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Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo are co-presidents and co-founders of the New York-based distribution company Zeitgeist Films. Formed in 1988 Zeitgeist has a staff of eight who acquire and distribute independent films from the U.S. and around the world. Zeitgeist Films are strongly auteur-driven, have a distinct visual style and unique content and focus on the more discriminating and adventurous filmgoer.
Zeitgeist acquires its films with the following criteria in mind: passion for the film, its quality and prestige, and its marketability. Their collection of the best in independent and international cinema has been accumulated by working with the most talented and innovative filmmakers in the U. S. and abroad, and over the past 22 years they have successfully developed markets for the types of films that they like to acquire.
Types of films in distributor’s slate:
Zeitgeist has distributed first films by notable directors Todd Haynes, Christopher Nolan, Francois Ozon, the Quay Brothers and Gianni di Gregorio and their catalog also includes films from the world’s finest independent filmmakers including Agnes Varda, Guy Maddin, Olivier Assayas, Jia Zhang-ke, Atom Egoyan, Abbas Kiarostami, Jennifer Baichwal, Derek Jarman, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Peter Greenaway, Philippe Garrel, Yvonne Rainer, Jan Svankmajer, Laura Poitras, Astra Taylor, Raoul Peck, Gonzalo Arijon, Greta Schiller, Sergey Dvortsevoy and Jacques Demy.
Zeitgeist is also renowned for its ground-breaking documentaries which include “The Corporation,” “Trouble the Water,” “Up the Yangtze,” “My Country, My Country,” “Ballets Russes,” “Manufactured Landscapes,” “Into Great Silence,” The Gleaners and I,” “Derrida” and “Afghan Star.”
Advice for filmmakers:
Lots of advice but briefly: Do your homework on the companies that are out there; be careful in your preliminary festival strategy; don’t be shy at film-related events–you never know who could be helpful to you so talk to everyone; understand something about the distribution process before you start; assess your film’s potential–it may not be right for every market; be realistic.
Who handles acquisitions:
Emily Russo and Nancy Gerstman, with input from long-time staff colleagues Adrian Curry, Clemence Taillandier, Nadja Tennstedt, Shannon Attaway, Cristela Henriques, Ian Stimler and Ben Crossley-Mara and Patrick Higgins.
Number of films released theatrically each year:
5 – 6
Distribution platforms other than theatrical:
Besides our emphasis on theatrical we distribute in broadcast TV (all forms of free and cable), home video, Internet and all forms of VOD and electronic distribution markets.
Number of films released exclusively via VOD/DVD or “alternative” means of release:
One or two per year exclusively for DVD.
Number of films acquired at festivals:
40%-60% depending on the year.
Festivals where distributor has acquired films in the last two years:
New Directors/New Films, Toronto, Cannes, Tribeca, Sundance, International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam
[For more information, visit the company’s website.]