Our International Sales Agent (ISA) of the Day coverage resumed for this
year’s Cannes Film Festival. We feature successful, upcoming, innovative and
trailblazing agents from around the world (during and after the festival) 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.
Odin’s Eye is one of the few
film sales and distribution companies based in Australia, and is highly active
in the international markets. Founder Michael Favelle
talks about his unexpected entry into film sales, his hybrid approach to
distribution, and Scarygirl, his company’s biggest
international co-production yet.
How did you start Odin’s Eye?
I started Odin’s Eye in
2006. My prior experience was working with Arclight Films, and Beyond Films. Strangely,
I never had any interest or ambition to be in the film business, even though my
father ran a video duplication factory when I was young. He’d bring home
palettes of VHS tapes, and paid me to erase the tape (at one cent per tape!) with
magnets so they could be used again.
I was a tennis coach for ten
years, and I got my degree in public health and psychology. I unexpectedly fell
into this business. No one really thinks that there’s a job called being a
sales agent, but my skills ended up being a good match because I had experience
in post-production, video editing, graphic design and good inter-personal
skills. I can apply all of these things in this business. The psychology degree
comes in especially handy at times!
It all started when a woman who
I hired said she had an opportunity to start a production company, and we could
make and sell our own films. She was going to run the TV department, and I was
going to be in charge of film. I was ready for something new, so I made a snap
decision and very quickly learned the value of due diligence. Long story short,
within the period of seven or eight months, everyone involved fell away for
different reasons: from the guy with the money, to the woman who initiated the
venture. I was the only one left, and decided to see it through. I took about
six or seven months, and formally launched the company in late 2007.
It wasn’t the best time to
start a sales company; it was the height of a hedge fund induced film glut, the
global financial crisis was just around the corner, and sales prices were
declining. There was an increase in piracy, and then came the collapse of the
DVD. There’s not many of us that got in it during that time that are still
standing now. It’s been an organic growth, which I’m quite proud of. We’ve had
slightly better films for each market and festival.
We pride ourselves on
treating filmmakers well, and actually caring for the films that we work
with. We do the right thing by
them, and don’t just dump a film if it doesn’t work at its first market. We
even try to sell those films several years later if there’s an opportunity.
This is especially relevant now, when there are new opportunities on digital
What are you noticing with the current state of film
We’re looking at hybrid
models of distribution. Prices are getting lower and lower, so when we can’t
get the deals we used to get, we’ll directly release films to multiple markets at
the same time, or sell to certain stable and regular territories (like Germany
With our hybrid sales and
distribution model, we try to capitalize on the existing market and festival
buzz. We’ll launch a film at a festival. We release it quickly after that, but it’s
important to plan ahead. I’ve noticed great films disappear after festivals, in a
commercial sense, because by the time they’re released, it’s too late; the buzz
is gone, and you can’t recreate it. The days of launching films at festivals and
watching the offers simply roll in are dwindling. You need a real game plan for
monetization before a film launches.
Is Odin’s Eye open to all genres?
Yes, but it’s been getting harder
and harder to find quality films that are saleable. We’re fairly agnostic when
it comes to genres. We do everything. Canopy, which we had at Toronto
last year, is about as art house as you can get. There are only ten words of
dialog in the whole film! We also have very straight genres: horror and supernatural
thrillers. We’re doing some larger budget animations. I’d like to think that
the only things that we don’t do are generic films. We like films that have an
edge, with a strong concept, and standout in the marketplace. I don’t like
straight action films that are all action and no story. That said, like
everyone, sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it.
Why do you think horror is so popular?
Many people genuinely do
like to be scared, and to tap into their own primal fear. Look at Latin
America. The region has a long history of storytelling around horror stories, and
that has spread into the US market. We don’t have that in Australia; horror
films don’t work there as well as in they do in the states. It’s definitely a cultural
thing, and the kind of stories that people are raised on. I also think people
like to get a reaction, and anything that gives someone a visceral response is a
good thing. Good cinema should move you in one way or another – regardless of
the genre – but it’s hard to pull off.
Why did you choose Odin’s Eye as your company name?
In Nordic mythology, Odin is
the god of gods and father of Thor, but represented many different things to many
different people. Odin would give inspiration to worthy poets and writers. He
was a shape shifter – always changing and evolving – and he gave up one of his
eyes for wisdom and foresight. We as a company aspire to all of these qualities.
Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited
We’re very excited about Scarygirl, a $22 million dollar
animated feature based on a graphic novel of the same name. It’s a tri-party
co-production, and the biggest film that we’ve tackled so far. It’s very unique.
Visually speaking, there’s nothing quite like it, but it still conforms to the
hero’s journey narrative. We did a soft launch at Berlin, and will formally
announce our co-production partners very soon. Moving forward, as with
Scarygirl, we will take a far more active role in the packaging of projects and
the structuring of finance. It’s certainly more challenging (and much more work!)
but it’s more rewarding to be a genuine part of a production team, instead of
just being the ‘sales guys’.
More about Odin’s Eye:
Established in 2006, by Michael Favelle, Odin’s Eye
Entertainment (OEE) is a vertically integrated Production, Distribution and
International Sales Agency that specializes in working with both emerging and
established filmmakers across a wide variety of genres.
As a Sales Agency, OEE represents Feature Film and Television
content worldwide hosting its own sales booth at every major festival
including, but not limited to, CANNES, AFM, MIPCOM, BERLIN & FILMART.
As a Film and Television Production Company, newly created Odin’s
Eye Productions, creates original content from within as well as acquiring,
developing and producing third party product for international sale.
In 2012, OEE inked a deal with Warner Bros. Digital Distribution
(WBDD) that will see WBDD take on select OEE titles for electronic sell-through
and Cable/VOD in North America. Additionally OEE has an output distribution
deal with Pinnacle Films for ancillary distribution in Australia/New Zealand.
In early 2013, with the start up of OEE’s Los Angeles operations,
OEE appointed ex-First Look/WB/Disney, Ildi Toth Davy as Snr VP International
Sales & Acquisitions.