Producing Feature Films for the Pre-Sales Marketplace

On Monday, the American Film Market (AFM) turned its attention to the topic of producing films for the pre-sales marketplace. A critically important topic for independent film producers, the conference hall was packed with producers discussing the current challenges presented to them in the international film finance marketplace.

Eric Brenner, who is President of ETA Films, shared his perspectives:

"I usually try to keep at risk non-collateralized money to about 25% of a budget. A movie that I used to be able to make for USD $15 million, I now have to make for USD $7.5 million. Alternatively, if you have an established director and/or cast you can go bigger and make it for USD $35 million. In the independent world it is all about making a movie for as little as possible; it always helps to have a role that a great actor really wants to play.

"The market has gone down internationally over the last few years (the Euro and Pound are down, the DVD business is disappearing), and therefore as a producer we are much more creative now about where we shoot, etc."

Tannaz Anisi, President of 13 Films, added:

"Pre-sales in today's market is very tricky; having a domestic distributor on board is helpful but when you can't guarantee them something wide it makes pre-sales more difficult. We are finding that it is much better to help package a film from the beginning, in order to "master of your own destiny," to come on earlier in the process rather than being handed a great script with no names or an actor with a bad script."

Tamara Birkemoe produces films through Foresight Unlimited. She remarked:

"Having a domestic release can often times be more important than having stars connected to the project. It is very important to go to a sales company and see what the movie would be worth internationally before setting a budget.

It is always better to come to a sales agent with a director attached, but it all starts with a script for us. Talent also helps but only if it is the right talent. Most sales agents and companies don't take submissions if you don't have an agent or producer attached.

If you shoot in LA you can probably get a better cast, but you can save a lot of money shooting somewhere else"

Caroline Couret-Delegue of Truffle Pictures added:

"It is very difficult to pre-sale horror films because of censorship issues in different territories; it is very likely that territories that do pre-buy horror films will need to cancel their contracts with you once censorship laws are confirmed.

The market has changed significantly. There is lots of content but less and less release slots per territory. Buyers have become picky.

Comedies are very difficult to pre-sell because comedy translates very differently on the screen when translated in different territories; therefore buyers like to see the film before buying.

We still do don't know how Brexit will affect pre-sales, but the numbers out of the UK are very, very low at the moment because of the current exchange rate. The UK buyers are therefore being very cautious, and tend to not position themselves on a film as a pre-buy."