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Berlinale 2022 - EFM

Industry Report: Market Trends

Sales agents discuss how to promote films internationally at the EFM

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BERLINALE 2022: Sales agents have been sharing their expertise on the key factors that can shape the promotional strategy for a film

Sales agents discuss how to promote films internationally at the EFM
l-r: Producer at Maneki Films Didar Domehri, CEO of Luxbox Hédi Zardi and CEO of LevelK Tine Klint

In partnership with European Film Promotion (EFP), the EFM Industry Talk, “Building Up Publicity: How Sales Agents Spark Off Int'l Distribution” aimed to answer questions such as what are the newest film strategies especially in the past two years, how sales agents use digital tools, and who they are targeting as potential audiences. The session opened with Jo Mühlberger, Deputy Managing Director of EFP, who gave the floor to French producer Didar Domehri (Maneki Films) and sales agents Tine Klint, CEO at LevelK, along with Hédi Zardi, CEO of Luxbox.

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Regarding the best timing to start the promotion of a film, Klint mentioned that it depends on its nature, and it is agreed between the sales agent, the producer and the director. Lots of various fantastic stills will be needed, and if possible extra material taken during the shooting for the promotion of the film. Zardi agreed and added that the right timing to release marketing content is crucial, with some films gaining buzz while they are in production. Having strong material that can also be used for the film’s poster catches the distributors’ attention and creates expectations for the final outcome, even if some films still need the element of surprise at the last minute. Domehri stressed that a producer should consider the costs of having, for example, a still photographer on set, even on a tight budget, as this material is key for the future release of the film.

Focusing on what has changed in recent years and with festivals going mostly online, Klint underlined that the digital shift has been happening for almost a decade already, and this period only accelerated this transformation. Now they are working on promoting films on various platforms and over social media, so more digital content is needed, and a campaign could start quite some time before the world premiere of the film. Everything should be coordinated with the film’s team for the right timing, without creating early expectations on a release that might be delayed, along with a precise strategy for the marketing of the film.

Zardi mentioned that since the situation was very unstable for local distributors, they were not expanding the promotion of their films quite as early, as they needed to both examine the market’s reaction but also align with the releases in local markets without stressing out the distributors. The material they are launching is targeting the distributors, helping them to imagine how they can promote the film in their territories and to their audiences.

As a recent example of their film promotions, Luxbox cited Natural Light [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dénes Nagy
film profile
]
by Dénes Nagy, which was in the Berlinale’s Official Competition but had its digital premiere last year during the EFM. They were concerned about whether distributors would be able to truly feel the intimacy of the film, which requires a special level of  immersion, so in addition to the online premiere, they organised physical cinema screenings in key locations, mainly in Europe, which some journalists could also attend. Despite the lack of word-of-mouth that would happen in a physical market, the distributors were interested, which, together with the positive reception of the press and the small buzz right before the EFM premiere, accelerated the deals which took place faster than usual, although a physical premiere in Berlin would have probably created a bigger interest. As for LevelK, the case example was Oink [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mascha Halberstad
film profile
]
by Mascha Halberstad, which first premiered in Sundance earlier this year and is the Generation programme at the Berlinale. The strategy was to focus both on VOD platforms and on distributors who want to release arthouse films for younger audiences; they therefore decided to adapt their marketing material for an international market as the possible buyers were not limited to one location.

Zardi mentioned that a festival premiere is still extremely crucial for a film to find its audience, and since festivals are linked to big markets, the attention of the industry is there. Sometimes a market premiere limited to buyers can raise awareness and offer some early deals. Klint added that it would be great if producers could spend some time and talk to their directors about the positioning of their film because that would also help to find the right festival premiere, when it isn't in an A-list festival, and could be beneficial for the release of the film later on.

As for the minimum guarantee, which was completely affected by the pandemic especially for the first six months of the pandemic, since agents couldn’t guarantee anything, it often remains lower now for arthouse and smaller films due to the continued uncertainty.

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