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Sales agent K5 finishes fast

Company ramps up slate, brings coin to table

When budding foreign sales company K5 Intl. burst onto the scene at Cannes earlier this year with actioner “Vehicle 19,” it marked a turning point for the nearly 5-year-old company.

Not only did the title prove to be one of the hottest pics at the market, with K5 locking down 60% of the sub-$10 million budget in presales, it was reflective of the company’s financial muscle and ability to greenlight a viable and attractive title.

“When the producers came to us with the title, they were still packaging and putting financing together, and everything had to go very fast,” says Carl Clifton, who heads sales and marketing at K5. “We had to provide them with financing in just one week, which was a huge challenge. But we can rely on our own financial capacity so we can act fast.”

K5 put up 30% of the budget from its own funding, plus finance from Kevin FrakesPalmStar Media Capital, whose outfit K5 regularly works with, and Los Angeles-based EFish Entertainment.

It’s clear the days of a sales agent slapping up a poster at a market and relying purely on sales panache are over, with more companies stepping up to finance and package pics. With this in mind, when Oliver Simon and Daniel Baur of German shingle K5 Film decided to open an international sales arm in 2007, it was with a view toward eventually acquiring and financing low-budget U.S. films.

Simon, who had worked as a talent agent in Munich before he founded K5 Film, brought Baur, an entertainment lawyer with experience in packaging pics into the fold in 2006. The two raised private equity from German investors.

In 2007, K5 picked up Richard Jenkins starrer “The Visitor” for a seven-figure sum at Toronto. The pic went on to earn Jenkins an Oscar nomination and gross $18.1 million worldwide.

In 2009, K5 increased its financial clout and, with Sascha R. Prestel, created K5 Media Capital, which provides debt financing. The company also bought a stake in development company Palm Star Entertainment in order to give it access to commercial U.S. product.

It opened offices in L.A. and London, and poached sales exec Clifton from the Works to head up the London office.

The subsequent appointment of ex-UIP and Shine Entertainment exec Erica Motley as head of acquisitions helped the company, through Motley’s relationship with producer Peter Safran, land Paul Walker starrer “Vehicle 19,” which has closed 110% of its budget even though it has yet to get a U.S. deal.

“In the last year, we’ve said that we want to extend the company to get to the next level,” Baur says. “Our big advantage is that we really have a team of partners; it’s not just a one-man show.”

Simon feels the company’s best asset is its ability to tap into international co-financing, which allows it to presell higher budgets “and enter L.A. very seriously.”

For the $12 million “Night Train to Lisbon,” helmed by Bille August and toplining Jeremy Irons and Melanie Laurent, K5 was able to offer 15% of the budget.

“We brought (the producers) the minimum guarantee to close the film, (and) found the right cast that could support the (guarantee) they were looking for,” Clifton says.

Partnering with Michael Benaroya exemplifies the type of relationship they want to forge with producers.

“He’s someone who moves fast,” says Simon. “And we’re looking for a reliable partner. We’re not hit-and-run guys — we’re the guys looking for long term relationships.”

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