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Vanessa Saal Leaves Protagonist, Sales Agent on Indie Hits Like ‘Cold War’

Vanessa Saal Leaves Protagonist, Sales Agent
Protagonist Pictures

Vanessa Saal has stepped down from her position as managing director, sales and distribution at London-based international sales, finance, and production company Protagonist Pictures, which has a stellar record representing arthouse hits like Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project,” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster.”

As well as leading the company’s international sales, she was also instrumental in bringing in projects such as Mariano Cohn’s and Gaston Duprat’s “Official Competition,” starring Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, and Oscar Martinez, one of the top-selling titles at this year’s Berlin’s European Film Market.

Saal relocated to London to join Protagonist as head of worldwide sales in 2014. Prior to that, she was senior VP of international sales at Paris-based Studiocanal, and international sales and development exec at Paris-based Kinology. She started her career at New York-based Focus Features.

Saal said: “My six years at Protagonist have been a blessing. I’ve gotten to accompany such talented filmmakers on their journeys, work with top distributors, financiers and agents, and spend every day with an immensely talented group of people, my colleagues, working hard to bring some of the best storytelling to the world. Our business has been transitioning, now more rapidly than ever. It feels like the right time to take a pause and figure out how to apply everything I’ve learned over the past 15 years of my career towards shaping the future.”

Protagonist CEO Dave Bishop added: “Vanessa has played such an important role in the Protagonist story over the past six years. As one of the most respected and talented sales executives in the industry, and a close friend to so many of us, we will all miss her dearly at the company.”

The company’s slate includes “Limbo,” written and directed by Ben Sharrock, which was awarded the Cannes 2020 Label. The film observes refugees waiting to be granted asylum on a fictional remote Scottish island.