Marrakech: Europa Distribution Hones Negotiating Skills

16 distributors participated in exercises to learn how to handle different scenarios

Europa Distribution
Photo by Martin Dale

MARRAKECH: In a sign of the Marrakech Fest’s building industry heft, for the second year running, Europa Distribution organized a negotiating skills workshop during the final two-and-a half-days of the Marrakech Festival, overseen by coaches Joseph Drese and Hélène Gallez.

16 distributors from nine countries attended the event, including larger-scale and smaller companies, some competitors in their domestic market, others with regular collaboration from their different countries.

Participants included Christian Thomas, of Imagine Film, Belgium; Sylvia Müller, of Germany’s Neue Visione; Sylvie Leray, at Artcam in the Czech Republic; Alessandro Lombardo, from Germany’s Mindjazz Pictures; Henrik Neumann, of Reel Pictures, Denmark; Mirva Huusko, at NonStop Entertainment, Sweden; and Jonathon Perchal, of Curzon/Artificial Eye, U.K.

Workshop’s goal was to improve negotiating and team-building skills, through a series of innovative exercises, including task-solving and some role-playing.

Christine Eloy, general manager of Europa Distribution said that she was extremely pleased with the results. “We held a similar workshop last year at Marrakech which went very well and this time we have returned with different participants who were keen to become involved in a workshop based on fostering alternative ways of doing business, that grows networking and personal skills.”

Eloy considered it important to narrow the focus on these issues, rather than opening up the workshop to other topics, such as the recent E.U. Communication on a roadmap for a new European copyright framework that would divert attention.

Coaches Joseph Drese and Hélène Gallez work in the fields of training and teaching: Their workshop is based on therapy and use of symbolic processes, including looking at the narrative structure and symbolic meaning of films in order to draw lessons that can be applied to negotiating and team-building skills.

“We work with movies because they have a narrative,” explains Drese. “They use metaphors and symbols and change our view of life. They help us understand how emotions work.”

Drese cites the example of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away,” which he says is one of his favorites for such exercises. “The film speaks about rites of passage and transcending different stages in life and poses key questions such as: ‘How do I become an adult?’ It uses a symbolic process to speak to all ages.”

Another film Drese likes to use is Pixar’s “Inside Out.” Clips were shown during the workshop from the Dardenne brothers’ “Two Days, One Night” and TV series “House of Cards,” and “Breaking Bad.”

In one of the exercises, participants choose cards from a pack that identify their personality, such as “Harmonizer”, “Dreamer” or “Promoter” and then see how other participants view them.

The participants state that they highly appreciate the approach, saying that it has helped them become more flexible, handle different scenarios, keep different alternatives in mind, and think about options, rather than just acting intuitively.

The event also helped distributors reinforce their mutual ties, in a new context.

Hans Koenig, of Polyfilm, Austria, said that he is highly impressed by the workshop. “This is a great opportunity to learn new skills. We’re constantly involved in tasks such as negotiation, but we never have the chance to think about what we do. There’s never time to reflect on these issues. How do I do my work and how can I improve it?”

Huub Roelvink, of Imagine, Netherlands, echoes this idea. “Often we organize events on concrete issues – such as legal questions, or new technological developments – but we often end up preaching to the converted. I think this is an excellent initiative by our organization which opens up new ways of thinking about the business, and encourages alternative approaches.”

On Saturday afternoon – after the workshop – the distributors will join forces with sales agents, who are attending a parallel Europa International workshop, and Moroccan producers and directors, during a two-hour session in which they will have the chance to see trailers and talk about Moroccan films.

“Normally, we hold our events in different parts of Europe,” explains Eloy. “Coming to Marrakech provides a bridge to Africa and the Arab world and to another industry. We invited Moroccan producers and distributors to take part here because we want to establish bridges between European distributors and their Moroccan peers. My role is to act as a facilitator – enabling distributors to discover new talents and films that they may not have been aware of.”

The participants reiterated this idea stating that they were all interested in learning more about Moroccan cinema, as a connection point to new cinematic approaches and visions of the world.