To celebrate the acquisition of Ken Foster, Lift-Off caught up with Samantha Richardson from Devil Works to discuss the sales agent landscape and to hear her thoughts on how an independent filmmaker can best work with them.
Devilworks is a boutique world film sales agent. They specialise in challenging film, and in 2017 they signed Lift-Off winning film Ken Foster, directed by Josh Laner. Check out the trailer below
Hi Samantha. For those who don’t already know, what exactly does a sales agent do?
Hello there! A sales agent represents films and brings them to the several markets during the year. Usually a sales agent comes onboard when a film is either in post production or completed and in the case where the director/producer or cast is known, films which are at script stage and development.
A sales agent travels to film markets around the World, presenting World or International rights and brokering deals to distribution companies on behalf of the film makers. The sales agent will put together a marketing strategy to fully promote the film in festivals and film markets & take care of material delivery to distribution companies and broadcasters.
So what is the difference between a sales agent and a distributor?
A sales agent represents a film, travelling to 7-8 markets per year, exhibiting with stands/booths/offices, holding screenings in the market. The sales agent will put together a full marketing campaign, which includes PR, Social media campaigns, the creation of marketing materials, festival strategies, before launching the film in the market. A sales agent sells the film to a distribution company, who buys the rights to release in their Territory/Country (sometimes All rights, sometimes rights are broken up). A distribution company will purchase the rights from the sales agent to release the film on TV, VOD, Home-Entertainment, Theatrical, DVD in a specific Country or Territory.
Territories, different distribution methods, marketing expenses, deliverables – it all gets very complicated… what advice would you give to an independent filmmaker?
Making a film or documentary is the first step, the second step is to make sure you have all the deliverables material required, for a sales agent to represent and sell the film. Some companies have very thorough requests for deliverables, but it is highly recommended to make sure you have at least the standard items in place, both on the technical side and also the paperwork. There are so many models in how/when to release a film; however, without a proper marketing campaign/strategy/correct marketing materials and attendance at markets, the film will get lost. There are a lot of models & this is why it is important to have a sales agent, as it is their job to advise and take care of this.
All sales agents have marketing expenses, which vary from company to company, but everyone has a minimum, which is required in order to represent the film and bring it to the market. A sales agent advances these expenses and recoups the costs on the sales.
Have you got any advice for filmmakers who are looking for sales agent representation? What is the best way to approach etc?
The best way is to approach a sales agent at one of the markets, either in the first 2 days or towards the end. It is more personal this way. During the ‘hot’ days at a market, sales agents are extremely occupied with sales meetings, selling films on their lineup to distribution companies. You can send an email, with a short introduction to the film, with a poster and trailer, if you have one. Not all sales agents respond well to this approach, but it is definitely a good idea, once you have made an initial introduction in person at one of the markets.
What might a typical contract look like? What should the indie filmmaker expect?
Sales agents vary; however the main terms which you should look for are the duration, sales commission the sales agent will receive and their marketing expenses — making sure they are capped (which means once the agreed amount has been reached, no further expenses can be incurred) It is always good to have meeting with the potential sales agent, to ask which markets they attend, what kind of release they think the film could have, which will give you a good sense for the sales agent.
Also – we would highly recommend any film maker to read ‘The International Film Business’ written by Angus Finney –
To find out more information about Devilworks head to their website.