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HFM Boat Sessions #1: Sales & Distribution

We need a bigger boat

Between meaningful metaphors comparing the selling of a film to the selling of a house (apparently a house sale is an altogether more transparent transaction) and navigating a wide boat through a very narrow tunnel (at the end of which there may just be some light), HFM guests and experts got to grips with the business of sales and distribution Sunday 29 September. The standing-room only discussion took place on the self-same wide boat and was moderated by Mathias Noschis from Berlin-based boutique social media agency Alphapanda.

Topics ranged from the international appeal and market ability of Dutch cinema, the amount of monies set aside for marketing across all budgets of film, an inevitable assessment of Netflix as a force for good for or bad vis a vis European arthouse content, and a brief overview of the kids genre during which Joram Willink of BIND Film described his successful 3-year campaign to get his award-winning My Extraordinary Summer With Tess into Berlinale Generation. The film benefited from an accord between the Dutch and German industries to boost the range and quality of co-productions made for kids.

Other key contributions were from Trustnordisk’s Silje Nikoline Glimsdal who advised against selling a project outright too cheaply to the likes of Netflix when individual sales across global territories can net considerably higher aggregate returns.

The most vocal contribution was made by XYZ Films’ Todd Brown who addressed the question of the ‘crossover film’, ie the arthouse project with commercial potential, stressing how thinking commercial in the first place should be an axiomatic principle.

“Crossover is a bullshit term, and it ties back into the first question about whether Dutchness is the limiting factor in Dutch films travelling, and the answer is no, it isn’t,” he said. “When it comes to the marketplace, basically there is English-language film and there is everything else. Dutch film is no more disadvantaged than any other non-English film. The issue is that people aren’t asking the question of who is the audience for the movie. This is a medium that demands an audience to work. If you are not asking who your audience is when you are developing it then you are doing wrong. It really is that simple.”

“I believe 100% that there is a place for art film, it matters,” he continued, before adding a big ‘but’. “Things like the Hubert Bals Fund are incredibly important in terms of bringing voices to the world. The downside is that I think it is creating a culture here that is driving the types of films that are being developed, and the reality of the HBF films is that, by nature of the areas that they are looking for stories from, they are inherently non-commercial films. They are literally films without an audience outside of the festival. And when that becomes the dominant thread of an industry, that creates problems.”

Tekst: Nick Cunningham
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