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Off to market

I attended close to 10 Amercian Film Markets and a couple of 37 Degrees South markets in Melbourne, during my decade full time in the film distribution industry. As I slowly edge towards a return with productions both in post and development it was fascinating to attend this Script to Screen programme at Studio One in Auckland.

It was a discovery that some essentials never change and lots of details keep going in circles.

Producers who were the recipients of the NZFC PITA Fund presented ,having agreed to share the knowledge they gained from markets. In Auckland we enjoyed the participation of a diverse, interesting and at many times amusing group of contributors: Alex Behse (Kim Dotcom: Caught In The Web, pictured top, and Poi E), Fraser Brown (McLaren, Orphans & Kingdoms), Nadia Maxwell (Human Traces) and DEGNZ’s Tui Ruwhiu, producer of several shorts.

There seemed a common agreement that before doing business, you need to build relationships. Before you can build relationships, you will have done some research. It’s pointless trying to pitch your comedy horror to a sales company specialising in Uruguayan language romances… as an extreme example!

The Map Reader

The Map Reader, produced by Davies in 2008

Once relationships are firmly in place, you can start selling. You’ll have listened carefully to the feedback you’ve got during the relationship building and can pitch ideas that make sense to the particular sales agent you’re talking with.

As there are few examples of the NZFC fully funding of a film, sales agents are vital parts of getting a film up. Your financing will be predicated on what you can deliver from and through them.

Usually, to sell your film you’ll need a strong idea with a cast and director that get attention. You also need to understand the right price, remembering that price is what the market will pay, which is nothing to do with what it costs you to make your film. You need to research what the sales levels are for the kind of film you’re working on by studying the available sales data. One assumes though if the gap between your budget and the market price is stupid your film wont fly, but that wasn’t actually said.

There was a focus on Cannes and Australia’s AIDC and 37 Degrees South markets. AFM was mentioned but I don’t think anyone of this group indicated they’d been there this past year. One thing unchanged from 10 years ago is that, as a Kiwi proucer, your place in the market is in the dying days. In the first few days sales agents are focussed on selling and “meeting their KPI’s”. They’re mostly looking at new films (especially at the indie budget level of NZ titles) in the last days of a market.

Roger Donaldson’s McLaren, produced by panel member Fraser Brown

Other markets or locations mentioned were No Borders in New York, IDFA, HotDocs and Sheffield Doc/Fest. If you’ve got a doco to get out there, here’s a great festival resource.

The Script to Screen panel agreed there is generally a strong camraderie amongst the Kiwi producers at each market. Fellow producers will help you out if you’re new to a particular market. Asked to identify trends in products being sought out they collectively mentioned Feature Docs, Virtual Reality, TV Drama and Gender Diversity – strong female led products are in vogue.

One resource mentioned by at least three of the four was Cinando. I see there are over 77,000 screen professionals on the platform, which gives contact information about sales agents and which markets they attend. It’s clearly beneficial and at around $200 a year, not bad if you’re serious about making films and preparing them for market.



Great group, great venue, and almost perfectly moderated by Script to Screen’s Jackie Dennis. Well worth attending to refresh my aging brain on what’s involved, and the trends identified encouraged me on some of the current work I am developing. Good times!

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Script to Screen will present the market review session in Wellington this Wednesday (13 December)