Unless we can catch up with developments in financing models, the monetary returns to Australian filmmakers and taxpayers are about to be significantly diluted. Last week, amongst the throng of more than 10,000 industry professionals from 100 countries at the Cannes film festival and Marché du Film, were a bumper number of Aussie filmmakers who had come to pitch film projects or scripts, self-screen their film for sales, while others searched for that elusive international sales agent required for significant government assistance. The increasing number of Australian film representatives is creating a buyers’ market for international sales agents and distributors who have been eagerly signing up Aussie films and film talent for many years. For our filmmakers, this creates uncertain times and translates to being asked to sell for very little despite our increasingly strong global credentials.
While there is the traditional funding model of pre-attaching distributors and sales agents, there is also a changing international market that is embracing global distribution, particularly through online mechanisms. So whilst the buzz around our Australian success stories is strong, local talent hoping to cash in on this track record at Cannes and other major international film festivals and markets cannot afford to be lulled into a false sense of security.
How can we make the most of our growing reputation without falling prey to dealmakers who use the increased competition to their financial advantage?
For a start, we need to stop relying on old funding models and begin to take greater control of our financial destiny. Online holds many opportunities in this area but the traditional platforms are also keen to change if they can see increased revenues. Australian Jonny Peters, an AFTRS graduate with an entrepreneurial angle, was successfully wooing investors for his science fiction feature film The Dream Channel which comes with a unique online production and marketing mechanism. Financing involves selling equity in the production format that can be repackaged and produced specifically for each country globally – a new slant on a traditional model that’s very successful in the television arena.
At the Cannes Marché du Film this year there were an increasing number of distribution platforms and mechanisms that could allow Australian filmmakers to create innovative financing structures and increased revenues. Many of these are incorporating with Facebook and other community-based sites where the audience of the film can really be targeted. With high-speed broadband on our doorstep (like it or not), these platforms may very well be where the real gold is.
The partially crowd financed Iron Sky and the ground breaking The Tunnel clearly shows that thinking outside the box for financing and following through with good films can lead to other opportunities for producers. This is evidenced in The Tunnel creators’ upcoming sequel Dead End with backing from Screen Australia, and the Iron Sky producers announcing a prequel and sequel in Cannes.
There has never been a better time for Australians to start up an entrepreneurial conversation at international film festivals and markets. But as with any successful industry, in order for Australian film to become a truly viable global export, we need to ensure that we continue to re-invent ourselves from the inside out.
ScreenLaunch is an innovative sales and distribution company who partner with filmmakers to identify and reach worldwide film audiences using new and traditional channels. Not a traditional sales agent or local distributor, ScreenLaunch thinks globally, with international sales, global distribution and strategic marketing and promotion. Visit www.screenlaunch.com.