A lot of companies in Cannes are not directly responsible for the buying and selling of films, but rather operate in an important support capacity. The various film commissions that set up shop along the Croisette are good examples. I took the opportunity to speak with industy veteran John Kochman who represents the French film industry in the States via an organization called Unifrance.
So tell me a bit about Unifrance; what is it and how long has it been
Unifrance was started in 1949 and is the official French film industry agency for the promotion of French cinema around the world. Its 800 members are producers, sales agents, talent agents, actors and filmmakers of features and short films.
What is your position and what does that entail specifically?
I represent Unifrance in the US, meaning my job is to offer financial and logistical support to American distributors, festivals and film societies who promote French films, whether it's a theatrical release, festival showcase, or an event that we are partners in organizing, such as the Rendezvous with French Cinema in New York.
How did you get into this line of work?
I started out representing a UK film lab (Kay Labs) in Paris in the late '70s. The idea was to get distributors to send their dubbed soundtracks to London for film processing. It was a great education in the French film business! From there I gravitated to foreign sales (Samuel Goldwyn, MK2, StudioCanal), and to Unifrance in 2006.
What's your take on the current climate for French films abroad?
Very friendly for many types of film these days. France enjoys an edge in that it possesses a highly talented film industry producing some of the world's most interesting and diverse cinema. Many mainstream movies intended for domestic audiences are also doing well abroad; an encouraging development.
Have things improved lately or do you feel the market tightening?
It's always tough, but of course it's been a terrific year for French films. The trick is riding the wave of opportunity in this very rapidly changing marketplace.
Next up…The Exhibitor
Written by Zack Coffman. Follow Zack's film marketing tips and adventures @choppertown on Twitter.