Panel: Int'l market tough


It has never been more complicated to do business in the currently depressed and fragmented international film marketplace, attendees heard during an AFM seminar Tuesday.

"Totems and Taboos: The Rules and Myths of the International Marketplace" was billed as a discussion about which genres work internationally, but First Look International president Stuart Ford, Works Media Group managing director Chris Auty, Myriad Pictures CEO Kirk D'Amico, Magus Entertainment president Peter Wetherell and Ambassador Media Partners president Ian Jessel delved more deeply into the mechanics of global entertainment sales.

"The cost of managing and processing a film is beyond belief. The waterfall of who gets what in what order is like a Rubik's cube," said Auty, who called delivery requirements unduly "expensive and onerous" and estimated that contracts were one-tenth as long in the '80s.

"E-mail didn't exist then, so people had to make decisions," he added to much laughter at the Le Merigot conference room.

"The percentage of a film's financing via presales has gone way down," D'Amico said. "Banks are now running comparables all the time on genre, cast and budget to accept the risk."

Added Ford: "30% is the magic number people aim for, but percentages move around on every film. Banks will usually say 'We need to see two major territories sold before we commit.' "

Wetherell said the choice of which companies are working on the film may be even more important in attracting financing than the project itself. "Banks will judge which companies have lived up to their (promises)," he said.

Equity funding is now mainly heading to the studios, but Jessel predicted it will "trickle down to the independent sector in a year to 18 months."

According to Wetherell, filmmakers are more frequently deciding to get financing in Eastern Europe, India and China instead of arranging multicountry co-productions because they "don't have to go through the same hoops" with taxes and other legal issues.

On the subject of genres, Auty said it is key for producers to define the genre. "Europeans are particularly naughty in this regard. They'll say it's sort of a comedy -- is it a comedy?," he said. "They'll say it's a psychological thriller -- is it a thriller?"

Wetherell added that "some of our favorite films successfully mix genres, but producers have to be aware that when a film doesn't fit into boxes, that hurts the safety net."

The traditional family, horror, thriller and action film is the safest bet internationally, panelists agreed, with period dramas, dialogue-reliant comedies, musicals and Westerns the riskiest projects.