The Works' Clare Crean on Why Pre-Sale is Not Dead

Clare Crean nearly knows everyone. And most buyers know her. She's been with what is now called The Works International since 1999 when it was then operating under the moniker the Sales Company. Just weeks before the AFM, Crean was promoted to head of sales amid a major corporate restructuring and the departure of previous sales chief Carl Clifton to K5 International. Her AFM badge was taken so long ago that it's in black and white but, despite the years between then and now, Crean doesn't seem to have aged much. She talks to U.K. Bureau Chief Stuart Kemp about why the pre-sale is not dead, economizing at markets and why Oscar-winning documentaries are cheaper than fiction for buyers but remain heavy on P&A wallets. Before The Works, Crean sold television and library assets for the U.K. sales, finance and production house J&M Entertainment.

The Hollywood Reporter: Is the pre-sale dead?

Clare Crean: For the right project, I believe pre-sales do exist. But I do think that what buyers are looking for is recognizable cast and an established director. Anything that doesn't have either of those two components is going to struggle.

THR: You're sales slate happens not to have any pre-sale projects at the AFM. Why?

Crean: We're not pre-selling anything at this market. It's to do with timing issues rather than anything to do with an AFM strategy. There is s project we are talking about boarding but we're just not in a position to talk about here. Hopefully by Berlin, we'll be in position.

THR: A lot of folks say you can't sell European art house at the AFM?

Crean: Generally, I agree with that comment however the Works has a tradition of successfully selling European art house projects here. We successfully sold I Am Love (Lo Sono L'Amore) here last year. We began selling it during Toronto (2009) and came into the AFM last year and we screened it here last year. We concluded a Latin American territory deal for it with Sun Distribution at the beginning of the market.

THR: If it's difficult for European art house, what about feature documentaries with which you have enjoyed big successes?

Crean: We've been fortunate that we have handled sales, in the last three years, on three incredibly successful feature docs, Man On Wire, The Cove and Countdown to Zero. Both Man On Wire and The Cove won the Oscar for best documentary feature. They have all been sold widely but it is still a genre that certain territories stay away from completely.

THR: Such as?

Crean: Scandinavia is very difficult to sell feature documentaries partly because they make them very successfully themselves for their home territories.

THR: But it's a hard proposition to sell feature documentaries generally?

Crean: Box office figures for what feature documentaries take are small. The feature documentaries that do sell always have something about them that makes them really stand out from the crowd. They have to because for people to choose to go and see a documentary at the cinema amid all the choice, it has to be special.

THR: Is a feature documentary cheaper to buy than a fiction feature?

Crean: Generally a feature documentary is less than a feature film because we do still, somewhat bizarrely, operate as a sales company on the basis that what buyers pay is linked to the budget of the film. MG's are lower for feature docs but that doesn't mean to say P&A costs for distributors are lower. In fact, P&A costs are just as high for a feature as a non-fiction project.

THR: We're now in the second year of feeling the global economic downturn. Has a equilibrium been reached between prices sellers want and money buyers are willing to pay?

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