Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hofer Filmtage 2009 Day 2 Women Filmmakers

More of the trade came in Thursday night including Rainer Kölmel who sold Kinowelt to Pathe just before the latest market crash and who has produced The Two Lives of Daniel Shore, playing here. Daniel Gluckau is still acquiring films for Kinowelt and has just had a son born. Former Kinowelt sales man Stlios Ziannis has created his own international sales agency Aktis Film whose film 13 Semester is premiering here and was produced by 20th Century Fox Germany signaling their possibly renewed interest in German production. This film, depicting life in college is a new subject for German film. Aktis also intends to enter coproductions as well. Also attending are Rudy Tjio of Universum UFA who will also be attending AFM, Antonio Exacoustos of ARRI Media Worldsales, Wigbert Moschall of mdc int., Prokino's Ira von Gienanth, MFA's Christian Meinke

Women in film are receiving some press these days, from an article discussing possible Oscar Best Director award to women, IndieWire's Celluloid Ceiling article at the London Film Festival, an earlier blog of mine, Toronto notes I made about the notable number of films made by women (around 51). And now, reviewing the Hof roster, of 39 shorts, 13 are by women and of 56 features, 14 are by women:

Nothing Personal, Urszula Antoniak, Polish born, German educated. Film is in English.
Porgy & Me, Susanna Boehm, German. Film is in English
Urville, Angela Christlieb, (Cinemania). German. Film is in French
The Song of Two Horses, Byambasuren Davaa. Mongolian.
One out of Eight, Sabine Derflinger. German
Queen of Hearts, Valerie Donzelli. French
Lourdes, Jessica Hausner. French
Wenn Die Welt Uns Gehoert, Judith Keil, Antje Kruska. German
Men on the Bridge, Asli Ozge, Turkish (The Turkish-German films are creating the most buzz among Germans these days)
Mazel Tov, Mischka Popp, German (There is usually 1 but this year are 2 Jewish films (also Such a Schlmazzel which was sold out)
Der innere Krieg , Astrid Schult, German
Hughezovka, Viola Stephan, German
Geburt, Silvia Haselbeck
Schwarz auf Weis, Susanne Jaeger

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hof Film Festival, Germany

The 43rd HOF Film Festival is in a tiny town in Franken, Bavaria. It's the hometown of festival founder Heinz Badewitz who entered the film world in the 60s side by side with Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders and other new wave German filmmakers. The traditional soccer game between the filmmakers and the townies in the beautiful fall setting is one of the high points of the festival. Other notable reasons for coming to this festival is that every German film industryite including bankers and other festival progammers, distributors, sales agents and the press is here schmoozing, drinking beer, eating the best sausages in the world and watching films up the youngest up-and-comingest German filmmakers in a totally relaxed atmosphere.

Opening night film was Parkour, the debut drama by Marc Rensing about a young man and his group of friends in an unnamed industrial town in Germany. Sundance's Sin Nombre produce by Mexico's Canana Films will have its German premiere here, hosted by its distributor Prokino Filmverleih who is also premiering Keep Surfing by producer Tobias N. Siebert who was nominated for an Oscar for The Story of the Weeping Camel.

Heinz felt the docs were especially good this year and a large number have been programmed. The one I have been waiting to see since this summer when I was speaking to the producer Uwe Dierks (Rhythm IsIt!) about its US potential is Porgy & Me by Susanna Boehm. The African American singers of the New York Harlem Theatre have been touring Gershwin's Porgy and Bess for decades all over the world. I would guess this is on the road to Sundance. On another African diaspora subject is the doc Gunter Wallraff: Schwarz Auf Weiss in which a black immigrant travels through Germany testing the friendlines of the locals who never know that he is Gunther Wallraff, the famous under cover journalist.

This film, like many others this year, is directed by a woman, Susanne Jaeger. More on that subject in the coming days.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Upcoming blogs

Here is my tentative travel schedule, starting today!

Oct 25-Nov 4 Germany (HOF Film Festival)
Nov 4 – 11 AFM (Santa Monica)
Nov 11 -14 little trip to Big Sur
Nov 16 -22 Thessaloniki Film Festival
Nov. 26 – Dec. 3 Ventana Sur/ Buenos Aires
Dec. 3 – 13 Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano

Jan 21 - 31 Sundance Jan 21 - 31
Jan 31 – Feb 7 Rotterdam Cinemart
Feb 11 – 21 Berlin Film Festival
Mar 12 -20 Guadalajara Film Festival
May 13 – 24 Cannes Film Festival

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Model to Emulate for Regional Film Markets

When I first read of TIFFCON's (Tokyo International Film Festival) efforts to increase international sales and coproductions (Sales and co-production under the spotlight at TIFFCON News Screen), what caught my attention first was reading, "Taiwan, which was colonised by Japan for 50 years until the 1940s" and I thought, How about a film about that little known fact for the rest of us...including -- was it called, Chang Kai Chek's "liberation"?

On thinking further of how much well-thought-out care was taken to address the issue of our international film crisis from the Japanese point of view, I realized that TIFFCON was presenting a model to emulate for regional film markets and that this applied particularly to the new upcoming Ventana Sur, hosted by the Argentina Government organization INCAA and Jerome Paillard of the Cannes Market. Might the Tokyo International Film Festival with its intense focus on the Japanese film industry investigating ways to sell films internationally and to coproduce with Asian neighbors be emulated by Ventana Sur in its second edition? This edition is strictly sales oriented film screenings, but beyond traditional sales, a united effort to create a larger cooperative sales, distribution and coproduction entity would create an environment more conducive to a steady flow of product of a certain commercial level of product that buyers could rely on. I will be in Buenos Aires blogging on this issue and other newsworthy issues November 26 – 30.

The panel at LALIFF (Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival) with Jim McNamara of CineLatino and Panamax, Ignacio Darnaude, EVP International Creative Advertising of Sony Pictures Releasing International and Santiago Pozo, founder and CEO of Arenas, US’s premiere Latino film marketing and sometime distribution company concluded that the product flow of Latino films -- whether in English or Spanish -- needs to be stepped up to a constant flow in order to cultivate a stateside audience, and relying on the already established studios and independent sales agents and distributors will not suffice. It will only be accomplished with the backing of a pan Latin American independent production/ distribution company made of cooperating Latin American and US based Latino entities.

TIFFCON had 209 exhibitors from 14 countries and was attended by buyers from Japan, Korea, China and Singapore. Here are events set up for its constituency, events designed to address the issues of pan Asian collaboration.

Japan has historically represented 10% of the market making it the second largest world market after US and was able to be more or less self sufficient. But with its declining DVD market and its own economic downturn it needs to increase exports and co-productions. Still and all, its own box office is booming.

UniJapan and J-Pitch organized a panel of five leading international sales agents to advise local producers on how to expand the market for their films.

  • Gabor Greiner, acquisitions executive for Germany’s The Match Factory, explained how tough the international market has become for foreign-language product, despite the fact that Japanese films such as Departures and Tokyo Sonata have been winning accolades and distribution overseas. “Distributors these days are taking less and less risks and it is easier to pick up films than it is to sell them,” Greiner said. “In the coming year we will be looking for films that are a bit more commercial or not so local.” However he said he was in Tokyo specifically to look for Japanese films: “We are looking for novelty, freshness, new ways of filmmaking and storytelling and other points of international appeal.”

  • Youngjoo Suh of Korean sales agent Fine Cut , which is handling Kanikôsen from Japan’s Sabu, outlined the strengths and weaknesses of Japanese cinema that she considers when deciding whether to pick up a project or invest. “The strength of the Japanese industry is that it has so many original contents, like manga and novels. But the arthouse films tend to be a little bit repetitive. Of course it’s nice to have a message, but I like films to have a bit of an edge."

Panels about collaboration between Japan and three Chinese-speaking territories who are all interested in working with Japan.

  • China, soon to become the box office giant still has unresolved tensions with Japan dating back to WWII, though filmmakers are attempting to bridge the political gap.

  • Hong Kong’s Trade Development Council (TDC) hosted coproduction partners stepping up to collaboration with Japan.
    § Irresistible Films’ Lorna Tee discussed its cooperation between Japan’s Avex Inc. Entertainment and Hong Kong’s Bill Kong and Hugh Simon which aims to support new talent and is currently on its sixth production, an untitled project co-directed by Derek Tsang and Jimmy Wan.
    § Hong Kong-based Salon Films and Japan’s Casio Entertainment talked about their co-production, Fly Baby Fly, an animated multi-platform project set for release in 2011. Japan’s Yoshimoto Kogyo is also co-producing the film, a fantasy about the annual migration of butterflies from Taiwan to Japan, which has an environmental message for kids.

  • Taiwan, a colony of Japan for 50 years until the 1940s still has strong cultural links to the country, especially in the areas of youth and pop culture. One panel explored how this was exploited by the producers of Taiwanese mega-hit Cape No. 7 which featured Japanese actors and music from J-pop star Kousuke Atari. My question: Why not make a film about the colonization, a little known part of history in the west.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rentrak Corporation - July is the Hottest Month to Date for Video-On-Demand

Is business really as bad as everyone fears or is it actually getting better? Looking at Rentrak's report, I'd say help is on the way.

Rentrak Corporation - July is the Hottest Month to Date for Video-On-Demand: "Rentrak Corporation (Nasdaq: RENT), a leader in multi-screen media measurement serving the entertainment and advertising industries, reported today that July eclipsed the previous video-on-demand (VOD) viewing record set last month, delivering a 19% year-to-year increase in overall VOD transactions and a 15% increase in the number of unique set-top-boxes (STB) accessing OnDemand.** The average minutes per day spent watching VOD increased and the percent of VOD enabled STBs accessing OnDemand content increased to 47% in July."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Discussion: GLITNER | LinkedIn

Glitner is a European based and a European funded digital rights management platform. An interesting discussion takes place on GLITNER via LinkedIn: What would facilitate the emergence of business models not based on territorial copyrights?

In the digital environment it is essential to remove artificial barriers to the circulation of creative content and to competitive market, while promoting and protecting cultural diversity.

One of the models discussed was one brought up last year at AFM by Brent V. Friedman in the panel "Web Entrepreneurs: Imagination Meets Commerce" Let us see what a difference a year has made: You can watch the video of the conference here: where a producer managed to get some product placement built-in the production, and actually managed to do some profit-sharing both ways in VoD (from the platform back to him as a rights holder, and from him to the platform as an in-build advertisement revenue stream on a per click model). The net net effect was in fact to the profit of the rights holder (the platform would give more than it received), and it allowed him to be more competitive that other rights holders in terms of visibility by giving an incentive to the platform to put his content upfront...

Another model has been proposed by WeVision.

Onlinefilm AG

Cay Wesnigk CEO of Onlinefilm AG is running the portal is a multilingual European VOD platform for producers and filmmakers, offering them the possibility to easily upload their films and set them free for download against micro payment by using the internet as a direct sale channel. The price that has to be paid is choosen by the uploader himself and the regular share is 51% for the rights owner and 49% for the platform. is the only platform that allows the uploader total control over the distribution process and can be used to host trailers for all as well as raw cuts which can then be distributed to closed circles only. Once a film is uploaded the first three minutes are converted into a flash file automaticaly and if set free by the uploader, can be embedded on any webside or blog as a viral marketing tool. >From there to a purchase as VOD download to own it is always only just one click. Unlike other VOD platforms lets filmmakers know who their customers are. The platform is in collective possession by over 120 filmmakers already and is offering other filmmakers to become part of the collective that owns and controls the filmmaker owned marketplace on the Internet as well. Onlinefilm has partners that run regional portals, based on the distribution technology in Austria, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia and is looking for more partners in other countries."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Picture This!

Picture This!: "So sad and sorry to say that as of September 29, 2009, we have closed our doors after a wonderful, 13-year run as Picture This! Over the years we have globe-trotted to bring you quality gay, lesbian and coming-of-age features and shorts, but increasingly undeniable economic realities have sadly put an abrupt end to our mission."

Truly Free Film: One Day Crash Course In The New Distribution & Marketing

Announcing a chance to see Peter Broderick in person and hear about Hybrid DIY distribution. Don't miss this, even if it is in the middle of AFM. You'll learn things the Paramount marketing team of Paranormal Activity picked up from the source of the innovations in internet movie marketing itself. Truly Free Film: One Day Crash Course In The New Distribution & Marketing

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rena Ronson to UTA | The Wrap

I once planned to write a book entitled Ronna, Rena, Gina and Me. It would have been about the first women in the business of film (vs. the creative side of filmmaking). Ronna Wallace began as the first in acquisitions and opened up her jobs to me as she left them, most notably leaving Arthur Morowitz to head up MGM Home Video. Rena, met first behind the desk at Fox Lorber (with David Linde!) and then entering international sales -- and not just buying and selling features but companies themselves -- while not the first women in independent international sales, she was the first to be so versatile crossing into the agency world, producer repping and financing as well. Gina Resnick, an attorney moving up the corporate ladder to head acquisitions at RCA Columbia Home Video, and me, quiet but the first woman in corporate international distribution (20th Century Fox International, Amsterdam). The problem with the book was that while we all said yes, we were all too busy working to sit down and recall the struggles and compromises and decisions we had to take to keep progressing upward. And today, while we're all still going strong, it is Rena who has sprinted ahead once again and is still going upwards (while we are maintaining our pace and feeling strong about that). Here is the latest, straight from the official press release as broken on The Wrap. Congratulatons!

Rena Ronson to UTA The Wrap: "United Talent Agency today announced that top film finance and packaging executive Rena Ronson has joined the agency as Co-Head of the Independent Film Group. She will join UTA motion picture literary partner Rich Klubeck in overseeing the group, where she will focus on film finance and film packaging for independent and co-financed studio features as well as foreign sales and distribution strategies. Ronson was most recently co-head of William Morris Independent.

“UTA continues to recruit professionals who can bring experience and relationships that will serve our colleagues and our clients,” said UTA Board member Jeremy Zimmer. “Rena’s professionalism and reputation as one of the most passionate and widely-admired players in independent film certainly fit that criteria.

“Rena’s addition speaks directly to the vision we have for expanding our finance and packaging operations,” said UTA motion picture lit partner Rich Klubeck who has headed the group since 2004. “Her extensive experience here and abroad and her insight into the changing economics of the film industry will greatly add to our reach in the global film market. I am thrilled that she is joining the agency.

“This is a terrific opportunity and one I couldn’t pass up,” said Rena Ronson. “I have long admired the way in which UTA has grown and positioned itself in the industry, and I am excited to join Rich and the team in being part of the agency’s future. Together, Rich and I aim to make UTA a market leader in developing the new strategies and solutions that filmmakers, producers and financiers need in these challenging times.”

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Roadside Attractions is releasing both Good Hair and From Mexico with Love today. We all know about Good Hair, the Toronto premiering doc by Chris Rock inspired by his daughter’s hair styling concerns. Check out Roadside Attraction’s Facebook Page and you’ll see more on this hands-down, well-loved film.

It’s From Mexico with Love which offers the challenge and possible new insights into distribution to the niche Mexican audience. Starring Kuno Becker a big star in Mexico and known here for the Goal Films and costarring Danay Garcia, a well loved Mexican telenovela star who also has a regular role in Fox's upcoming series Prison Break, it will be released on 281 screens in California, New Mexico and Arizona. (Good Hair will go out on 185 screens.)

The film is a Rocky-esque inspirational story in which a washed-up trainer takes a self-destructive young boxer under his wing. It is receiving important radio notice on Latino stations. While A Day without a Mexican played in Sundance, this film played in the San Diego Latino Film Festival. Whether that impacts the film is interesting to speculate upon, though I don’t think Sundance is a relevant factor, and San Diego’s impact is uncertain. The film did quite well in Mexico which could mean it’s been seen already in US illegally or that its reputation will create interest here.

Most interesting is the chance to compare and perhaps replicate the success of A Day Without a Mexican whose opening weekend was $620,000. It played theatrically from May to November 2004 finally grossing $4.18 million in US. Very little has hit the Latino (primarily Mexican) market to that tune since -- with the exception of Fox Searchlight's 2007 Sundance pickup Under The Same Moon in 2008 which grossed $12,589,108 -- but the majors and their P&A budgets essentially take their films out of the league we are discussing here.

***Late posting: Opening weekend From Mexico with Love was $334,340 (#26 rank, 279 theaters, $1,198 average) % of Total Gross: 66.1%
Widest Release: 279 theaters In Release: 10 days / 1.4 weeks. Now at $505,606.

It doesn't compare with A Day Without a Mexican whose Opening Weekend:
$628,807 was in 56 theaters averaging$11,228 and ranking #15. % of Total Gross:
15.0% View All 31 Weekends

Latino programming has been out of the spotlight lately after its 2004 to 2007 whirlwind of activities by companies looking to cash in on the elusive Latino market and riding in on the wave of ADWOM. We haven’t heard much news of Lionsgate Latino programming section who in 2006 hired Arturo Chavez to head up its Latino video division. Jim McNamara was named non executive chairman in August 2008 of Cine Latino and in principle is continuing to run production company Panamax Films which has a distribution deal with Lionsgate. Its last credits were 2007's Ladron que roba el ladron (Robber of Robbers) released by Lionsgate and Univision and grossing $4m and Sangre de mi sangre, (Blood of My Blood), which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, was released by IFC and grossed $54,000 and 2006's La mujer de mi hermano (My Brother's Wife) from Colombia which grossed $2.8m. The only news of other Latino oriented distributors was last summer's Latino showcase tour starting at the Aero and initiated by Maya's Moctezuma Esparza. Maya's 2009 releases, Casi divas, Máncora and Sleep Dealer grossed $46,200, $29,700 and $75,700 respectively.

LA Latino Film Festival (LALIFF) is featuring a panel discussion on distribution in these markets October 15 at 4pm at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, 3rd floor. I’ll be moderating it and panelists will include

  • Ignacio Darnaude who is credited in IMDb for the idea and as exec producer of Casi Divas and whose day job is with Sony Pictures Releasing International as EVP International Creative Adverstising where he is responsible for the creation of international print and audiovisual marketing materials of all major Sony Pictures releases. He developed the international campaigns for some of the highest grossing pictures in Sony’s history, including “The Da Vinci Code”, “Spider Man 3” and “Casino Royale”. In addition to his marketing responsibilities, Mr. Darnaude initiated and executive produced two of the highest grossing films in Mexican history: “Ladies’ Night” and “Ninas Mal” (“Charm School”); “Ladies’ Night” was the first film produced in Spanish by the Walt Disney Company.
  • Jim McNamara – CineLatino, discussed above as Founder and Chairman of Panamax Films, Chairman of Cine Latino, the leading premium Spanish-language movie channel in the U.S. McNamara was most recently President and Chief Executive Officer of Telemundo Communications Group, Inc., headquartered in Hialeah, Florida.
  • Santiago Pozo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ARENAS.
    Santiago is considered one of the foremost authorities on entertainment and film marketing to U.S. Latino audiences. Over the past 20 years, Pozo and the ARENAS team have worked on marketing over 300 films, including Transformers, Star Trek, Madagascar, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Chronicles of Narnia, Apocalypto, Shrek, Empire, Selena, and Like Water for Chocolate.

We will be discussing reaching the elusive Latino market which is by no means monolithic and whose members want to see mainstream films as much as the next guy. But the niche has recognized spending power. The big question is, what films will tap into that cash flow? For that reason we will be watching From Mexico With Love.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Festivals and Digitalization

Digital technology is forever changing and new opportunities are emerging all the time. How can film festivals get to grips with this rapidly changing scene and find what works for them? Virtually a Reality: Digitising Your Festival, supported by Film London at this year's LFF, is an opportunity for you to hear, think about and share how new technology can complement – or even transform – your festival.

Redbox Chief: 'We Are an Engine for Industry Growth' | The Wrap

By Mitch Lowe
Published: October 02, 2009 in The Wrap

The article and all its references speak for themselves. Increased rentals are good and do not impact on the decrease of sales of DVDs. All this is a stopgap anyway until downloading and streaming take place from computers and go directly onto whatever large TV screens consumers install in their homes. Even TV seems more and more like a stopgap when you can get all news (real news, in depth news) from your computer and all movies from online as well.

In recent weeks, there’s been chatter attempting to explain the decline in DVD sales, linking this trend to a multitude of factors: consumer preferences, changing physical media, the economy and shrinking retail footprints.

For the first half of the year, DVD sales were down 13.5 percent from the same time period last year, according to industry tracker Digital Entertainment Group.

Meanwhile, rentals have risen 8.3 percent.

Some have even promoted the idea that popular movie rental services like Redbox cannibalize the market for DVD sales. Others suggest that big studios are clinging to unsustainable business models. (For background, see Flurry of Lawsuits Puts Redbox in Spotlight)"