Our International Sales Agent (ISA) of the Day coverage is back again for this year’s Cannes Film Festival. We will feature successful, upcoming, innovative and trailblazing agents from around the world, and cover the latest trends in sales and distribution. Beyond the numbers and deals, this segment will also share inspirational and unique stories of how these individuals have evolved and paved their way in the industry, and what they envision for the new waves in global cinema.
If you’re not in film sales, you may not think
it’s fascinating or exciting at all. Well, think again and meet the talented
and energetic Xavier Henry-Rashid of Film Republic. He has cornered the niche of
art house films in the UK where sales agents with their sole focus on art house
previously didn’t exist. His enthusiasm and passion for the craft of visual
storytelling is refreshing. Buyers take note; Xavier is one to watch.
Not only does he understand the importance of
sharing artists’ voices in the world through beautiful storytelling, but he
also values films of social consciousness – like Pine Ridge, a documentary about
the current state of native Americans and the sorry state of reservation life.
Xavier explains how he went from a 16-year-old
paparazzo to being an up and coming trailblazer in the film sales world:
How did your company start?
I’ve programmed for festivals. I ran a
festival. I did sponsorship for Sundance London and programming for Sheffield.
I help run a festival in Texas called Victoria TX Independent Film Festival and
I was always connecting filmmakers to films and with distributors. After doing
seven years of that, I decided I could just do it as a job.
I setup two years ago. I like art house
specifically and felt they weren’t being represented enough. I’ve always loved
introducing filmmakers with the marketplace. I was doing that quite a lot, so
this was kind of my transition to sales.
Another thing is that the UK is a very big
market, and in reality, it’s one of the most difficult territories in Europe to
release art house and foreign language titles – and by that I mean non ‘auteur’
main festival winners. In other parts of Europe, I feel there’s a lot more
variety and choice and I kind of hope that by osmosis others will pick up on
this back in London.
One thing we do very differently than other companies
is that we work non-exclusively on our films and take costs off the top (not
commission first). This really means that filmmakers see a fair return on all
deals; this is important for small or niche art house, which cumulatively
benefits from lots of small to medium sized deals. I’ve worked with a lot of companies,
which took commissions first, including screening fees. This meant they would
make vastly more money than filmmakers. I’ve also worked with enough festivals to
know their funding mechanism. Festivals make solid incomes from the box office
and sponsorship. A long-term festival or non-theatrical strategy can reap solid
rewards, but the partition of income all the way down the chain is what I try
How did you get into the business?
When I was 16, I was actually a paparazzo. When
I was in school, I used to teach photography to kids who were a few years
younger. I used to shoot a bit of wildlife and I used to do red carpets, like
premiers and award ceremonies. I had accreditation for everything. I was the
youngest person with a press pass: sixteen with a ladder like the guys here (on
the red carpet in Cannes) standing on the stairs. I did that for a couple of
years, and I used to shoot the festivals. Then one day, a PR guy said,
“Hey, if you want, you can come watch the films”, and then I began
meeting people and took to writing. I used to do reviews and features for Yahoo
Movies when they had original content, so I was photographing, going to screenings,
then covering the press junkets. I started working with festivals, and that’s
how it began. I was seventeen when I really fell into it.
What are some of your highlights?
We have El Limpiador, one of the biggest Latino films of the last year.
It was the foreign Oscar entry for Peru in 2013. We have a film by Marcel
Gisler called Rosie, which was pretty sold out in Berlin; it made it to most of
the major territories.
We also have a really great documentary called Pine Ridge, also the
Dragon Award winner at Goterborg, about the native American Indians in South
Dakota living in pretty awful poverty, and also Concrete Night by one of the
most established Scandinavian filmmakers Pirjo Honkasalo.
We mainly go for unique films and intelligent
stories, and we look for strong visual storytelling. It’s a mix between some
very established production companies and first time filmmakers.
How are sales going?
Every sales agent will tell you everything is
great! Our joke between us is ‘sold out’! As a new company, starting in mid
recession, the first two years we operated on minimal cash flow. We had very
few films and needed to build up momentum and the brand. One thing I didn’t
appreciate at the time is that we needed more volume to break into package or TV
deals. In retrospect, maybe I’d have taken on catalogue titles to do this.
Now we have films coming out on all four
corners. We’ve built a pretty great profile of high quality and intelligent art
house titles, by both first time filmmakers and some of the most respected
production houses. I think they both complement each other. I’m quite careful
to not take more than we can handle, and so we take our time before we hit up
major festival sections. What I don’t want is to grow too fast. I think we have
a niche, and being the only UK sales agency that understands and does art house
distribution is an advantage.
More About Film Republic:
Launched in 2012 at the Rotterdam Film
Festival, Film Republic is a London based world sales agency specialising in
art house fiction and creative documentaries. Our lineup includes titles from
veteran production houses as well as emerging and first time filmmakers, with a
focus on intelligent, cinematic and non-mainstream titles. Film Republic has
quickly established itself as one of Europe’s leading art house agencies, due
to its commitment to embracing new windows of distribution and for taking on
risky and daring titles by the next generation of master filmmakers.