Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finding Jobs to Score Music for Film

Occasionally I want to go off the beaten track on this blog. So today I’m going to show the correspondence between two composers looking for music gigs on films and me.

From: Moritz Schmittat [mailto:moritz@scoringforfilm.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 23, 2009
To: Sydney J. Levine
Subject: Berlinale Talent Campus

Dear Sydney!

My name is Moritz Schmittat - composer for film and TV. We met at the 'Dine&Shine' dinner at the Berlinale Talent Campus. I believe our round was the main course. I had a fabulous evening and I still have your card here.

I just wanted to re-connect and say hello. I recently scored my first feature film which is now playing in over 50 UK cinemas. It's called '31 North 62 East' - a political thriller directed by Tristan Loraine featuring John Rhys-Davies and Marina Sirits. I conducted the orchestral recording sessions myself. Now I am working on my next feature which is called 'Banquet of the Damned' - a horror film.I have a brand new website. It's: http://www.scoringforfilm.com/ - check it out when you have a free moment. You can watch my portfolio online if you want. If you are interested I could also send you my showreel on DVD/CD? Just email me your address. For me at this stage it is still very important to 'get my stuff out there' - would you maybe know some film makers who I could introduce myself to? That would be great help!Best wishes and greetings from London,Moritz

On 26 Sep 2009, at 06:25, Sydney J. Levine wrote:
Thanks Moritz for your email.

It seems like the film music people are the most active seekers of jobs except for producers who are always looking for money.

Your website is beautiful! I’m afraid I won’t do much with your show reel as I am not really into production and I have boxes of unseen DVDs!

Maybe I can put together something on filmmakers for you but for now, I suggest you contact
www.volume57.com if you think their style fits yours (they are art films!). Gene Lechner is a friend of mine in Berlin and she started the site for performers and composers.

Are you a member of IMDbPro? They show films titles and contact info for films in pre-production which might give you some leads.

I hope we shall meet again…I will be in Berlin for the Berlinale and am going to Hof in November.

All my best,

From: Moritz Schmittat [mailto:moritz@scoringforfilm.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hi Sydney,

Thanks so much for getting back. Yes, I know the composers competition is huge - but I'll fight my way through it....

Volume57 seems to be promising. I applied already - Geno got back to me. They will listen to my work as soon as they are back from their travels. So, thanks for the link. Much appreciated.

I am a Pro member and I am using it almost every day. Not all users have their contact details online unfortunately. The other thing is that it is difficult to get 'around' the agents -- especially agents of young directors. There are many guys that have made their first feature or won some awards with shorts and who now have an agent who, understandably, want to keep their clients 'unspamed'. The funny thing is that quite a few of them do NOT have any composer credited in their films. Do you maybe have any good suggestions of how to approach those 'targets'.

Well, thanks again for your email. Let's keep in touch. I will definitely be in Berlin next year again!

September 28, 2009

Try looking in advance at the films in upcoming festivals…the director is often invited…you can contact the festival and see if you can get an industry list or the producer of the film…perhaps he’s listed on IMDbPro if not on the industry lists of the fests. If you’ve been to Cannes officially, you have their
www.cinando.com website as well. IMDbPro/FilmFinders has free festival reports with contact info for film posted before the festival actually begins.

Really, you need films in pre-production…Variety and Hollywood Reporter also list them on line. Cold call, send reel or refer to website, follow up call or email until you reach someone: That is the way to do it…repeat, repeat, repeat. Really even the agents do that to book their clients’ if they’re on the ball.

Agents are very protective of their directors but they don’t rep or protect producers…so meet producers with upcoming films and get info on directors from them to get yourself attached…e.g., in Berlin, find out about the Producer’s Co-production Market, in Cannes check out participants of the Producers Network and Cinefondation, or Rotterdam Cinemart and other premarkets in Mannheim, Pusan, New York's IFP, Guadalajara Film Festival.

Also, look for trade music events. Of course lots of competition is there too.

Does this help?

September 29, 2009 Here’s a testimony to a close friend (composer) of mine about following the directions I just gave to you:

Almost everything you wrote, I've been doing. It's gotten to the point that the production companies think I am an agent or music supervisor. I've contacted directors way before any cast is attached or production has started. One instance was a film directed by a woman. I saw her credits on IMDb and noticed that she went to the AFI Women's Director's Program. So I contacted the AFI and they took down my info and passed it on. The next day I got a call from the director and she was excited that someone tracked her down re: her film. To make a long story short, my agent at the time did not want to have anything to do with it because she had never heard of the director. Well the film was "Monster" with Charlize Theron later attached and you know the rest...
Karen Martin [soundsculpture@sbcglobal.net]

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Toronto Rights RoundUp and Other Fall Festivals

The Toronto and Other Fall Festivals Rights RoundUp list looks quite sizeable for what is claimed to have been a quiet festival season. Though it's true business down, the large number of acquisitions has not been viewed as such and yet is the result of a new trend which has been sneaking up over the past few years and has now taken hold. Distributors and sales agents now acquire BEFORE the festivals rather than during. It developed out of Cannes' prescreenings which have mostly been discontinued, and it could go so far as to change the pre-Sundance adage NOT to show the film to anyone before Sundance.

This Rights RoundUp for acquisitions executives, distributors, international sales agents, investors and producers is different from my previous RR Reports. It is no longer a report based on data and FilmFinders is out of the equation. This listing of rights acquired BEFORE the actual festival, DURING the festival and for a couple of months AFTER can also be found on MDbPro who acquired FilmFinders in 2008 and where SydneysBuzz resides on the landing page and on IMDbPro's News Desk. Whenever possible, the list is alphabetical by international sales agent (linked to IMDbPro), and the ISA's titles are also linked to IMDbPro.

If you do not yet subscribe to IMDbPro, I would advise plunking down $100 for a year's subscription. You'll get more than your money's worth I promise. By going into Pro, you will be able to see all the territorial distributors for a particular title, and if you care to, you can see their entire lineups. You can do the same with the sales agents and the producers attached to the titles in IMDbPro.

Here is a link to IndieWire's list of 147 Films For Sale at Toronto. It is interesting and fun to see which of these get picked up, by whom, for where and when. -- Sydney

The recent post Toronto pickups are included below (Creation, Get Low, I Am Love, Lebanon, The Art of the Steal) Here are the Toronto , Venice and San Sebastian pick-ups:

Alain Vannier and Orly Films licensed Alain Resnais' Wild Grass (Les Herbes folles) to Sony Pictures Classics for U.S., Australian and New Zealand (Pre-Toronto pick-up).

Autlook licensed Nobody's Perfect to Lorber for North America. Ventura Film has German rights.

Bavaria International licensed The Anarchist's Wife to Alexander Film for Canada.

Beta Cinema licensed John Rabe to Strand for US 10 months after its premiere in Berlin. Other distributors include Majestic-Filmverleih for Germany, 01 Rai Cinema for Italy, DeA Planeta Home Entertainment and Antena 3 Televisión for Spain, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) for Austrian TV, Cinemien and Homescreen for Benelux.

Bleiberg Entertainment's $3 million thriller Kirot directed by Danny Lerner and starring Bond girl Olga Kurylenko opening Toronto's City to City program, was sold to 14 territories before shooting began, in partnership with Israeli broadcaster Keshet Broadcasting and United King (the country's biggest distributor and French producer Edouard Douek (who controls all rights in France).

Celluloid Dreams (Pre-Toronto pick-ups) licensed Vincere to IFC for North America. Lebanon went to Metrodome Distribution for the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Metrodome partnered with Rialto Distribution for its release in Australia and New Zealand. Bim acquired Italian rights to Lebanon in Venice. Sony Pictures Classics picked up Lebanon for US after Toronto.

CJ Entertainment has licensed in a Pre-Toronto pick-up Bong Joon-Ho’s Cannes Un Certain Regard hit Mother as well as the director’s 2000 film Barking Dogs Never Bite to Magnolia for North America. Mother will screen in official selection at Toronto and the New York Film festival before Magnolia releases it in theatres in early 2010. The film is South Korea’s foreign language Oscar submission and stars Kim Hye-ja as a woman who dedicates her life to proving the innocence of her son whom she believes has been wrongly accused of murder. Magnolia’s senior vice-president Tom Quinn and head of business affairs Chris Matson brokered the deal with CJ Entertainment’s senior vice-president Kini S Kim and director of international sales Eric Kim. Magnolia and Bong previously collaborated on the 2007 release of The Host. Magnolia executives said they were “excited to be the American home for the film-maker, one of the most dynamic and exciting on the world stage today.” In November 2008 Mother went to Bitters End for Japan whose release was the biggest opening of the year, as it was in Korea. It s also Japan's submission for the Academy's Best Foreign Language Film Nomination for 2009.

ContentFilm licensed Fish Tank to IFC for North America (Pre-Toronto pick-up). ContentFilm International has acquired worldwide sales rights to Jason Lehel’s Gaia, which will have its world premiere in Toronto’s Visions section. CoProduction Office licensed Police, Adjective to IFC for No. America and A Town Called Panic to Zeitgeist Films for US(Pre-Toronto pick-ups). Lourdes, a critic and crowd pleasing Venice premiere has been picked up by Palisades Tartan for US, NFP Distribution in Germany, Alta Films in Spain, Gussi Films in Mexico and Greek distributor Nutopia . The film won the FIPRESCI international critics prize in Venice, two religious awards -- the Signis and the La Navicella -- and the Brian Award, given by the union of atheists and agnostics. It screens at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, and has now sold to 16 territories worldwide including Cinecittà (Italy), Filmmuseum Distributie (Netherlands), Lumière Productie (Belgium), MTU Otaku (Estonia), NetXenix(Switzerland), TFM Distribution (France). Shirin Neshat’s Venice Silver Lion winner Women Without Men, sold to 10 territories in Venice including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela (Gussi Films), Belgium (Lumiere), Brazil, Italy (BIM Distribuzione), Colombia, The Netherlands (Filmmuseum), Russia and Ukraine (Sota Cinema), Germany ( TV- ZDF/Arte ).

Glen Basner’s FilmNation sold out international territories on The Joneses that world premiered in Toronto. Rights have gone to Entertainment One in the UK, UGC Distribution in France, Wild Bunch in Germany, Svensk Filmindustri (SF) in Scandinavia, Luxor Entertainment in CIS, Sun Distribution in Latin America, Italia Films for the Middle East, Shani Films for Israel, Shark Specialist Group (SSG) for Taiwan, Multivision Multimedia India for Indonesia and Singapore, and Sahamongkol for Thailand and TVA in Canada. Further deals to conclude in the next few days are for Italy and Eastern Europe. There is strong interest from buyers in Spain, Australia and New Zealand. International Creative Management (ICM) is holding talks with several US buyers and has arranged screenings in Los Angeles. November 5, 2009 deal closedwit Roadside Attractions for US!

Fine Cut licensed Chaw to Optimum Releasing for the UK. It has already sold to Ascot Elite Home Entertainment for Austria, German speaking Switzerland and Germany, IOF Ent for India, J-Bics for Thailand, Visicom Surya for Singapore, to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Released in South Korea on July 15 by Lotte Entertainment, it grossed $9.3 million from 1.8 million admissions nationwide.

Fortissimo licensed Life During Wartime to Archibald Enterprise Film for Italy just a day before the film it won the Golden Osella for best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. The film has previously sold to A-Film Distribution (Benelux), Lusomundo (Portugal), Tuck (former Yugoslavia), Monolith (Poland), Imagem Filmes (Brazil), HBO Latin America, Shani Films (Israel), D Productions (Turkey) and Budapest Film (Hungary). The film has its North American premiere Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival. Just before Toronto, Fortssimo acquired worldwide rights, excluding Japan, to live-action 3D thriller The Shock Labyrinth, international rights to Yonfan's Prince of Tears, Demme’s Neil Young Trunk Show, Road, Movie .

GK Films (Graham King) licensed Young Victoria to Apparition for North America (Pre-Toronto pick-up). Alliance will take Canada as a part of its new output deal with Apparition. Apparition also has an output relationship with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group (SPWAG) for all domestic ancillary rights. Other distributors include Audio Visual Enterprises (Greece), Metropolitan Filmexport (France), Nordisk Film (Norway), Paradiso Entertainment (Benelux), Shaw Organisation (Singapore), Aurum Producciones (Spain), Momentum Pictures (UK), Nordisk Film Theatrical Distribution (Scandinavia), Pinema (Turkey).

Hanway has licensed Creation to Newmarket Films for US, D Films for Canada. Canadian film distribution veterans Jim Sherry and Tony Cianciotta just launched their new boutique outfit, D Films. Sherry is president of the company and Cianciotta is the director of acquisitions. Triage has already been licensed to 01 Rai Cinema (Italy), Canal+ (France), Alta Films (Spain), FS Film Oy (Finland), Odeon (Greece), Odeon (Romania) (Pre-Toronto pick-ups).

IDG Media International of China's Ted Perkins licensed City of Life and Death to National Geographic for North America (Pre-Toronto pick-up).

IM Global has licensed A Single Man to The Weinstein Company for North America and Germany reportedly for an amount estimated between $1 million and $2 million. North American rights were repped by CAA and IM Global internationally. The pic will be released in the fall for an awards run. Focus and Miramax were bidding against Weinstein. Further deals are with Icon in the UK and Australia, Mars in France, Aurum Films in Spain, Scanbox Entertainment in Scandinavia, Alliance in Canada, Village Roadshow Greece S.A. in Greece, Multivision in Singapore, and Studio Solutions in Taiwan, Prisvídeo in Portugal, Nu Metro for South Africa, Forum Film for Israel, Gulf Film for the Middle East, and PVR Pictures for India. Further deals are expected to close deals with Japan, Italy and remaining territories after the second screening on Tuesday afternoon.

K5 International's Get Low went to SPC in a deal brokered by CAA.

Latido licensed The Secret of Her Eyes to Mexico (Gussi Films), Scandinavia (Sandrew Metronome), UK (Metrodome Distribution) , Australia (Rialto Entertainment)France (Pretty Pictures). As coproducers Distribution Company has Argentina rights and Alta Classics has Spain.

Les Films du Losange licensed Le Pere de mes enfants (The Father of My Children) to IFC for US (Pre-Toronto pick-up). In Venice New Wave Films, the company run by Robert Beeson and Pam Engel, picked up UK rights to 36 vues Du Pic Saint Loup (Around A Small Mountain). New Wave’s recent cinema releases have included Sleep Furiously, 35 Shots of Rum and Tricks. Beeson and Engel were among the very few British buyers in attendance at Venice last week.

Mandate Pictures licensed The Good Guy, the Tribeca premiering film to Roadside Attractions for US and will be released the theatrically in March 2010. Mandate will do international sales and Lionsgate will take North American rights to the Relativity Managment financed including P&A and produced feature Knockout, Steven Soderbergh's next film.

Media Asia Group has licensed Accident to ARP for France, Palisades Tartan for US, Dream Movies took Australian theatrical rights and Sky City Cinema took theatrical for New Zealand, and Rialto Entertainment for video and TV for both Australia and New Zealand. City of Life and Death (aka Nanking Nanking) went to Spain’s Karma Films and to Russia’s Carmen Films, and UK’s High Fliers Distribution during Cannes. Rialto also acquired Australia and New Zealand rights to Fire Of Conscience, while Dream Movies took Australia and New Zealand rights to Once A Gangster.

Menemsha Films will also handle worldwide representation and has picked up North American rights for Shameless from Czech producer Rudolf Biermann.

MK2 is selling To the Sea which will have its world premiere screening in Toronto's Visions sidebar on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Dogtooth went to Kino International for US. MK2 Diffusion has French rights.

Myriad Pictures and Cinetic Media have licensed Hampton's premiering film Uncertaintyto IFC for US. Maximum Film Distribution has Canadian rights. Myriad Pictures has acquired worldwide rights to SXSW film Women in Trouble.

Nu Image licensed Bad Lieutenant to First Look for North America (Pre-Toronto pick-up), to Latinameican Theatrical Group for Latin American TV, 01 Distribution (Italy), Distribution Company (Argentina), CatchPlay (Taiwan), IPA Asia Pacific (Thailand), Imagem Filmes (Brazil), Metropolitan Filmexport (France), Odeon (Greece), Prorom Media-Trade (Romania), VVS Films (Canada), Wide Pictures (Spain).

Odd Lot International has sold North American rights to B-Girl to Screen Media Films as well as to Anchor Bay Entertainment for the UK, Universum Film (UFA) for Germany, Icon Film Distribution for Australia, Coral Pictures for South Korea, Spentzos Films for Greece, and VC Multimedia for Portugal, Gulf Film for Middle East, Nu Metro Productions for South Africa, Mars Production for Turkey, Ad Matalon & Co. for Israel, Kino Swiat for Poland, AQS for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Prorom Media Trade for Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and former Yugoslavia. Cinesky took airline rights.

Paramount Vantage has licensed Ondine to Latinamerican Theatrical Group for Latin America, holding North American rights for itself, RCV Film Distribution for Benelux, and Wide Pictures for Spain. Park licensed Dead Man Running to Revolver for UK and Ireland. It will be released in late October and was originally picked up for UK distribution by Pathé but following its decision to scale back its theatrical arm, Revolver has taken over the project.

Point Media Group has acquired worldwide rights to The Be All and End All, scheduled to premiere at the Chicago International Film Festival and was one of the buzz titles in the London UK Film Focus Breakthrough section.

Pyramide International sold New Wave Films UK rights to Hadewijch in Venice. North American rights were picked up by IFC Films ahead of its US debut at the New York Film Festival, and after its screening at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Blue Beard went to Strand for US ahead of its NY Film Festival premiere.

RAI International licensed I Am Love to Magnolia Pictures for North America and the 2007 tv movie Caravaggio to Alexander Film for Canada.

SND has taken world sales on Giuseppe Capotondi’s La Doppia Ora (Pre-Toronto pick-up).

StudioCanal licensed Chloe for Canada to E1 Entertainment in a pre-Toronto pick-up. Canada. E1 plans to release the film at Christmas. US went to Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group (SPWAG). StudioCanal will distribute the film directly in France, and in the UK and Germany, through its wholly owned affiliates Optimum Releasing and Kinowelt Filmverleih. Additionally, StudioCanal secured distributors in other territories around the world both prior to, during and after the film’s Toronto premiere. These include E1 in Canada, Eagle Pictures in Italy, Pony Canyon in Japan, Nordisk in Scandinavia, Mars Entertainment in Korea, SPI International in Eastern Europe, Gussi Films in Mexico, PlayArte Filmes in Brazil, NuMetro Distribution in South Africa, Odeon in Greece, Gulf Film in The Middle East, and
Filmes Lusomundo in Portugal. A distribution deal in Spain is also imminent.

Summit licensed Tree of Life to Apparition for North America. It also went to 01 Distribuzione for Italy, Belga Films for Benelux, EuropaCorp for France, Icon Film Distribution for Australia, NZ and UK, Odeon for Greece, Tripictures for Spain and Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) Worldwide Acquisitions Group for USA video (Pre-Toronto pick-ups).

TF1 licensed The Micmacs to Sony Pictures Classics for US, Canada and Latin America (Pre-Toronto pick-up). They will also be offering Jud Süß (The Jew Suss) about the rise and fall of actor Ferdinand Marian who takes the chance and stars in the anti-Semitic movie "Jud Süß" and Father's Guests in Toronto.

The Film Sales Company acquired worldwide rights to Cole (Pre-Toronto pick-up).

Little Film Company licensed The Last Station to Sony Pictures Classics for North and South America. Other distributors include Optimum Releasing for UK and Warner Bros. for Germany.

The Match Factory licensed Soul Kitchen to BIM Distribuzione [it] for Italy in Venice. Rights also belong to Monopole-Pathé (Switzerland), Cinéart(Benelux), Pyramide Distribution (France).

The Works International acquired I Am Love, one of the most talked about films at the Venice Film Festival, from James Atherton’s Quickfire Films. International Creative Management (ICM)’s Jeff Berg negotiated North American pickup with Magnolia for North America after its premiere at Toronto. Other distributors included Mikado Film and Rai Cinema for Italy,
Ad Vitam Distribution for France, Alta Classics for Spain, Rialto Distribution for New Zealand and Australia, Metrodome Distribution for UK and Ireland.

Trust Nordisk sold the Eva Green - Ewan McGregor project The Last Word (working title) to South Korea (Entermode), Benelux (Wild Bunch Benelux) and Greece (Seven Films). UK rights to Mammoth went to Soda Pictures and a pan-Latin American pay-TV deal on the film with CDC. Soda has also taken UK rights to Storm. Family film Timetrip: The Curse of the Viking Witch has gone to MFA Filmdistribution for Germany and Videx International for Latin America. Max Manus: Man of War has sold to Showgate for Japan and CTV for France. Max Manus scriptwriter Thomas Nordseth-Tiller dies aged 28 13-May-2009. UGC International licensed La fille du RER (Girl on the Train), based on a true story, the film recounts a 2004 incident in which a troubled young woman falsely claimed to have been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack on an urban Parisian train (or RER) to Strand Releasing for US (Pre-Toronto pick-up).

Visit Films has acquired international sales rights to Shirley Adams and Dear Lemon Lima. Suzi Yoonessi’s Dear Lemon Lima will premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Visit will also screen Carcasses in Toronto and introduce buyers to the fashion world documentary Picture Me: A Model's Diary.

Voltage Pictures licensed Survival of the Dead to Optimum Releasing (UK), Paradiso Entertainment (Benelux), Splendid Film (Germany), Presidio (Japan), Gulf Film (Middle East), Imagem Filmes (Brazil) and M Pictures (Thailand). Negotiations for France and Italy are ongoing, while Spanish and Australian rights are still up for grabs. E1 Entertainment has rights for Canada, a co-producing country on the picture. Cinetic Media will handle US sales. Cinetic also handled the domestic deal for Diary Of The Dead, which was picked up by The Weinstein Company.

Wild Bunch licensed Spring Fever to Strand Releasing for US (Pre-Toronto pick-up). IFC Films has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Valhalla Rising, marking the first pick-up by a major U.S. specialty distributor during the Toronto Film Festival. IFC Films won distribution rights following a bidding war. They plan to release Valhalla Rising in 2010 via its IFC In Theaters program. It is also licensed to Le Pacte for France), Scanbox Entertainment for Scandinvia. Cooking With Stella went to The Film Sales Company for North American representation. Mongrel Media has Canada.

WME assigned US rights to Sony Pictures Classics for Mother and Child in November 2009. Other sales made in Toronto by Endeavor's Graham Taylor include Smile Entertainment for Scandinavia, Seven Films for Greece, Hopscotch Entertainment for Australia/ NZ, Haut et Court for France, Front Row Distributors for the Middle East, Cinéart for Benelux, Bir Film for Turkey.

Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre has been picked up for UK by E1 Films from Film and Music Entertainment (Pre-Toronto pick-up) and may acquire other territories. Film And Music Entertainment is seeking to close a world sales deal at Toronto as well. Paramount Pictures has picked up Spanish theatrical and DVD rights to Basque painter drama La maquina de pintar nubes (The Cloud-Painting Machine).

Collapse will go out in theaters and VoD simultaneously two months after debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cinetic has brokered a deal with Vitagraph Films to launch the film in theaters next month, putting the doc on Cinetic’s new FilmBuff cable VOD channel at the same time.

Defendor has picked up by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group for US and most international rights. Cinetic Media repped the U.S. rights to the film.

The Art of the Steal was picked up for North America by Rainbow Media (which owns IFC Films) for its new theatrical and video-on-demand label Sundance Selects.

The Good Soldier was picked up by Artistic License before its premiere at the Hamptons Film Festival.

Toxic Baby was picked up by Women Make Movies for US.

Wonderful World was picked up for North America by Magnolia. CAA negotiated the deal for the producers.

One year after its launch at TIFF, Me And Orson Welles has found US distribution through Freestyle Releasing with a campaign by Russell Schwartz’ Pandemic Marketing and to open November 25. Hart-Lunsford Pictures of Louisville is funding the P&A costs and Warner Bros Home Video (WBHV) will handle the DVD release. Cinetic Media, who repped the film at TIFF 2008 brokered the deal with WBHV. An alliance assembled by UK finance and production company Cinemanx (NX), whose chairman is Steve Christian, set up the theatrical deal. NX recently formed a relationship with Vue Entertainment in the UK to produce and directly distribute titles including Me And Orson Welles.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Distributors Weigh In

OK, we all know
1) we're in the midst of an economic crisis,
2) digitilization is changing the world in a shift only comparable (maybe) to that of the industrial revolution,
3) movie distribution patterns for the new generation of filmmakers are shifting to hybrid DIY with professional backup of the mature generation of former indie specialty distribution pioneers.

Before moving on, here are the words of one of these star veterans:
"Social networking is absolutely more and more influential. I personally think that retaking the indie film label from the usurpers and reeducating both the media and public about what independent film really is is our most critical challenge right now. Just confirmed that I’m going to be on a Digital Hollywood panel mid to late October..."
Mark Lipsky [mark@giganticdigital.com], President, Gigantic Digital 212-219-3039.

One recent filmmaker comment to the constantly repeated litany of "the other veterans", that is, those who are still drawing corporate paychecks from such companies as IFC, Sony Pictures Classics or Focus (strike out TWC who just let go 30 more employees) who keep crying out "There are too many films!" was to question why this refrain is so acceptable. If the films are "art", who in the art world complains there is too much art, or in music why do we never hear there is too much music? Let's accept the state of the world today: There are 500,000 filmmakers worldwide and 10,000 films are made a year.

There are too many blogs blogging about the business of film, and mine is one of them. I do not intend to keep blogging about new modes of distribution and digital exhibition which, in effect, wipes out the oft bewailed "broken distribution system" because I see what is being offered by Peter Broderick (see below) and Ted Hope whose fabulous blog lists everything but fails to list poor little me. And TOH does its part as well. There are too many blogs blogging about DIY. We at SydneysBuzz will continue in other directions and will continue strategizing distribution routes with our clients, but this subject is being posted in all the right places already.

However, before singing my swan song, I want to bring to the forefront how the major studios always ride the tails of the indies when needing to find inspiration. Remember when they all had to have specialty divisions which drove up the acquisitions costs of films to the point of the market's collapse (here now) and yet did nothing to nurture new talent, which never stops?

A few days ago (September 20, 2009) L.A. Times ran a fascinating article on how Dreamworks took rights to a little unheard of gem and now Paramount will release Paranormal Activity. The ambivalence of the studio stands out but they are actually taking out all stops to see if they can create a The Blair Witch Project Redux release using ALL the latest online techniques which were so primitive at the time of Blair Witch's unprecedented and unmatched success. I am very impressed. Some notable actions in their campaign to make this Jason Blum (a name we all know) produced film, one of the annual harvest of 15,000 low budget horror films, stand out are:

- It was passed over by Sundance but played in Slamdance

- The second feature director Oren Peli Area 51 is about to start

- Older teens and young adults were invited to the IM Global's AFM screening

- It played midnight in the rain in Telluride and again outside the festival program in Toronto

Even better than these events which shall be a future subject of SydneysBuzz:

- Paramount is installing webcams in theaters so fans can record their impressions

- People who haven't seen the film will use the Demand website (eventful.com/demand) to request Paramount book the film in their town (a first for this music/ band request site)

Blum will be teaching the old dogs new tricks he says, demonstrating how to do more with less. I think Blum may be providing more than a demonstration. I think (and HOPE) that he will be opening the door of employment for young internet savvy executives at the studios. So all you young and older filmmakers, keep honing your internet skills with DIY and plan your CV to enter the studio system. If the studios think you can make a $50,000 production gross $250 million worldwide, you'll be employable.

To get back to the subject of this very long dissertation:

Peter Broderick, on the one year anniversary of his definitive
WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD OF DISTRIBUTION published on IndieWire has now published the follow up Declaration of Independence: The Ten Principles of Hybrid Distribution\FEEDBACK WELCOME: outlining principles of hybrid distribution which emerged from the experiences of hundreds of filmmakers. They will continue to evolve as more and more independents use these strategies. (peter@peterbroderick.com). He says,"My goal is to create a living document that evolves with the latest hybrid experiences and empowers filmmakers to realize their full potential. Visit http://www.peterbroderick.com/ to sign up for the 'Distribution Bulletin', featuring the latest in independent film distribution and marketing." Bravo!

Toronto Wrap: Indie Bloodbath - Thompson on Hollywood quotes Fox Searchlight acquisitions exec Tony Safford responding to the Big Question: But who will figure out how to market it? “You have to create a lot of noise, with a lot of arrows in your quiver...The film, marketing, critics are all important. It’s hard to rely on just one. Some of these films would have been released in another era.”

Now for a rundown of who are the current U.S. distributors of indie films which in being named makes the playing field seem pretty crowded:

Of course there are the veterans which, aside from Sony Pictures Classics, Miramax Films, IFC, Magnolia Pictures, Fox Searchlight, and perhaps Focus Features if it is still acquiring specialty films, have mostly retained their micro size, from Zeitgeist Films, Kino International, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Roadside Attractions, Strand Releasing, Regent Releasing, Here Films, Indican Pictures, Film Forum, First Run Features, Women Make Movies, Roxie Releasing, Panorama Entertainment, Vitagraph Films .

Then there are the new interesting labels being led by Marc Urman's Palladium Entertainment, Bob Berney's Apparition, Summit and Overture Films whose path seems to be diverging from specialty films.

Next come those other distributors still needing to prove their longevity like The Weinstein Company, Palisades Tartan who just picked up Lourdes in Venice, Music Box Films , National Geographic , Indiepix , Film Movement, B-Side Entertainment, Oscilloscope Pictures, FiGa Films, Gigantic Releasing and Cinema Tropical who are also looking to make a profitable deal. There's also 24 Frames.

And now in great demand are the For-Rent-DIY distributors like Susan Jackson's Freestyle Releasing, Richard Abramowitz' Abramorama, Wendy Lidell's International Film Circuit and MJ Pekos' Mitropoulos Films, all run by truly professional vets able to think and act creatively on a case by case basis and to turn on a dime.

For the record of the past year's box office performance, I am citing
IndieWire's Summer Hot, Summer Cool: A Specialty Box Office Recap - indieWIRE: "Back in July, indieWIRE ran an article examining the first half of this year’s specialty box office. The general consensus was that while Hollywood was doing just fine (at the time tracking 10% above last year - now that number is a little under 7%), Indiewood was having a tougher go at it. Only two limited releases - Sunshine Cleaning and Away We Go had grossed over $5 million. The top five had a combined gross of $26.5 million, while at the same point in 2008, the top five had grossed nearly twice that. Two months later, things have seen a notable turnaround...With 2009’s unusually late Labor Day weekend about to commence, it’s safe to call this summer movie season a wrap. Reports have already found their way through the trades, proclaiming this Hollywood’s highest-grossing summer ever...“Not only will 2009 finish ahead of 2008 - which was our record year - but we continue to expand our audience. Because of the diversity of product we are attracting all ages to our theatres. And thankfully, they seem to be coming back for more.” claims Landmark Theater chain's Mundorff...Looking down the list of the summer’s top twenty-five limited releases (which you can find on page 2 of this story), nine of the top ten grossing films came from either Summit or one of four studio specialty divisions - Fox Searchlight, Focus Features, Sony Pictures Classics (which had an impressive 4 in the top 10), and Miramax...this isn’t new news...the idea of what makes a film “successful” varies greatly between the vast scope of what people generally consider an “indie film” (the mildly disappointing $3.5 million Summit got out of “The Brothers Bloom” would have been a massive success for, say, Music Box Films’ “Seraphine”).

In one final attempt to quantify and qualify the distributors today, I cite The Hollywood Reporter's
Distributor Report Cards: "Distributor Report Cards Written and compiled by THR Staff Aug 30, 2009 Updated: Sept 2, 2009"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Festivals as Acquisitions Showcases

Mike Goodridge asks an interesting question: (Lost in movies Opinion/Comment Screen: "Mike Goodridge The Venice-Toronto marathon offers such challenges for buyers and press, plenty of films can get lost in the shuffle. So why don’t producers experiment with other festivals?")

My answer: Everyone knows budgets for travel are limited and so filmmakers want to be accepted where the largest number of acquisition execs will be and then it "appears" that other festivals must be 2nd choice. But IF a fest, like Miami or San Sebastian, or Guadalajara or all three, can stand out as the place to find the best Ibero American product, then the specialty distribs will attend those too. It's important to know what those fests are doing to help filmmakers' digital exhibition platforms as well now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Toronto Talks With Film Festival Directors

We think that festivals need some rejuvenating and these speakers are all very actively doing just that. Personally, I've been rather skeptical of most other festivals acting as business conduits for filmmakers though they do act as filters which might make acquisitions jobs and perhaps digital exhibition a bit easier. I think there are too many festivals, and too many are "trying" to be markets. Here are questions addressed by this panel that all festivals should be answering as well. Sydney
TIFF Hosts "Talks With" and The Changing Role of the International Film Festival.
There’s no doubt the economic crisis has taken - or, more accurately, is about to take - a toll on the film industry. This session discussed the role international film festivals should play in this uncertain market.
· Locally festivals serve as a great way to see undistributed films, but shouldn't the filmmakers reap some benefit beyond a free trip (if they're given that)?
· Can the festival be beneficial to the filmmaker if they are making a DIY distribution plan, giving them a sort of “platform” release in the territory / locale of the festival?
· What are the new initiatives of your festival and what brought them about, what do you expect them to deliver. e.g. international activities, cooperation, events with government local and national?
· What, if any, online components does the festival promote? · Is the festival creating any new actions vis a vis its “market” component e.g., distribution of films through the festival’s efforts?
· Is there any financial aid, or are cash prizes offered?
· Are festivals joining together effectively with IFFS or other associations, e.g., FIAPF?
· Are there alliances between festivals which are helping?
· Are the festivals solving any problems for filmmakers themselves?
My blog is currently looking at festivals and online exhibition initiatives. I'm acting more as an aggregator of what I consider important news than as an original voice, but my comments (always in italics) are true to my own vision.
You can see my blog at http://sydneysblog.blogspot.com/.
From Sydney Levine
Cel: +1 201 887 3469

Israeli Film Fund Backed Lebanon Wins Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival

Does this prize do anything to alleviate the protests against Israel's films being shown at such festivals as Toronto, Melbourne or Edinburgh? Are the protesters finding their actions are an unpopular distraction from the purpose of the festivals themselves to showcase world cinema and the visions of filmmakers? Thank you to the jury led by director Ang Lee of Venice Film Festival for awarding the Golden Lion to Samuel Moaz’s directorial debut Lebanon. Silver Lion for Best Director went to Lebanese woman director Shirin Neshat for Women Without Men, and a special jury prize went to Fatih Akin’s Soul Kitchen.

Jane Fonda has reportedly repudiated her stand with the letter writers condemning the choice of Tel Aviv in the inauguaral City to City Section of TIFF. Jane Fonda abandons protest against Israel at Toronto film festival

Screen International - Film industry news from UK, US, Europe, Asia and The World: "Film-maker Atom Egoyan has weighed in on the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) Tel Aviv sidebar dispute claiming the protestors have failed to substantiate their charge that the Israeli government interfered with TIFF’s programming."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Toronto's US Buyers and International Representation at the Festival

This blog was written for Toronto but has been updated to include more U.S. buyers who were not necessarily in Toronto. Its purpose is to list the current U.S. buyers and so it will be updated continually. ---Sydney November 1, 2009.

Of course there are the veterans which includes Sony Pictures Classics, Miramax Films, IFC, Magnolia Pictures, Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate, and perhaps Focus Features if it is still acquiring specialty films. Most of the other veterans have retained their micro size which allows them to exist and even have wider choices today. These include Zeitgeist Films, Kino International, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, Roadside Attractions, Strand Releasing, Regent Releasing incuding Here Films, Wolfe Releasing, Water Bearer Films, Troma, The Global Film Initiative, Indican Pictures, Film Forum, First Run Features, Women Make Movies, Roxie Releasing, Panorama Entertainment, The Criterion Collection/ Janus Film, Seventh Art Releasing, the essentially home entertainment companies Lorber Films, Image, Screen Media Ventures, MPI Media Group, Entertainment One, ArtMattan, or TV's LAP TV.

The new interesting labels are Marc Urman's
Palladium Entertainment, Bob Berney's Apparition, Summit and Overture Films whose path seems to be diverging from specialty films.

Distributors who still need to prove their longevity include
The Weinstein Company, Senator U.S., Liberation Entertainment , Film Movement, Palisades Tartan who just picked up Lourdes in Venice, Music Box Films, National Geographic , Indiepix , Film Movement, B-Side Entertainment, Oscilloscope, Figa, Gigantic, PorchLight, Indiepix and Cinema Tropical who are also looking to make a profitable deal.

Even the For-Rent-DIY distributors like Susan Jackson's
Freestyle Releasing, Richard Abramowitz' Abramorama, Wendy Lidell's International Film Circuit and MJ Pekos' Mitropoulos Films, all run by truly professional vets, will be hunting future relationships.

Links will show all their films now and past.

We'll be watching.

Toronto's Sales & Industry Office director Stefan Wirthensohn reports that a number equa to last year's 3,000+ delegates from 62 countries have signed up this year. Higher numbers are in from Australia, China, Germany, Italy and Denmark. Attendance from Spain doubled this year. Fewer are on hand from Argentina which is gearing up for its new Cannes Market cobranded market Ventana Sur to be held in November after AFM, and from Japan -- though 2 last minute registrations came in just before the festival began -- which has been experiencing meltdown in the last 6 months, from South Korea, Mexico and the US. The number from US is attributable to indie prods staying at home.

Indie Film Distribution and International Sales Patterns In Flux

Speaking of P&A which is put up increasingly by the filmmaker in a DIY scenario, if the traditional distributors are offering neither advance, mg nor P&A (Prints and Advertising): A look at international representation for territories outside the US (or North America) shows international sales agents (aka ISAs) are also positioning themselves as no longer the source of advances or mgs and if they cannot foresee presales (which it seems, they cannot count on these days either), they are also floating balloons suggesting filmmakers pay the P&A costs...chew on that one for a while - international markets can contribute 50% to 90% of a film's revenues...Could this evolve into a new line item in film budgets for P&A allocations not only for US distribution but also for international representation? ISAs already recoup marketing costs first, so if the filmmakers pay their own, then at least they will (in principle) recoup in first position out of first sales.

Toronto Festival Challenges Indie Film to Evolve from The Wrap: "Cynthia Swartz, a longtime publicist and festival veteran, observed: 'People aren’t looking for big numbers in advances anymore. They’re looking for big numbers in prints and advertising. They’ve gotten past the question of big advances'."

According to The Wrap's Sharon Waxman, among the "market titles" in the festival (I consider every festival title a "market title" except those already spoken for) one of the most anticipated is IMGlobal's A Single Man, designer Tom Ford’s first filmmaking foray, a character study into the interior life of a gay man in LA, played by Colin Firth. Another, Dean Zanuck’s Get Low starring Duvall as a hermit who wants to stage his own funeral in which Bill Murray plays the funeral director, is being sold by K5 International a fairly new ISA who is also producing out of Munich and London whose first film was The Visitor and whose sales are being handled by FilmFour veteran and partner Bill Stephens and, btw, whose acquisitions are handled by industry favorite, veteran Kerry Boyle Rock. The two other partners and founders are Daniel Baur and Oliver Simon at K5 in Munich.

BBC and Jeremy Thomas's Creation, with Paul Bettany, is also for sale by Hanway and has already been picked up by A-Film Distribution for Benelux, D Films for Canada and Icon Film Distribution for UK and OZ. The Wrap also lists Contentfilm's Fishtank but IFC has taken that for US and many other distibutors are aleady attached (see link for companies), and Agora a Roman-era film by Alejadro Amenabar, being offered by Focus (why don't they take North America themselves? and distributed by 20th Century Fox and Canal+ in Spain (didn't they have first choice of other territories as well?)

The Wrap does not list the many films which thus far do not even have ISAs (International Sales Agents' representation) and which will be viewed by them as well as by worldwide distributors. See IndieWire's list of 147 Films For Sale .