Our International Sales Agent (ISA) of the Day coverage resumed for this year's Cannes Film Festival. We feature successful, upcoming, innovative and trailblazing agents from around the world (during and after the festival) and cover the latest trends in sales and distribution. Beyond the numbers and deals, this segment will also share inspirational and unique stories of how these individuals have evolved and paved their way in the industry, and what they envision for the new waves in global cinema.   

Picture Tree Films is an international sales and production company based in Berlin, and was created by Andreas Rothbauer and Alex Schulman in 2013. It had its first market presentations at Berlinale, as well as Cannes 2014. The years of experience in the film business and resourcefulness of this duo has enabled this relatively new company to ignite with full power, including numerous films launching with international releases and festival premiers, including Metal Head (US release by CINELICIOUS PICS), Mary Queen of Scots (US release by MOUSETRAP) , Victor "Young" Perez (US release SYNKRONIZED), West (US release MAIN STREET FILMS) and the German blockbuster Fack Ju Goehte (Suck Me Shakespeer), which grossed 80 Million dollars at the German box office alone and will see its first international release in France, Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States. and South Korea this fall.

Andreas Rothbauer, Managing Director of Picture Tree Films
Andreas Rothbauer, Managing Director of Picture Tree Films

Andreas Rothbauer shares Picture Tree's success, his experience, and his take on the transition and evolution of functionality in the industry.

Please share an overview of Picture Tree. 

Picture Tree Films started over a year ago, and it's an integrated model of both production and sales. We've been developing our sales operation over the last 14 months, while at the same time allocating coproduction projects - our goal is two per year, and we primarily focus on English language projects, with countries like Canada, South Africa and Australia/New Zealand that fall under the respective coproduction treaty with Germany.

On the sales side, we do about 10-12 films per year. It's a mix of World Cinema and some German films with a crossover potential. With the coproduction projects that will also be sold by Picture Tree, we are also planning to complement our line-up with English-language films. In this respect, we're not restricted geographically.

My background is in sales and financing. I joined Beta Film (one of the biggest European television distributors and a former part of Kirch Media) in 2000 to build up their theatrical label Beta Cinema, and left to start Picture Tree in mid 2012.

Metal Head, from Picture Tree FIlms
Metal Head, from Picture Tree FIlms

Most of our films from the Berlin market will be released in the US, like West (to be released by Main Street Films), Metal Head, which will be released by Cinelicious (a post production house that has worked with great talents, including Richard Linklater - learn more at Deadline Hollywood) and Raven Banner in Canada. Mary Queen of Scots will premiere at the MouseTrap Festival this year, and Synkronized (a company which falls under Millennium in North America) has picked up Victor "Young" Perez.

Upcoming titles of PTI that will launch at this year’s summer and autumn film festivals include A Hitman's Solitude Before the Shot, Therapy For a Vampire, Chrieg - At War, Pause and Mammal. 

Where does your inspiration come from?

I grew up in a fairly small town, and after school when our parents were still at work, we would cruise around and hang out at the local cinema - the cinema was our babysitter. We befriended the older girls who worked there, and they let us watch as many films as we could. Film was a window into another world - geographically, culturally, but also psychologically and emotionally. It was eye opening to see people with similar troubles... as a kid, you think you're alone, and then suddenly things change when you see that other people have the same issues on the screen. Film can be healing in this way. 

I was a journalist, a critic, and a film researcher. Early on, I was trying to be a director, but I figured out that all the people around me in film school were way more talented than me.  I knew about the rest of it though - so I went on to find another way to be in this business.  

I found that it's important for me not just to be on the content or creative side, but also to understand how films mechanically come together.  It allows me to be in touch with both worlds, and it involves creativity as well. 

Fack Ju Goehte (Suck Me Shakespeer), from Picture Tree Films
Fack Ju Goehte (Suck Me Shakespeer), from Picture Tree Films

What are you noticing about the latest trends in the industry and what's on the horizon?

This business is in a transitional period, and, more and more, I see distributors becoming content creators and producers.  Smaller, more flexible units are starting to emerge, rather than the older, heavier business structures. I see more strategic alliances between companies without merging, and they're completely keeping their branding and functionality, which typically got lost in the big mergers of the past. It's about collaboration and smaller entities that need to have and retain their own specialized logic without having to compromise it because of corporate alliance.

Now is about being able to respond to all these new challenges, whether it's budgets, or new ways of distribution. Is it a film that goes theatrical everywhere, or does it have to go another route? Does it go straight to television or VOD, or will it be a day-and-date? Is it something that combines several different types of distribution? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves on regular basis.

Despite all the technological advances we're seeing in production and distribution, the physical experience of human interaction is necessary in film sales & distribution - there's nothing like looking each other in the eye and closing a deal, and this is why festivals and markets like Berlin, Cannes, TIFF or AFM will never disappear. They still fulfill an integral function, and it still comes down to this to make it happen.

Some people have criticized sales agents for trying to produce as well, and that the creative side of film is not their place. What's your take?

You have to make the right alliances with people. I don't think that a sales agent can't identify a good script, and there's no exclusivity for producers. We're all sellers in the film business. It's a big chain of selling, and it's how films get made. For us, it's like mixing the expertise of physical production with the expertise of financing and distribution with a fast moving and flexible business structure. From a content or creative point of view, I don't think that everybody can judge a script, but no one really has any exclusivity for judging it, better or worse. It’s mainly about people looking at it from a different angle with a different interest.

It is necessary that distribution and content creation come together, as integrated units, but every unit has to have its own logic. Otherwise, the whole decision-making process can become slower, and decisions can be compromised. The independent film business has become more competitive and fast paced, while the bottleneck of distribution has become tighter for various reasons. In that respect,  it's always better that you create alliances, but without interfering with the logic of the others. 

Learn more about the Picture Tree Films slate.

More About Picture Tree:

Picture Tree International GmbH was founded in December 2012 by Andreas Rothbauer and Alec Schulmann as an integrated world sales & production company with headquarters in Berlin. 

The core business of Picture Tree International is worldwide licensing of film rights and the coproduction of international feature films in an integrated business model. 

The company will handle an overall international sales line-up of up to eight films per year including two co-production projects. 

Next to in-house co-productions and projects from its strategic partners, Picture Tree will secure it's film portfolio by 3rd party acquisitions from independent production companies.