Nicholas, the writer and director of the project, left ESPN seven years ago to found his own company, Smart Media L.L.C., which specializes in entertaining, informative commercials and infomercials. Additionally, Nicholas Tana has years of experience writing and directing for film and creating concepts for original animated television programs.
Archive for May, 2007
HELEN LEE KIM MANDATES THE “CANNES” DO ATTITUDE!
Mychal: Hello Helen. I hope you are well! So, once again, here we are on the eve of Cannes, and before we discuss some “do’s” and “don’ts” at the market, please tell us some of the feature films that you have helped sell or finance with Mandate.
Helen: Some of the titles include pictures produced under our Ghost House Pictures banner such as “The Grudge,” “The Messengers” and coming up this Fall, “30 Days of Night” along with Mandate produced films such as “Stranger than Fiction” and upcoming titles “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” “Passengers,” “Juno” and “Horsemen”. We are the exclusive sales agent for Gold Circle Films who produced the recently released romantic comedy “Because I Said So” and currently shooting the latest Joel Shumacher film “Town Creek.” We also sold the next Sacha Baron Cohen film.
Mychal: Great! Essentially, what is the role of the foreign sales agent in relation to the producer and the foreign distributor?
Helen: On behalf of the producer it’s our objective to evaluate and maximize the value of a film in the foreign marketplace. On the buyer side, it’s our role to supply a constant flow of commercially viable product to the international distributors.
Mychal: Generally, a foreign sales agent’s fee ranges from ten percent (10%) to twenty (20%). What factors may increase or decrease the fee?
Helen: The sales agent fee varies and depends on the services provided to the producer. Mandate is a full service sales agency equipped to provide resources and support in the areas of sales, marketing, servicing and legal.
Mychal: At what point in the development process, should a producer contact a foreign sales agent?
Helen: More elements attached always make it more interesting but a simple idea if original and good enough can also spark interest.
Mychal: Does the producer need cast and director attached (Pay or Play) or will a company like Mandate help package the film? And if so, is there a separate fee for this packaging service?
Helen: Mandate is a producer as well as a sales agent so it really depends on our involvement and participation with a certain project and fees will vary as well.
Mychal: Speaking of cast, what are some major factors why A-list talent can drive box numbers domestically but bomb in overseas?
Helen: Well, certain comedic actors come to mind and it is really just about their humor not traveling well overseas. Interestingly enough, the reverse is also a factor where certain action heroes can feel “tired” domestically, are still considered big stars in certain foreign markets.
Mychal: (LOL) Theatrically, why are films generating more dollars in the foreign market rather than the domestic? Now you are more seeing premieres occurring in foreign cities such as Tokyo before these films are even released domestically. For example, the international release of Spider-Man 3 just set records in eight (8) Asian territories. Now, it is opening domestically this Friday in a wide release with 4,252 theaters. Is this just a matter of sheer population numbers?
Helen: This is an example of how important the role of the international marketplace is. The opening foreign premiere occurs on a case-by-case basis where there is a certain aspect or element in a movie (such as cast) that connects with that territory audience. But, the U.S. market still sets the pace and international buyers still look to the U.S. for a reflection of what they can do with the product internationally.
Mychal: In recent years since we both worked at the I.F.T.A. (AFMA), what has affected the presales business?
Helen: There’s no doubt the pre-sale business has not gotten any easier but there continues to be a robust market for truly commercial product.
Mychal: Have you noticed a change in business in the major markets such as Cannes, AFM, MIPCOM, NATPE, MIFED, etc?
Helen: I do miss MIFED but it’s been replaced with Berlin and again, there’s always an appetite for commercial product in the international marketplace. I would say one change in business at the markets has been caused by the growth in digital technology.
Mychal: What are the most successful and profitable genres for foreign territories? And, is there a successful formula for these films?
Helen: Horror has been robust in the past years but thrillers and high concept romantic comedies are always in demand as well. As far as successful formula, if you find the answer to this one, let me know!
Mychal: (LOL) Speaking of genres, how come Urban films have a stigma about poor overseas performance? The films have a street/hip-hop vibe which is so popular worldwide. In fact, during the holidays, I was on one of Sweden’s Archipelagoes and a couple of teenagers were listening to “The Game” and trying to school me about the deeper meaning of his lyrics. Yet, they have never been to Compton, let alone the United States. I was amazed! (LOL) Although and interestingly enough, there are really are some good Swedish rappers. (LOL) So, is the statement “Urban films do not sell well overseas” based on empirical evidence or is it conjured up?
Helen: There is no doubt that the hip-hop revolution is a huge influence among youth culture but there is empirical evidence that shows these films do not perform well in the foreign market.
Mychal: Well, do you think it could be within the purview of the foreign sales agents and buyers. Ironically, the Urban/Foreign issue appears to be similar to the former studio belief concerning “Black” films. Until, the wave of the new black exploitation films drove up box office numbers in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Helen: Maybe. And, I do agree that producers and sales agents play a role in educating international buyers and the public.
Mychal: OK…for fun, please name some “do’s” and “don’ts” for the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. Are dark blue three (3) piece corduroy suits and broken heels on the South of France beaches out? (LOL)
Helen: (LOL) The dark blue three (3) piece corduroy suit is definitely a “don’t!” It’s just too damn hot!
Mychal: (LOL) Even if I carried a chalice and sported a gold pocket watch?
Helen: (LOL) Then I say it’s a “do!”
Mychal: (LOL) OK, another “don’t.” The broken heel?
Helen: (LOL) Those only work if you’re leaving the Hotel Du Cap at sunrise!
Mychal: (LOL) Now, please name a definite “do.”
Helen: (LOL) Get dolled up and hit the red carpet and a meal at Colombe D’or, it’s breathtaking there.
Mychal: Nice! OK, wrapping up and back to business. Last Question. What separates Mandate Pictures from other Foreign Sales companies? Why should a producer choose Mandate?
Helen: We are so passionate about each film we produce and/or sell. It’s a collective partnership between the creative and business aspects of getting a film made. We allow producers and talent to spread their wings and at the same time, we provide the support and resources to get the job done. We build partnerships and think long term. Additionally, we have excellent leadership that exemplifies who we are and separates us from other companies – we really do have a Mandate!