Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

News round-up... 25/06/2015

Posted Thursday 25 June 2015 by Sarah Rutterford in News Round-up


News

  • We're putting the final touches to the programme for Summer Screening Days in July. The latest films to be confirmed include the much-anticipated historical drama Suffragette starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep; 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets, a haunting and timely documentary investigation into racial violence; Cinema for All's choice, Oscar-nominated Estonian drama Tangerines; and Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. The registration deadline is this Friday: don't miss your chance to add to your programme! Check out the trailer playlist above, read about the films HERE and book HERE.
  • Last week we took 14 trainees from our FEDS scheme to Edinburgh International Film Festival for three days to experience a film festival in action. The trainees enjoyed attending Distribution Rewired – an industry event looking at new models of distribution, as well as countless film screenings including the premiere of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, and a lively ceilidh!
  • The BFI has launched a new Europe-wide Framework for Film Education, bringing together knowledge and practical know-how from a range of institutions and educational providers all over Europe. Read the full report.

Opportunities and open calls

  • Practical Programming, our course for exhibitors wanting to learn how to develop their audiences and create innovative, structured and well-attended film programmes, is open for applications. Running over six months, you'll meet programmers from across the UK and be guided by a dedicated advisor. Find out more.
  • Our acclaimed Technical Skills for Digital Exhibition programme is still running with funding from the BFI Film Audience Network - so if you need affordable, bespoke advice on a tech issue in your venue: read more!
  • Also on the technical front, do your staff need training in event cinema? The Event Cinema Association is running a series of workshops at BFI Southbank over 20-21st July; with others in Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast to follow.
  • Film Hub Central East has issued a call for expressions of interest for exhibitor project funding. If you're trying to engage young and/or diverse audiences in your venue, you may be eligible.
  • And Film Hub Scotland has launched a new micro-funding scheme for small, volunteer-run exhibitors including film societies and community cinemas to enhance programmes and develop audiences.
  • The European Women's Audiovisual Network is doing a very worthwhile survey on the status of female directors, and needs your input to formulate a picture (with a view to creating change). Take the survey.  
  • Film societies! It's time to apply to Cinema for All's Film Society of the Year Awards 2015.
  • Academics and researchers, a call for papers on subjects relating to 'small cinema' for presentation at Malta's annual conference on the subject.
  • Encounters Short Film Festival is offering an early bird 20% discount on Industry Forum passes until 30th June.
  • Preparations for this year's Scalarama, the nationwide celebration of cinema, are hotting up! Find out more.
  • Warsaw-based festival WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film is calling for international docs.
  • Less than a fortnight to enter your ultra-short shorts (less than 90 seconds) for free to DepicT!
  • Leuven Short Film Festival needs your international shorts.
  • And - it's your last chance to submit to Vancouver International Film Festival!
  • Young film enthusiasts: Cinemagic has launched its annual call for film selectors for its Festival programme.
  • And, another opportunity for young film lovers, the BFI Audience Academy - to be held in Sheffield this August - is seeking 16-19 year olds to attend its week long residential course, where they'll learn from industry experts in exhibition and distribution.
  • Film artists: Animate Projects and QUAD are seeking a moving image artist to produce a work involving animation, drawing and digital technologies.
  • Looking for work? Make sure you check out our currently very healthy jobs page! (And sign up to our email list so you're first to hear about new roles)

Read more

  • Roger Ebert's birthday movies, compiled by his wife Chaz.
  • "I didn't realise, obviously, that 20 years later we'd still be talking about it." A fascinating conversation on the making of unexpected 90s classic Clueless.
  • I liked this piece on Studio Ghibli's 'fiercely independent and resilient' female protagonists - the 'genuinely aspirational princesses'.
  • And loved this blog with its beautiful pictures of Angola's old art-deco venues; taken from the Goethe-Institut's interesting archive project on Africa's cinemas.

Life in distribution: Film FEDS

Posted Wednesday 10 June 2015 by Duncan Carson in Cinema Careers, General

Phoenix
Phoenix by Christian Petzold, one of Soda Pictures' big titles this year

This year we're running our Film FEDS scheme, aimed at giving young trainees an opportunity to learn on the job in film distribution, exhibition and international sales. Here, one of our trainees, Amanpreet Dosanjh, gives her impressions of the experience.

Working in distribution

I am currently doing my traineeship with Soda Pictures and my main role is Press Assistant. But the great thing about my traineeship is that the Soda team has encouraged me to work across different areas (marketing and home entertainment) so I can learn about all the different elements in distribution. Whilst I've been here there have been a number of releases from all over the world including Jauja, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, Difret, The Face of an Angel, The Goob and many more gems which Soda has brought to the UK (you should all check them out!).

When I first started, I didn't really know what to expect as working in the film industry has been given a frightening reputation. But nearly halfway into my traineeship, I’ll begin with letting you all know that working in the film industry isn't like it's portrayed in the movies. Yes, it's fast paced but it really isn't as scary as it looks. There are so many areas you can choose to work in with film but I've always wanted to experience what it's like to work in distribution and I have learnt that it requires a lot of work to get films to the cinemas. But once a film is out, it feels so rewarding.

I could write a reallyyy long essay about all my great experiences at Soda so far but the easiest way for me to give you an idea about what my job involves is to take you through one of our campaigns. This is the standard process for any release but it varies widely because the films are so different, which makes it all the more exciting as you're guaranteed to learn new things along the way! I'll take you through our process for Phoenix (directed by Christian Petzold), which we released in May.

Strategy

First things first, the whole team gathers and gets stuck in for a strategy meeting. This is where all the ideas are discussed such as comparative titles, cinema sites and target audiences, so we can get an idea of how the film will perform at the box office and to ensure that we can make it as successful as possible. Other elements are also discussed such as technical materials, marketing, press and home entertainment and the film's journey is discussed from start to finish. After being part of many strategy meetings during my time at Soda, I have learnt that they are crucial, giving everyone a chance to brainstorm ideas. After the meeting we have a clear focus and goals to work towards. Everyone's ideas are taken into consideration, which makes you feel like a valued member of the team.

Amanpreet Dosanjh FEDS
Amanpreet, one of our FEDS trainees

Press

As my main role is press assistant, it's my job to organise invites to our press screenings. This means sending out invitations to journalists/critics/reviewers or relevant groups so the team has an idea of the type of press the film will receive. I'm responsible to going to screenings to see who's attended and it's really awesome because I can stay and watch the films on the big screen too! It’s great to see journalists and critics gather and it's given me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people who work in the industry (journalists are not as scary as they’re made out to be either!). After the screenings, I chase the attendees for their reactions. Hopefully this lead to useful quotes for trailers and posters - there were plenty to choose from for Phoenix

Marketing

Whilst all the press is taking place, the wonderful marketing team pieces together a campaign to ensure the film reaches the right audience and I’ve been lucky enough to get hands-on experience in this field too. Helping on the marketing side includes creating posts on our social media sites, reading reviews to see if there are quotes we can use on posters and in trailers and also looking at artwork from different territories to get an idea of what design to choose. As I get to watch films before release, I've also had the chance to choose clips for promotional use, and it feels amazing to be given tasks that make you feel really involved in the film's campaign. 

A week before the film's release, I go around all of our cinema sites to ensure that they're playing the trailer and displaying our beautiful posters. This is one of my favourite tasks as it gives me the opportunity to visit cinemas across London and meet the lovely teams at the sites and most of all, it’s a great feeling when you see Soda posters in the big, shiny frames. Before beginning my traineeship, I had no idea that so much marketing was involved in distribution. I've been learning so many different marketing techniques and have realised that although film knowledge is important when working in distribution, many other skills are required to make a film work.

Soda Pictures

Website

Once all sites are confirmed by the bookings team (who work hard to get our films screened in as many cinemas as possible), it's my job to update the website with all the cinema details so everyone can head over to buy their tickets. I thought updating a website was very complex (ahhh, numbers and codes!) but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty simple and the team have been helpful by teaching me everything I need to know.

Reviews

The most anticipated day is release day! It's exciting because after all the hard work, the film is out there for everyone to watch. It's the same day that reviews appear online and in the papers so it's always interesting as you get to see all of the reactions. Phoenix received brilliant reviews and it's really heart-warming to see Soda films perform well as all the hard work pays off. So on release day, my main task is to gather all the press to see who covered the film, how it was reviewed and share the successes with the team!

Overview

This has been my journey at Soda so far. There is so much more involved but if you're curious about how film distribution works, the FEDS scheme is an amazing opportunity to get stuck in. Overall, my traineeship feels like a great beginning to my journey in the film industry. Soda, like many other independent distribution companies, has a small but extremely talented team. So when I leave the office every day I take away something new that I’ve learnt, all useful knowledge and skills that will help me in my future career. I've had the opportunity to get involved with all aspects of distribution which has made this traineeship an unforgettable experience.

5 Things I didn't know about International Sales

Posted Tuesday 2 June 2015 by Duncan Carson in Cinema Careers, Training & Conferences

Aneet Nijjar

This year we launched our FEDS scheme, which aimed to recruit 15 ambitious trainees keen to gain film industry work experience, and to put them in work placements in leading film distribution, independent exhibition or international sales companies, where they can gain hands-on experience.

Now several months into their placements, we asked Aneet Nijjar working at Protagonist Pictures her experience of working in the often-misunderstood world of international sales.

When I began my training with Protagonist Pictures, I thought I had a general idea about what it would be like working for sales company – money, money, money – but boy, was I wrong. Even now, three or so months in, I am still learning new things about this sector of the industry and seeing what a dynamic player it is. Anyway, here’s what I know so far…

The Lobster
The Lobster, recently feted at Cannes, is one of many impressive titles Protagonist Pictures handle international sales for

The Sales Company is the Producer's Ally

A sales company can be a producer’s best friend and advisor. They bridge the relationship between production and distribution, making the sales company an essential component of the film industry. A good sales company will know how to make a project successful, and can guide it along the right path from inception to completion. A sales company will have expert knowledge on the current film climate both creatively and financially, helping to drive the project forward. They can even help with financing and marketing of a film if the producer requires that guidance.

It's a Lot More Creative than You Would Have Thought

Acquisitions are a major part of a sales company’s day-to-day operations. Reading and then identifying a great script is a skill in itself. Even sales agents who have to sell forthcoming projects to distributors must read scripts on a regular basis, as they will know whether or not a script has the potential to become a great film. The image of a sales agent who only drones on about figures over lunch is pretty much a myth, as I discovered that sales agents have to have a pretty decent knowledge of films to make decisions on what film to acquire. It was pretty exciting sitting in on a meeting with the acquisitions and sales teams when they were discussing potential projects and being mightily impressed with the knowledge on display. In an industry where comparisons are king, it’s pretty obvious to me that you do need a creative side and a passion for films if you are to work in sales, as you need to have a flair for knowing a good script to go alongside the numbers part.

A Field in England
A Field in England by Ben Wheatley proved a coup for Protagonist Pictures

Research, Research, Research

To be a bloody good sales agent, you need an armory of knowledge to keep ahead of the pack. Knowing your territories inside out is a must. Stats and figures on how different countries and cultures consume cinema are essential. You can use statistics to find who the dominant distributor is or find out what genre is the most successful at each box office. If you do not know your markets, then it’s a huge waste of time and effort. The producer and distributor rely on sales to know where a film would sell successfully and where it wouldn’t and then make the deals with the right distributor. If you love your stats and research (like I do), then this part of sales will be right up your street.

Being Adept When Things Change

A project can change when you least expect it, so you have to be prepared when things do go awry at a moment’s notice.  To work in sales, you have to be able to think quickly on your feet if a major component of a film changes. Whether it’s a last minute director or cast change, a great company will know how to handle a crisis due to experience and having solid relationships with others in the industry. But the most important thing to do is to STAY CALM.

Duke of Burgundy
The Duke of Burgundy, Peter Strickland's stunning third feature, is one of the most recent sales titles by Protagonist

Sometimes It's Not All About the Money

Yes, a sales company must be able to sell films successfully to make money – it is the film business after all. But sometimes it can be about creating a meaningful film or giving talented filmmakers a chance to make their mark in an industry that is so often averse to risk. It is easy to keep churning out sequels or comic book adaptations but a forward-thinking sales company like Protagonist will always look for quality and potential in all aspects of the films they are buying and selling. We need sales companies to be bold and give opportunities to emerging filmmakers like they have done in the past in order to keep the business fresh and innovative.

Cannes 2015: Emma's blog

Posted Friday 29 May 2015 by Duncan Carson in Festival Reports, General

Emma Caviezel

Our FEDS trainees - 15 ambitious young people receiving experience in distribution, exhibition and international sales - are moving ahead with their careers. Here, Emma Caviezel gives her take on her first time in Cannes.

As soon as I started my FEDS work placement at Umedia International in late January, it became clear that festivals were a major part of the sales agency calendar. Some of the first tasks I was assigned were to do with the imminent Berlinale, and, having spent some of my first working days in an almost empty office as my colleagues left for Germany, I was pretty curious as to what the whole festival thing was really about. When it came to Cannes, a bittersweet series of events led to me being transferred a badge, and I made my way over with the aim of spending some time working in the office, as well as having a general look around.

Arriving at the office, I knew the sales team would be extremely busy, having spent the weeks leading up to the festival booking their meetings. By the time I came in over the weekend, it was only just beginning to wind down, as the majority of activity took place in the first few days. Basically, the aim of the sales team is to sell the rights of the films on their slate to distributors representing different countries or regions. At this particular festival, their focus was on a few major projects, all at different, but early, stages of production. The team there were very generous with inviting me to sit in on meetings, and I was really impressed by the matter-of-fact and honest way in which the projects were pitched and discussed, both parties being very up-front about their hopes and visions for the finished film. Although the agents’ calendars were completely booked up, what I had pictured as a hectic and stressful environment seemed much the opposite. Each new distributor, whether arriving in groups or individually, was greeted with new energy, and with a selection tailored to their company’s, or region’s, tastes. During the latter part of the market, meetings were also had with producers, with a view to discussing new upcoming projects that the sales agents may be interested in picking up.

The Lobster
Inspiring red carpet madness in Cannes: Yorgos Lanthimos's The Lobster

Otherwise my stay in Cannes revolved mainly around screenings. Having unexpectedly received red carpet tickets on the afternoon before leaving, I had my first Grand Palais experience on the night of my arrival to see Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster. The buzz for the film had been building up all day, with an earlier screening in the morning. By mid-afternoon, the whole Croisette was crawling with tuxes, shades and sparkles – people milling around waiting for the screening, but also hopefully waving handmade signs asking for any extra tickets. On the way to the carpet, laid out on the Palais steps, you go through a gate, then another, and then another, to the sound of blaring music and cameras flashing from absolutely everywhere. It all culminates in the entrance of the cast and director into the cinema to thundering applause, with the anticipation for the movie at an absolute high. The whole thing was simply surreal.

My Golden Days2
My Golden Days by Arnaud Desplechin was a favourite of Emma's from Cannes 2015

In addition to this surreal quality, what mostly struck me about Cannes was the contrast between it being extremely exclusive on the one hand, but also more accessible than I had thought. Before leaving, I’d been variously warned that there might not be a point in even going because of its shallow and selective side - and that side was definitely very real, as I saw the controversial ‘heelgate' policy enforced at the screening of Todd Hayne’s Carol. However, since so many were there for networking purposes, people were generally quite open and inviting. And although I was lucky in terms of screenings at the Palais, my favourite film at the festival was Arnaud Desplechin’s Trois Souvenirs de Ma Jeunesse (My Golden Days), which was screened at the Director’s Fortnight (Quinzaine des realisateurs) – a series of screenings open to industry and the general public alike. If you don’t have a badge, individual tickets are €7, although you do have to queue up about an hour in advance, as even with a ticket you’re not guaranteed a place.

Being in Cannes proved an invaluable opportunity to see some amazing films, as well as to learn more about the sales process through sitting in on meetings at Umedia. However, it was not without relief that I got on the plane back to the real world, as I definitely had my fill of glitz, glamour and blisters.

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