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In a previous blog I wrote that we not only see a lot of films in Cannes, but also have conversations with sales agents. But what exactly do those sales agents do and why are they so important to us?

To understand that you first need to know what a film producer does. Broadly speaking, a producer takes care of the financing of a film. They raise the money from film funds and/or private investments. Once a film has been made, that money must of course be earned back. This can be done through distribution in the country of production, and through the sale of the film rights to other countries. Producers usually don’t do that selling themselves. There is not enough time (after all, there are other films to be made) and there is a lack of expertise: go and figure out which company in Poland might be interested in your film.

Therefore, producers look for someone to do that for them – a sales agent. They try to sell the film to distributors, television networks, or streamers such as Netflix or Amazon. Film rights are usually sold country by country, but it also happens that the rights are sold worldwide, for example to studios such as Sony or Warner. In addition to selling films for distribution, sales agents also handle festival bookings, so we deal with them if we want to show a film that does not have a distributor in the Netherlands.

Sales agents are therefore of great importance to us. Let’s say we see a film in Cannes that we would like to show at Imagine. We knock on the door of the sales agent. It can be a quick deal; the sales agent agrees that screening at Imagine is a good idea and then it is a matter of negotiating the fee. But it is also possible that a sales agent is already negotiating with a Dutch distributor about sales. In that case, we must wait until the deal is finalized, or until there will be no deal and we still must work with the sales agent. The wait can sometimes take months and that can get quite tense if you are close to the deadline. Things get even trickier when a sales agent is negotiating a global deal with a major studio or streamer. Then it’s about more money and bigger, often more bureaucratic companies. In that case, it can tak up to three to four months before it is clear who has the rights and what the plans are next. And with that, a seemingly simple process – we saw a movie and we want to show it! – can get very complicated. It’s just one of the reasons why films we’d love to show don’t end up at Imagine. There are more obstacles we may face. More about that in a next blog.

Chris Oosterom