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ISA of the Day: Michael Favelle of Odin's Eye Entertainment

Interviews
by Erin Grover
June 3, 2014 10:05 AM
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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.   

Odin's Eye is one of the few film sales and distribution companies based in Australia, and is highly active in the international markets. Founder Michael Favelle talks about his unexpected entry into film sales, his hybrid approach to distribution, and Scarygirl

, his company's biggest international co-production yet.

Canopy, from the Odin's Eye catalog

How did you start Odin's Eye?

I started Odin's Eye in 2006. My prior experience was working with Arclight Films, and Beyond Films. Strangely, I never had any interest or ambition to be in the film business, even though my father ran a video duplication factory when I was young. He'd bring home palettes of VHS tapes, and paid me to erase the tape (at one cent per tape!) with magnets so they could be used again.

I was a tennis coach for ten years, and I got my degree in public health and psychology. I unexpectedly fell into this business. No one really thinks that there's a job called being a sales agent, but my skills ended up being a good match because I had experience in post-production, video editing, graphic design and good inter-personal skills. I can apply all of these things in this business. The psychology degree comes in especially handy at times! 

It all started when a woman who I hired said she had an opportunity to start a production company, and we could make and sell our own films. She was going to run the TV department, and I was going to be in charge of film. I was ready for something new, so I made a snap decision and very quickly learned the value of due diligence. Long story short, within the period of seven or eight months, everyone involved fell away for different reasons: from the guy with the money, to the woman who initiated the venture. I was the only one left, and decided to see it through. I took about six or seven months, and formally launched the company in late 2007.

It wasn't the best time to start a sales company; it was the height of a hedge fund induced film glut, the global financial crisis was just around the corner, and sales prices were declining. There was an increase in piracy, and then came the collapse of the DVD. There's not many of us that got in it during that time that are still standing now. It's been an organic growth, which I'm quite proud of. We've had slightly better films for each market and festival.

 
Why should filmmakers work with Odin's Eye?

We pride ourselves on treating filmmakers well, and actually caring for the films that we work with.  We do the right thing by them, and don't just dump a film if it doesn't work at its first market. We even try to sell those films several years later if there's an opportunity. This is especially relevant now, when there are new opportunities on digital platforms.

What are you noticing with the current state of film distribution? 

We're looking at hybrid models of distribution. Prices are getting lower and lower, so when we can't get the deals we used to get, we'll directly release films to multiple markets at the same time, or sell to certain stable and regular territories (like Germany and Japan).

With our hybrid sales and distribution model, we try to capitalize on the existing market and festival buzz. We'll launch a film at a festival. We release it quickly after that, but it's important to plan ahead. I've noticed great films disappear after festivals, in a commercial sense, because by the time they're released, it's too late; the buzz is gone, and you can't recreate it. The days of launching films at festivals and watching the offers simply roll in are dwindling. You need a real game plan for monetization before a film launches.

In Bob We Trust, from the Odin's Eye catalog

Is Odin's Eye open to all genres?

Yes, but it's been getting harder and harder to find quality films that are saleable. We're fairly agnostic when it comes to genres. We do everything. Canopy, which we had at Toronto last year, is about as art house as you can get. There are only ten words of dialog in the whole film! We also have very straight genres: horror and supernatural thrillers. We're doing some larger budget animations. I'd like to think that the only things that we don't do are generic films. We like films that have an edge, with a strong concept, and standout in the marketplace. I don't like straight action films that are all action and no story. That said, like everyone, sometimes you don't know what you're looking for until you find it.

Why do you think horror is so popular?

Many people genuinely do like to be scared, and to tap into their own primal fear. Look at Latin America. The region has a long history of storytelling around horror stories, and that has spread into the US market. We don't have that in Australia; horror films don't work there as well as in they do in the states. It’s definitely a cultural thing, and the kind of stories that people are raised on. I also think people like to get a reaction, and anything that gives someone a visceral response is a good thing. Good cinema should move you in one way or another - regardless of the genre - but it's hard to pull off.

Why did you choose Odin's Eye as your company name?

In Nordic mythology, Odin is the god of gods and father of Thor, but represented many different things to many different people. Odin would give inspiration to worthy poets and writers. He was a shape shifter - always changing and evolving - and he gave up one of his eyes for wisdom and foresight. We as a company aspire to all of these qualities.

Are there any upcoming projects that you're excited for?

We're very excited about Scarygirl, a $22 million dollar animated feature based on a graphic novel of the same name. It's a tri-party co-production, and the biggest film that we've tackled so far. It's very unique. Visually speaking, there's nothing quite like it, but it still conforms to the hero's journey narrative. We did a soft launch at Berlin, and will formally announce our co-production partners very soon. Moving forward, as with Scarygirl, we will take a far more active role in the packaging of projects and the structuring of finance. It’s certainly more challenging (and much more work!) but it’s more rewarding to be a genuine part of a production team, instead of just being the ‘sales guys’.

Learn more about Odin's Eye film catalog here.

More about Odin's Eye: 

Established in 2006, by Michael Favelle, Odin's Eye Entertainment (OEE) is a vertically integrated Production, Distribution and International Sales Agency that specializes in working with both emerging and established filmmakers across a wide variety of genres.

As a Sales Agency, OEE represents Feature Film and Television content worldwide hosting its own sales booth at every major festival including, but not limited to, CANNES, AFM, MIPCOM, BERLIN & FILMART.

As a Film and Television Production Company, newly created Odin’s Eye Productions, creates original content from within as well as acquiring, developing and producing third party product for international sale.

In 2012, OEE inked a deal with Warner Bros. Digital Distribution (WBDD) that will see WBDD take on select OEE titles for electronic sell-through and Cable/VOD in North America. Additionally OEE has an output distribution deal with Pinnacle Films for ancillary distribution in Australia/New Zealand.

In early 2013, with the start up of OEE’s Los Angeles operations, OEE appointed ex-First Look/WB/Disney, Ildi Toth Davy as Snr VP International Sales & Acquisitions.

 

 

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