Durie in Rio: Tips to Producers on Sales Agents

The times they are a changing – but some things remain the same, marketing specialist says on sales agents

Durie Rio: Tips Producers on Sales

Returning to the RioMarket and Festival after a hiatus of 20 years, film marketing specialist John Durie held a series of workshops with local Brazilian producers. The theme of the events were based on assisting the producers in helping get their films abroad – something Durie has been focusing on over his company Strategic Film Marketing’s 20-year history, but more on the European level.

Variety caught up with him in Rio:

Variety: You’re back – what’s it like?

John Durie: Things have changed, but you can still feel the same Rio feeling. It’s still very vibrant, but you can also feel a confidence in the whole industry, the maturing of the festival, its fantastic organization. It’s very polished.

V: What about your producer sessions? Can Brazilians do more to get their films to travel abroad?

JD: That’s the focus – and as the saying goes – ‘Times they are a’changing.” But some things remain the same, meaning the dissemination of films as we know is rapidly shifting and the old paradigm is been shaken up dramatically. The quality of television – all over – plus Netflix, iTunes, VoD means producers are being forced now to consider their traditional release models – and accepting that big theatrical releases will either be reduced, or possibly not even happen. So the industry is changing – but some things do remain the same.

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V: Like what?

JD: Well, producers may think they can export their films alone – or do the release themselves especially if it is a niche documentary. But the complexity of the business today means it is more essential than ever to have a qualified, professional sales agent or company working on your behalf. It is something that has not changed, and is more important because, as stated above – the whole exploitation landscape is more complicated.

V: O.K. – Six must dos for producers and three don’t dos.

JD: To do:
1.Think objectively. Can my local film travel abroad? Can I sell maybe re-make rights? What is the realistic potential?

2. Do your homework. Looking for a sales agent today is much easier than 10 years ago, because everything is online. The trades, the Cannes Market, every company is listed – so no excuses from the producer.

3. Have a strategy: Decide who you really want to approach, the top five or six sales agents, and go for them. Research them, prepare well, and think: Does my film fit with their line-up?

4. Let the sales agent advise you. That means don’t prepare material that will cost you money and that they may want to do themselves. They are the international sales experts – not the producer.

5. Prepare your pitch – get all the relevant material together. It’s not complicated, but it takes practice.

6. One picture is worth a 1,000 words. Please, come with at least six to eight photos that, when looked at, the agent says: ‘I want to know more.’ Sounds easy, but stills don’t happen by magic.

V: And three don’ts?

JD: 1. Don’t try the three-minute pitch to a sales agent during a market when they are focused on selling what they have. A quick introduction, and ask if you could call them later. That’s enough. Or at least ask them if they have time to see you. Control your nerves!

2- Don’t wait, meaning don’t shop your film to as many festivals as you can. Maybe take a market screening, then realize you cannot do it. Once you launch the film, even at a festival. it is out there, and sales agents prefer to have that clean sheet of paper to work from and strategize the launch. So go to sales agents BEFORE you have finished to gauge their interest.

3. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Meaning, budget well and where necessary hire some experts. Things like photography on the set, even writing a good strong synopsis which will help you get sales people interested, these are difficult to do from scratch. So if it’s not your strength, find someone (e.g. a commercials copy writer or film publicist), who can help you. Those elements that are public don’t have to be good, they have to be great in order to capture people’s attention.