Toronto: Patience Pays Off in Completed Film Sales

Agents are pushing finished products more frequently than indies still at the script stage.

Call it the finished-film phenomenon. At this year’s festival, international sales agents are pushing completed movies more frequently than independent projects at the script stage. That’s because agents are fighting over the same talent and are having trouble packaging star vehicles.

An example of the trend is the British film Sunshine on Leith, an adaptation of the hit Scottish play featuring music from The Proclaimers (“500 Miles”). Focus Features International is shopping the movie to foreign buyers, and will host a special performance by the band Monday night, followed by an industry screening Tuesday.

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Sunshine on Leith is an interesting example of the way in which the world has changed, and I think for the better,” says Focus International co-president Alison Thompson. “In some ways, the market today reminds me of the market in the mid-1990s. In those days, there wasn’t a huge presale market.”

The Solution’s Lisa Wilson agrees that completed titles are good prospects, noting that Toronto has “gained more and more importance for finished films” in the past few years in terms of selling a film internationally. Wilson is using the festival and market to sell the Joel Edgerton drama Felony to foreign buyers.

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IM Global is also juggling offers on the Tom Hardy starrer Locke and Jon M. Chu’s follow-up concert documentary Justin Bieber: Believe. Both are playing outside of the festival, but are drawing heavy interest from foreign distributors. Believe screens Monday night for buyers and the word on the street is that the pop star, who was in Toronto earlier this week, may put in an appearance.

Says IM Global chief Stuart Ford: “It is always good to have a finished film. There are always distributors with gaps on their [release] slates. People come to Toronto to buy finished movies.