What does a Sales Agent do in Film?
Sales Agents: why are they so important to you as a filmmaker?
- The sales agent represents distribution rights on behalf of the ‘rights owner’ for a movie.
- They are responsible for creating a sales / marketing strategy at markets & festivals.
- The agent negotiates deals on your behalf with international distributors.
- They deal with requests from distributors.
- Once sales are made, the agent is involved from contract stage to delivery of the film.
- It’s their job to oversee collections of income & reporting on the movie for the duration of the term agreed.
- The sales agent earns a commission on deals made.
But ..what does that really mean for you, the writer / the producer / the creative team?
- Think of your movie as if it’s a puzzle – to get it made, the pieces are a jigsaw of finance from global territory sales / soft money (tax rebates) / investment.
- For most films, it’s unlikely you would receive a check for the entire budget (unless you are backed by a Studio OR find a wealthy investor with a passion for your project)
- Usually, finance is broken down into pre-sales, tax credits, gap, equity – the sum of the parts adds up to the whole budget i.e. a greenlight for your movie.
- A good sales agent will be able to look at your budget; work alongside you to piece the financing together
- They have relationships with Funds, Banks, Distributors etc – & may act as your Executive Producer partner.
- The sales & marketing is limited to getting the movie out to prospective distributors
- It is NOT their role to sell / market a finished film to an audience.
When does the sales agent get involved?
- A sales agent boards a project at any point from development to finished film.
- Most like to see a fairly well developed screenplay from a producer with an idea of budget and potential cast / crew.
- Sales agents have acquisitions executives as part of the team who are responsible for knowing what is new in the market – who is the hot new writer / producer / director?
- Note: Make friends with the acquisitions teams!
- Acquisitions execs will also attend markets / festivals looking to find new talent and watching movies / meeting with new filmmakers.
- Note: acquisitions execs have more time towards the end of the market /festival or during events put on to ‘meet & greet’ new filmmakers.
- You will hear the phrase “running the numbers” – this means the sales agent will provide you (& the financiers) with a list of estimates “high, medium & takes” – usually in US$ – that they hope to achieve in each territory for the movie.
- These numbers are based on research – the type of film; the elements attached; the budget; genre; recent box office for similar films.
- Pre-sales – agents will know based on genre, budget, package etc which distributors to approach to “pre-buy” your movie.
- A certain number of pre-sales are required to trigger the rest of the finance
- As a route to recouping investment, financiers need the attachment of a sales agent.
- Sales agents will market the film to buyers – via script / package; promo footage; finished film screenings.
- A sales agent will work with you to determine when the film is going to be delivered – and which markets / festivals it may suit e.g. an audience friendly film delivered in May would be likely submitted to Toronto for a September ‘premiere’.
A sales agent will research you & your ability to deliver the movie – you should research the sales agents too.
- The choice of sales agent is a reflection of your project to the marketplace.
- Talk to other producers about their experience with the sales agent. Do your due diligence.
- Review their website and library – if you have a broad romcom it won’t sit well among arthouse titles; nor will the sales agent’s relationships with those buyers reflect the distribution you need.
- The biggest does not always equate the best – will your small project get careful attention on a huge slate?
- However, a larger sales agent might have access to some great distribution output deals.
- Does the sales executive you are talking to “get” your movie? Remember – this person is going to be pitching it to potential buyers – are you on the same page about the movie you want to make / the one they think they are selling?
It’s rare to be able to be truly creative and financially savvy at the same time. So, what does a sales agent do in film ? A good sales agent should be a supportive partner in the process from your script to screen.