Film Independent’s annual orientation on European film festivals and markets, hosted by festival experts Peter Belsito (co-founder of Film Finders) and Kristen Figeroid (SVP of International Sales, Sierra Affinity), guided our members through the festival and market calendar, including CineMart, Berlin, Cannes and many more. They also provided insight on how to appeal to foreign buyers. Here are some highlights from the discussion:
The international independent film festival circuit begins in September at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). However, according to Peter Belsito, for filmmakers “it begins when your film or project is ready for entry into the marketplace.” Peter Belsito and Sydney Levine of IndieWire blog SydneysBuzz provided this international festival circuit breakdown:
5 Major Film Festivals:
1. Cannes Film Festival: May 15-26, 2013
2. Berlin International Film Festival: February, 2014
3. Toronto International Film Festival: September 5-15, 2013
4. Sundance Film Festival: January 6-26, 2014
5. The best one for you depending of timing, genre, trade attendance, etc.
4 International Premarkets:
1. Rotterdam’s CineMart: January 26-January 29, 2014
2. IFP No Borders International Co-Production Market: September, 2013
3. Busan Asian Film Market: October 7-10, 2013
4. Also: The San Sebastián International Film Festival, Toulouse Latin American Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, etc.
The film industry overseas has evolved drastically over the last decade and has become more and more discriminating. According to Kristen Figeroid, “most foreign companies have consolidated their territories and have become quite sophisticated. They want to know ‘what has this filmmaker produced before? Can I see it right away?’ It’s a tougher market these days.”
So what are foreign buyers not looking for? Unfortunately, “documentaries are the most difficult thing to sell. I actually sold Catfish, which was a groundbreaking documentary, but even that was tough to sell,” said Figeroid. Docs, which tend to be dialogue-heavy, are a hard sell domestically, but an even harder sell in other countries where English may not be the primary language.
On the other hand, “thrillers and action films work everywhere. They are easy to sell. Romantic comedies usually work everywhere when the comedy is more physical than verbal. Dramas are the most difficult narrative films to sell. If they do not have an exceptional director or cast, they have a hard time selling internationally,” said Figeroid.
“Festivals are important but they’re also a problem because you spend money and you don’t make a dime. These days, festivals are really just for marketing. Only for marketing,” said Belsito. The press and buzz a festival can help generate for your film can prove to be invaluable. It all depends on your marketing strategy and how skillfully you promote your project.
“Theatrical distribution is also problematic because it is pricey and often doesn’t bring much revenue.” Filmmakers must be realistic, strategic and economical when it comes to theatrical distribution. “However, the New York Times review is essential to selling your film, so playing in New York is very important in terms of the marketing of the film.” Do your research to find out what theatrical distribution model is right for your film before jumping into theatrical.
We already mentioned that thrillers and romantic comedies generally appeal to foreign buyers more than dramas and docs. Figeroid and Belsito also recommend:
Names: Research which stars are the most marketable internationally. If you can secure name talent that has both domestic and international marketability, you are putting your project in good standing with buyers.
Printed materials: A polished lookbook can help you drastically. When selling your film internationally, you must get an international sales agent who will license your film to distributors who will get your film to the target audience. How does one go about getting an International Sales Agent? Pitch your project and package it in the most attractive way possible.
Trailers: Figeroid recommends investing money into producing promos when it is appropriate for your project. To promote a film she was working on which starred Kate Hudson, Figeroid said “we shot Kate Hudson covered in blood and shooting guns over the course of one day and edited it with clips of films that the director was pulling inspiration from, and we were suddenly the talk of Berlin. Short films and promos are a very strong selling point for filmmakers internationally.”