar with terms like pre-sales, distributors or sales agents, you can have a refresher by listening to our previous podcast episodes on finance plans and Distribution 101, which we'll provide links to in the show notes. To get all the latest episodes of the Screen Australia podcast, you can subscribe through places like Spotify and iTunes, where you can leave a rating and review. If you have any feedback, send it to [email protected] . You can also subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter to keep up to date on the local screen industry. Now first up, here's Rakel Tansley from Screen Australia to talk about Marketplace. 

[00:01:55] Caris Bizzaca Rakel Tansley, welcome to Screen Australia podcast. 

[00:01:58] Rakel Tansley Thanks, Caris. 

[00:02:03] Caris Bizzaca And so, first of all, what is your role here at Screen Australia and what does that involve? 

[00:02:06] Rakel Tansley OK, my role is the marketplace manager at Screen Australia and we work with producers to make sure they getting their best commercial terms in the various agreements that we review. So when their projects release into the marketplace, either domestically or internationally, they're getting the best possible return for themselves and their investors. 

[00:02:25] Caris Bizzaca OK, so you've said the term marketplace and also the area that you work in is called marketplace. What is that area of Screen Australia?

[00:02:36] Rakel Tansley Marketplace sits with within the SPII group that we predominantly work- 

[00:02:40] Caris Bizzaca SPII is Strategic Policy and Industry Insights. 

[00:02:45] Rakel Tansley Yes, sorry. And if I do use acronyms, please, pull me up on it. 

[00:02:48] Caris Bizzaca Classic Screen Australia move.

[00:02:52] Rakel Tansley So we, we sit with SPII, but we also work predominantly with the content team. We work mainly with scripted drama and we look at all the sales agency agreements, the CAM agreements (which is the Collection Account Manager agreements), we look at the distribution agreements, finance plans and basically we capture all domestic and international sales for projects from film to TV (including) adult TV, kids TV. It basically, marketplace allows us to monitor the recoupment of projects. So when we receive distribution statements or any type of reporting, we review and monitor all of that. We look at their expenses, their commissions to ensure that all contractual obligations are being met, along with capturing all those sales for domestic and international. And doing this allows us to see how each project is performing and the value that's placed on Australian content across various territories. 

[00:03:49] Caris Bizzaca In a nutshell, are you able to explain what you mean by recoupment? 

[00:03:53] Rakel Tansley Yet recoupment is basically any type of gross proceeds that come back to the project. So if a sale is made and everyone has recouped their expenses and their commissions, it's money that's coming back in against the project that then gets paid out to various investors. 

[00:04:11] Caris Bizzaca So in terms of the data that you're talking about, why is that data important? 

[00:04:17] Rakel Tansley The data is really important. It allows us to see how much various territories are paying for projects, the type of genres and rights those territories are acquiring. Also, if the amount of data that we get, we get to see whether territories are buying multiple seasons, especially around TV or they're just buying one season. And it also then helps producers who have come in for one season and are wanting to look at financing for a second season, what type of sales they could do for that. It basically allows us to see what territories are taking option rights because we do see quite a few projects get remade into the territories' local language, and we also try and capture as much of the data as possible because it allows us over time to see the various trends, especially in rights and the value of these rights as we continue to see them changing over time and over various territories. 

[00:05:13] Caris Bizzaca And so when you're talking about trends and seeing things change over time, how far back does this data actually go? 

[00:05:20] Rakel Tansley Well, the data goes back to I think it's 1989. So when it was the Film Finance Corporation, we took all of that data and we migrated it when Screen Australia was established in 2008. 

[00:05:35] Caris Bizzaca In terms of looking back over the data, what's kind of an example of a trend that you might see? 

[00:05:42] Rakel Tansley It really depends. So we try and compare apples and apples. So if you were to come with me with a sale or a project and it was six eps, I would look at any TV that came up and what was the price point of per ep, based on six or what was the genre- 

[00:06:00] Caris Bizzaca So you couldn't compare a six episode TV series with sales for a TV series that was ten eps, because it's not apples to apples. 

[00:06:06] Rakel Tansley Well we could, but we'd have to break it down into a per ep rate. Which we have all that data, but like I can't compare in 1989 project with a current project because it's too old. But what we do see with trends is obviously rights are evolving. So before, back then there was no SVOD, but now there is, and there's AVOD and all these other rights that come in- 

[00:06:29] Caris Bizzaca And global rights of a project is more common now than it once was. 

[00:06:34] Rakel Tansley Yeah. But we then see particular territories that might only predominantly take pay TV. That's what they're after. So obviously with feature film, most people will take all rights, but then there's certain territories and secondary sales where they will just take specific rights that they then sell to distributors within their territory. 

[00:06:55] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of the data, so we've kind of talked about what it can show, but is there a role that producers play in ensuring that that data is collected and that it's accurate? 

[00:07:08] Rakel Tansley It's really important that the producers actively follow their projects, because once it's released or you've attended a sales market, sales information starts to flow through. And we understand that producers and production companies are really busy and most of the time they've moved on to the next project. But it's really important that everyone starts to understand their project and what it could do in the marketplace. And we constantly in our department, we talk about the long tail. So we do actually see projects that may have been financed years and years ago and may only start to see sales from that now. So it's really important that producers work closely with their sales agents and their distributors to ensure they're receiving the reports from them and also across what's happening with their project, what opportunities are available as we do see relicences, especially last year with some projects and in some territories, the original territory may have passed on the project, but then came back and went, you know what? With COVID, we are actually looking for content. So they're reacquiring 

[00:08:17] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of what producers then can do to make best use of this data for for themselves, what would you say to them? 

[00:08:28] Rakel Tansley Well, contact marketplace. And that way they can either ring us or email us and all the information will be on the website or just ring switch. And basically, if they've got a deal that they've been sent for approval, we can review that and compare it to what we've got in our system. Obviously, the biggest thing that we try and keep is confidentiality. So you can come with us with the sale. We will look at the information, but we can't disclose the project that we're comparing it with. So that's a really big thing. But we can look at the commission structure, the expenses, the hold back against rights, back-end splits, which we did do an article about that- 

[00:09:11] Caris Bizzaca We can link to that in the show notes as well. There'll be a lot of links. 

[00:09:13] Rakel Tansley And basically, you know, hold backs, the rights, what we talked about before per episode, and remake rights. We're starting to see a lot more territories take up option to remake it into their local language. So all of this data that we capture is available. So they just need to ring us and we can then compare this information. And also, another big thing that we do see a lot of is producers who are starting to get their finances together for their new project. And they may be looking at pre-sales. And so they want to compare what type of distribution guarantees or advances that they can get to go into their finance plan. So just ring, email, and we will assist wherever we can. 

[00:09:56] Caris Bizzaca So it's like you saying before, it's just so producers can get the best possible deal and know kind of what they're being offered is how it matches up against what other people have done in the past. 

[00:10:08] Rakel Tansley Because basically, it even comes down to a particular territory or a particular distributor might have a 10-year licence on the table. But we know from comparing that distributor against other deals that they may only be taking six years normally. And, you know, it's more beneficial to have a shorter licence period than what it is to have a longer one. So we look at everything, we look at the expenses, the commissions, the licence periods, you know, what rights they're taking, what those back-end splits are. And we just try and compare everything, because ultimately we are here to assist the producer in ensuring they're getting the best possible commercial terms. 

[00:10:48] Caris Bizzaca And so you mentioned how some producers are coming in during that kind of presale period. So do you find that producers can come to marketplace either, you know, before they finance their projects or then after. 

[00:11:04] Rakel Tansley Either. And also, you don't have to be a producer that's received Screen Australia funding. You know, the resource is available to the industry. So you can come to us, you know, whether it's before, or it's after, during. You know, a lot of times you could be during production and your sales agent is at market while you're shooting, so they might be having sales approvals that come through. And of course, if it is Screen Australia funded, then the major territory approvals come to Screen Australia as well. So sometimes we can carry some of that workload and we can be approving things while the producer is on production. 

[00:11:39] Caris Bizzaca And just a little quick one, another term to ask you about: for anyone that's not aware when you say 'territories', what's what's an example of a territory? 

[00:11:49] Rakel Tansley France, Germany, North America, China, Japan, Spain, you name it. That's a territory. So I said North America, which technically is a region because it's a combination of America and Canada, but when we say territories, we're looking at individual territories. So Japan, China- 

[00:12:08] Caris Bizzaca But you can't say say country because sometimes it can be something that is a bit more encompassing and include a couple of countries. 

[00:12:16] Rakel Tansley Yeah. And a lot of distributors might only acquire certain territories because you might already have someone who's acquired other territories. So yeah, it gets broken down into territories and not countries because obviously Europe, you know. Yeah, it's pretty big. 

[00:12:32] Caris Bizzaca Yeah. Just a couple there. And so you mentioned how you don't need to be from a Screen Australia funded title to be a producer contacting marketplace. In terms of the data that you have, is it only Screen Australia funded titles that you track though? 

[00:12:54] Rakel Tansley It is. Yeah. Basically we mainly only actively look after projects where Screen Australia has an equity share because obviously we give equity investment and grants. However, when it comes  to the sales information and collecting that we do work closely with producers who've received grant funding as well, because the more data we collect and more producers who assist us in providing us with that data, the more we can service industry. 

[00:13:21] Caris Bizzaca And just to clarify, grant funding is anything that's below- 

[00:13:25] Rakel Tansley Under $500,000. 

[00:13:26] Caris Bizzaca And do you track all formats? So does that include online as well? 

[00:13:32] Rakel Tansley We do. But however, normally online and documentary predominantly receive grant funding, which is under the $500,000 threshold. So we don't actively chase those ones. 

[00:13:45] Caris Bizzaca And so what would be say three examples of questions that you might be asked by a producer? 

[00:13:54] Rakel Tansley OK, there's a few, and it's all great, but predominantly would be sales, approval of sales and looking at commercial terms, that would be our top tiered question. The second one would be when producers are coming in for finance or even not for Screen Australia finance, but for getting their own finance together. And they might send us sales estimates, which is basically something your distributor [will do, it] will be a per ep basis for TV or will be a whole project buyout for film. And we can look at what they're estimating that they can sell within a territory. And then we compare that with what we're actually seeing sold into those territories because those sales estimates are then used for their funding. 

[00:14:47] Caris Bizzaca This is all this is all kind of when you're putting together your finance plan- 

[00:14:50] Rakel Tansley When you're putting together your finance plan. And the third question would be, which is fantastic, we also get a lot of sales agents and mainly international distributors who contact us to see, you know, we had one just the other day where we had an international distributor who's based in the UK who contacted us and said, 'hey, can you tell us who within North America you're dealing with or who's acquiring TV and film for distribution and broadcast'? And obviously, we don't give them the project titles, but we can give them a list of names of distributors who have acquired rights. And then what they do is then they go away with that list and they work out who they've got relationships with and or who they don't because they then know, hey, these guys are acquiring Australian content, so they might be interested in what we have in our slate. 

[00:15:42] Caris Bizzaca OK, so it's not only Australian producers, Australian companies that are contacting you. 

[00:15:48] Rakel Tansley No, a lot of international, and the great thing with COVID is we probably found that a lot of sales agents were more collaborative than they've ever been because everyone was in the same boat. So they wanted to see who was buying, who was acquiring. Did we obviously see changes in rights, changes in reductions of licence fees or MGs - minimum guarantees. And we were able to share that kind of information. 

[00:16:17] Caris Bizzaca And so, you know, you mentioned COVID - with a lot of people at home and especially in 2020, demanding content on their screens. Has that seen a pick up in terms of the sales of Australian content? 

[00:16:32] Rakel Tansley Yeah, last year was really interesting. We basically, the marketplace team did a breakdown and we monitored every single month because we wanted to see what was happening because we'd never seen anything like it before. Between March and December last year, we had 48 Screen Australia funded feature films and 114 TV dramas that sold internationally, and when comparing that to 2019, it was an increase of 40 percent in sales. 

[00:17:01] Caris Bizzaca Oh wow. Across those two...?

[00:17:01] Rakel Tansley Across that was just mainly scripted drama. 

[00:17:06] Caris Bizzaca And if we're looking then at the biggest titles of that 2020 calendar year in terms of sales, do any jump out in particular? 

[00:17:16] Rakel Tansley Yes. But due to confidentiality. 

[00:17:21] Caris Bizzaca Ohhhhhh. 

[00:17:22] Rakel Tansley Sorry. Can't share. I can't disclose the biggest projects that did sell, though we did see... I guess the great thing about COVID is that we did see projects that received funding many, many years ago with our oldest title that received funding in 1989, resell during the COVID time. So that was great. And when you think about it, those particular projects were selling to like SVOD platforms, and those platforms never existed back then. So that was great. And I guess to break it down, and having that long tail, I guess the top three territories is - because I can't talk about projects, I can talk about territories - the top three territories for film last year was the UK, North America - which is a region but however - Spain and for TV it was the US, UK and South Africa. 

[00:18:21] Caris Bizzaca OK, and so just in terms of advice for anyone listening, do you have any key pieces of advice, whether they're producers working in the industry in a different role? Any thoughts? 

[00:18:34] Rakel Tansley Yeah. Basically just make sure you seek advice, work with us, work with your distributors, work with your sales agents to ensure that all your options are being explored for your project. Stay engaged with your projects, ask questions, get reports, because ultimately it's about finding your audience in the marketplace, not just for your current project, but for all future projects. 

[00:19:00] Caris Bizzaca That was Rakel Tansley, Manager of Marketplace at Screen Australia. Now to hear from two producers who often utilise this marketplace data. First is Tess Novak, the general manager at Lingo Pictures, which is the production company behind television projects such as Lambs of God and most recently, The Secrets She Keeps the Network 10 series, which began airing in prime time on BBC One in 2020. Here's Tess talking through her role at Lingo Pictures. 

[00:19:30] Tess Novak So I'm the general manager at Lingo Pictures and my role is a varied one. So on one side, I'm overseeing the general running of the business and then on the other side I'm working more specifically on project-based work. So I'm kind of across all of our shows that we have on our slate in some way. It's kind of more heavily weighted in the development stage. But then I come on strong again at the end when we're delivering. And in addition to that, on some projects, I'm also part of the producing team. So an example of that is a show for the team that we did called The Secrets She Keeps. So I was part of the producing team on that show. And so for that specific show, I do start from the very start and I'm engaged throughout the entire process. But that's not often, I'll only have one of those shows on at once. So it's kind of three prongs, I guess, to my role at Lingo.

[00:20:33] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of Marketplace, which is what this podcast episode is about. How have you used Marketplace in the past? 

[00:20:44] Tess Novak Yeah, well, I feel like I speak to Rakel, the marketplace manager, quite regularly, actually. She receives quite a number of emails from me and we have fairly regular chats as well. So the main instance in which I'd get in touch with Rakel is usually when we are in the financing stage. So we're actually putting the finance plan together for a show. And it's when we're fielding offers from distributors and I reach out to her sometimes when I'm looking at those offers and I'm just wanting to make sure that they are relevant to the current market. I think it's becoming quite increasingly hard to put a finance plan together. And so as a result, we're often needing a much larger distribution advance. And when a company puts up a larger advance, they often want more in return, which is fair enough. So, they might be asking for some slightly unusual rights or some backend. And in that instance, I just want to make sure that it's fair for what they're putting in. So I'll reach out to Rakel and say, 'hey, have you seen anything like this in terms of this percentage of the backend perhaps' and then she'll say whether that's comparable to other deals that she's seeing. And basically it just gives us peace of mind that we're being treated fairly and that we're not accepting any offers that are putting us in a bad position. Also, at the very other end of the spectrum, when we have sales to major territories for our shows that are selling internationally, we reach out to Rakel because she's the Screen Australia point of contact for approving those deals, because Screen Australia does have approval over those major territories and she'll come back with notes if she thinks anything is not quite right in terms of how potentially the buyer is trying to brand the programme or a specific credit requirement or a number of things. And so we reach out to her at that stage as well. In terms of conversations I've had with her recently, there's definitely a push from Screen Australia to encourage us to get more money for our SVOD rights. I think in the past broadcasters have paid quite small figures for those rights and obviously the SVOD space is just getting increasingly more, you know, it's larger and it's more valuable. So encouraging us to push for more money for those rights has been something that we've discussed. And it's great to have that support, actually, because Rakel's saying 'I'm seeing deals with people getting more money for these rights' and it's encouraging then to go in and fight for those yourself. 

[00:23:21] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, OK. Have you seen any kind of trends, like you said, you know, with SVOD players and things like that, comparatively to a few years ago? You know are there more kind of sales popping up for streamer or those kind of things? 

[00:23:36] Tess Novak Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there's so many streamers out there at the moment. I have one million subscriptions. But no, we definitely saw big ticket sales to pure SVODS in the last couple of years for some of our shows. And even sales to SVODs that were launching. So Lambs of God sold to BritBox and it was one of the main shows that launched the platform. So that was quite strange to be selling to a platform that you can't tangibly see when you're making that deal, not kind of knowing how their interface is going to look, how it's going to be taken up by subscribers. I mean, it's done well. It's now coming to Australia. But yeah there's definitely been more. We've had a couple of large sales to Sundance now as well - another SVOD. I guess what I'm saying is probably in the past, your really large dollar figure sales have been to traditional networks. But now there are those streamers that are putting in really big bucks for the projects. 

[00:24:43] Caris Bizzaca And so if you had any advice for any Australian producers out there who maybe haven't used this kind of data before, yeah, what would you say? What kind of advice would you give them?

[00:24:59] Tess Novak I'd just say just absolutely reach out and get in touch if you're looking at a deal that you haven't seen before, there's terms that you're not familiar with or, you know, they're asking for more than a previous distributor has asked for. I would just reach out to Rakel. She's super personable and very prompt at replying as well. You can just ask it in a conversational way. She'll often give you a call if you want to talk things through. It's a really easy, easy process. It's not like you have to submit a form and go through this formal process to actually engage with marketplace. It's really accessible. 

[00:25:41] Caris Bizzaca That again, was Tess Novak, the general manager at Lingo Pictures. Next, we'll hear from Robert Connolly, the writer, director and producer whose most recent film, The Dry, went on to earn more than 20 million at the Australian box office. Robert has just wrapped production on his next feature, the Tim Winton adaptation Blueback, which he references during the chat. But here he is first giving a bit of background about production company Arenamedia, of which he's the founder and director of.

[00:26:11] Robert Connolly Arenamedia, is primarily a feature film production company - we have made television and we're doing feature docs as well - but it brings together a really fantastic bunch of kind of established and emerging people. It came out of a long standing relationship with Liz Kearney after we worked together on The Turning and then Paper Planes. Robert Patterson, who's come to us from ABC Commercial and has brought a massive amount to the business, and also James Grandison in Western Australia, but lots of emerging producers too like Kate Laurie and Chloe Brugale. It's kind of a, I don't like the word 'collective', but we're kind of like a ragtag bunch who under this corporate umbrella make the kind of stuff that we love. 

[00:26:59] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, OK. And so your role within that, how would you describe it? 

[00:27:04] Robert Connolly I think we kind of mix up the stuff. So, you know, we're all at different points of our career. So I guess I drive some of the bigger films that I'm now directing. But at the same time as kind of executive producing or mentoring or helping with some of the bolder emerging work. I mean, it's one of the things that keeps us on our toes is really this commitment to the future of our screen industries and to diversity and the risk-taking that's required to do that. So I think my role kind of moves between going off and directing and writing a film every couple of years. And then when I'm not doing that kind of helping oversee a bunch of other stuff that's been made by an amazing group of people. Of course, there's other really experienced producers like Liz who are doing their own work, which I help on if she needs me. But she's absolutely incredible producer in her own right. 

[00:27:56] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of marketplace at Screen Australia, how did you kind of first come across Marketplace and utilise it? 

[00:28:05] Robert Connolly Well, I've been using the marketplace intel and help right throughout my career. Even if I go back to my first film The Boys with the Australian Film Commission and then many of my other films with the Film Finance Corporation and now with Screen Australia, it's kind of got this incredible department and like a kind of opportunity to be a sounding board for where the marketplace is sitting, to have Intel to follow things up, to help be strategic about how we finance and then exploit our work. You know, so I guess, you know, the tricky thing is always as a producer, that you're only ever working on your own work. And I remember I think it was the Sundance Institute for a while, had a project called the Transparency Project. And their whole idea was, what if we were all transparent? What if we just shared information with each other about what territories are selling for and what you can expect and without ever giving the specific details, just helped each other out. And I think there's a lot to be said for a market like Australia being very aware of its value in the world and all of us helping each other. And I think that's been a wonderful thing that Screen Australia has been able to help with. 

[00:29:17] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, OK. And so in terms of the way that you would use marketplace, would it typically be in that financing stage of a production or later on in the production's life? 

[00:29:28] Robert Connolly I think it's all through it, actually. Definitely later on, you know, when you have a film completed and then you're working out how to sell it and exploit it, or in the case of our current film, which is pre-selling really well, you know, talking about what the market expectation is. And Screen Australia's always had a massive amount of research and intel about where the world's at and where markets are emerging and where innovative opportunities might arise. So, no, I think definitely down the track. I mean, early on, I've always found Screen Australia very helpful when you're financing the film, too, because, you know, they're very aware of what the opportunities are that are becoming available or what the value should be. But that's the trick here. And I think the further exploitation of the film - the taking the film to the world and knowing the value of it and getting the best value for it is something that, Screen Australia has really being critical in helping us navigate. 

[00:30:28] Caris Bizzaca And so just as a kind of, you know, to kind of paint a picture of how it might work, so is it in the financing stage or in the stage where you're getting pre-sales or sales coming through, you're calling up marketplace to try and get an idea of how that deal might look compared to other deals. Is that correct? 

[00:30:49] Robert Connolly Yeah, it's also getting a sense of the trying to value your work, you know, like to try to value what you've created in terms of the international potential of it and not really being able to value your work in the bubble of your own experience. It's always been a trick for Australian cinema, particularly to know how to value ourselves in a current market with no real comparables. You know, there's always been this sense of, well, cinema is just about one film in every blue moon comes out and it's a success and all the others don't work. And that's not what we're finding. What we're finding is that they all can be successful to a point if you're careful and realistic and if you work with the right partners and if you're willing to accept the commercial value of your work and with some expertise and help. And obviously, you know, Screen Australia has got a big overview over many years of a massive big sample of films and can look at things in a more holistic way than a smaller independent company like ours can.

[00:31:58] Caris Bizzaca Do you mean in terms of like, say, there are a few feature films, but maybe the film that you're working on is of a specific genre or it's for a certain demographic, like a children's or family film or something like that, that you can get a better gauge of how it suits internationally? Is that would you mean? 

[00:32:16] Robert Connolly Yeah, that's right. And the more collective knowledge gets around those kind of markets, so you can kind of discuss with Screen Australia a specific sales company. You know, are they a good sales company for this type of film and, you know, and how is that track record kind of helped? Or how is the market responding to a particular type of cinema coming out of Australia? I mean, it's tricky because, I've always felt that in creative endeavours you need to be bold and ahead of the curve. So, it's like they say about economic theory, you know, that it's like driving a car and the only thing you can see is out of the rear-view mirror, and you're meant to know how to steer forward. I do think that we have a slight danger in trying to predict the market that has certainly proven that bold, innovative ideas do really well that come out of nowhere. So Paper Planes, for example, for our company would be one such example. When Australia hadn't really done Australian children's films for a long time and there was a perception that they couldn't be done - they just couldn't be done, that the market was saturated with international fare. And then, of course, that opened up a market. And now we see Australian children's films in our cinemas more frequently. So the intel is helpful, but I've always found that you have to be pretty philosophical about trying to predict the future in a market that rewards bold and adventurous decision making. And I think we've seen that, I mean it goes back early in my career. I remember Strictly Ballroom and I think the head of the FFC at the time said that the film was a disaster and wouldn't sell anywhere in the world, you know, and we know that it's the age old thing that everyone wants to be the first person to do something second. I think having economic information to predict the future is something you have to use carefully. But it's very, very valuable. It's very, very valuable. And also valuable in terms of specific markets. You know, Screen Australia has specific markets, like it can talk to me about, well, this distributor in France has offered this amount of money and share information about that specific territory which can be very helpful, for example. It's an incredibly complicated jigsaw puzzle, putting together the international life of a film in a creative endeavour where risk and adventure is always rewarded at the extreme when work is excellent and sublime, so it's really tricky because you're kind of looking to mitigate risk when you're financing a film, but you know that that film needs to take a big risk to be truly successful. 

[00:35:09] Caris Bizzaca Yeah. TO have the payoff.

[00:35:10] Robert Connolly Yeah, that's right. So so you've got to navigate those two things. 

[00:35:15] Caris Bizzaca And in terms of any advice that you might have for, say, producers or people in the Australian industry who possibly aren't aware of Marketplace as a resource to use, do you have any advice for them? 

[00:35:31] Robert Connolly Oh, you should make sure that you have very, very close relationship with, you know, the team. And I mean, I talked through a lot of specific things in my last film with Rakel and, you know, going through and trying to trying to understand it's possibility and the potential of films. And, you know, like I would just encourage any filmmaker to, and any producer to kind of own it as part of what it is to be a producer. You know, there's also a kind of view some people have that you'll just make a film and that it's going to be just so amazing that the world will just love it. So somewhere between that, which is a somewhat naive and probably an unjustifiable approach now in these economic times. But at the other extreme, you've got projects that are made for a model with very conservative ambition and no risk at all. And so I think navigating somewhere between the two, you know, I would encourage all producers to make make use of all the market intel that Screen Australia can offer, because after all, we're trying we're trying to find a path to audience for our films around the world. And it's you know, it's a tricky one to navigate because, you know, every blue moon Netflix or Amazon will come in over the top and pay a fortune and just buy out a film. But for all the other films that are bought out in such a way, they then need to work in a more complex way to sell their film to a real jigsaw puzzle of distributors around the world. And personally, I find that really, really exciting. I've always loved seeing the poster come in from Turkey for The Bank or flying to Rome for the release of The Bank and travelling through Italy with that film. Like for me, I love that. And I'm still very hopeful that distributors in each territory - you know, much like the great distributors we've got here in Australia distributing cinema - the distributors in each territory know their territory and can be wonderful partners for you releasing a film. But Screen Australia again can be very helpful because of the collection of films that have been made with Screen Australia investment have have a market intel that no individual producer could ever have. 

[00:37:47] Caris Bizzaca Oh, fantastic. Well, we'll leave it there unless there's anything else you wanted to add? 

[00:37:52] Robert Connolly No, no, it's great. I mean, it's an ever changing landscape. I guess I just kind of always feel these conversations are good to kind of wrap up with the spirit of a necessary innovation that we have to have to look to the future. You know, if I know anything over the 25 years since I made my first film, the industry has never been set in stone. It's never been one thing forever. Like people have thought that. It's like people think the future's all just streaming now. Well, that's a mistake, you know, and then The Dry comes along and it's massive in cinemas and it opens in America soon. But the changing landscape means that we all have to be on our toes and as innovative as possible. And I think knowing as much as you can about the market and everything is fantastic and then having that little twinkle in your eye so that you look to the future with a spirit of innovation is, in any creative endeavour, I reckon is critical. 

[00:38:51] Caris Bizzaca That was Robert Connolly from Arenamedia and a big thanks to him and to Tess Novak from Lingo Pictures as well as Screen Australia Marketplace Manager Rakel Tansley for joining us on this episode of the podcast. If you want to get in touch with the Marketplace Team, email [email protected] . For more podcast episodes, subscribe to the podcast through iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter for the latest updates from the local industry. Thanks for listening.