Ownership has its benefits, agents say

The theatrical market is still paramount, but owning a slice of the production pie is also key to surviving today’s tough film market, agreed members of Saturday’s EFM panel on the role of the sales agent.

Panelists made it clear that today’s sales agent would do well to be allied to an inhouse source of production and financing, enabling comprehensive follow-through on their own projects or to attract outside productions.

Panelists included Glen Basner of FilmNation, Irina Ignatiew of Telepool, Paul Brett of Prescience, Alex Walton of Exclusive Film, and Ben Roberts of Protagonist Pictures, with Variety’s London-based reporter Diana Lodderhose moderating.

With competition stiff for quality films, panelists agreed that being able to gain entry into a project at the financing stage was an important leg up in the competition for good product, affording input on financial planning, casting or even gaining attractive locations.

Opinions varied as to what stage was best to jump in, but each panelist stressed that a sales company can help structure

a production by offering input on markets, as well as distribution, at an early stage to make it easier for expectations to be met. The upside is that the profits can be greater, but the investment must be protected.

Roberts observed that as an agent getting a fee, you don’t have any rights. “As soon as you are investing, you can have more legitimate involvement in the development and can take on a larger fee,” he said.

There was consensus that theatrical still holds the key to a pic’s overall sales success.

Brett said “theatrical is the locomotive that pulls the passengers of the ancillary markets,” adding that “as long as puberty exists, people are going to want to go to a dark warm place to get away from their parents.”

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