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.
New Morning Films is a relatively new sales company based in Paris that represents exquisite art house films including “Letter to the King” and “Before Snowfall” (both by Hisham Zaman), which both won The Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film at the Goteborg Film Festival in 2013 and 2014. Its founder Germain Labeille has years of experience to draw from, and it all began as a child in Melbourne, Australia when the chairman of Village Roadshow sparked his interest in cinema by inviting him to private screenings. As an adult, he studied acting, production, and eventually worked in film sales for Rezo, Jour2Fete, and Albany Films International.
What’s unique about Germain is his experience living in Poland for several years, which gave him fluency in the country’s language and culture. This intercultural experience places him ahead of most when it comes to representing Polish and Eastern European talent, and has helped him to take on the Polish documentary “Minkowski | Saga” by Rafael Lewandowski, the feature “Little Crushes” by Aleksandra Gowin & Ireneusz Grzyb, and the Slovenian Film “Good to Go” by Matevz Luzar.
Germain shares his experience, his passion to help new directors, and his intercultural perspective on doing business:
How did you first get into film?
The father of my best friend in Melbourne was the chairman of Village Roadshow. I first met him when he was developing the video rental business in Australia back in the 80s. He would invite me to private screenings and hired me to sell ice cream and popcorn, while letting me eat the ice cream as a reward on the side. Each time I took the plane to Melbourne, he would organize a stopover in Hong Kong and welcome me as a guest to his studios. It made for a very wonderful childhood. When I was 11, he said to me, “Germain, one day you’ll also work in the cinema industry,” and I always kept it in mind. That’s probably why I’m here, in a way.
How did you start New Morning Films?
My first job in sales (apart from selling ice cream) was with Rezo for eight months. I started out as an assistant. That’s where I learned this industry is about promoting and defending creative voices that need help to get out there, and you need to be passionate to do that.
My next job was with a distribution company specialized in art house films called Jour2Fete, and then I went on to open up international sales for Albany Films International. Nearly a year ago, I moved on and opened my own company. This is how New Morning Films was born.
How’s your first year of business going?
It’s going well, because of all these contacts I’ve built over the years with other sales companies. People on the major festival circuit have started to know me, so it’s much easier. The main thing in this industry is to have the contacts. If you don’t have them, it’s extremely difficult.
What makes New Morning Films welcoming to its clients?
My idea is to promote new directors that don’t know how to get the ball rolling with their films. I come in with my contacts and experience to expose their films in ways they can’t do on their own.
I work very close with producers, and we move together. I don’t disappear once the agreement is signed, and we collaborate to show these films because the business is tough right now. There’s a distribution revolution going on, and the question is how to succeed in getting these young directors out there – especially with theatrical distribution going down.
What is the biggest challenge of working with first time directors?
The challenge with young producers and directors is that they have extremely high expectations, and you have to help them find the balance. They can make fantastic films, but this is a competitive world. Some think they’re going to win awards at every festival, and become acclaimed overnight. In a way, it’s very understandable, because they’ve put so much time, money, and soul into their films. The main goal of first time films is to be seen as much as possible. Maybe it won’t be released everywhere, but it’s a sure fire way to get people talking.
Please talk about the New Morning Films Slate.
I have eight films in my care, and they’ve all done really well at gaining awards and attention at festivals. They’re from all over the world: from Canada (“Une Jeune Fille-A Journey” by Catherine Martin), the USA, Poland, Slovenia, Spain (“Violet” by Luiso Berdejo) Germany, Scandinavia (“Princess” by Arto Halonen) and Kurdistan. I also like following the careers of the directors; I’m lucky enough to have two films by Hisham Zaman (“Letter to the King” and “Before Snowfall”), who won the Tiger Award in Goteborg two years in a row. This is the first time it’s ever happened to a director. All his films talk about the cultural differences and difficulties that the Kurdistan people encounter in places like Germany and Scandinavia.
How do you approach the challenges of doing business between multiple countries and cultures?
Every country has a certain way of doing business, and it helps to know about it before you dive in. With China for example, it’s extremely difficult to release a film there, because there’s a lot of censorship that you have to consider. Due to this difficulty, there are very few European and American art house films that succeed in breaking into the Chinese market.
Every country and culture has its stereotypes, in which there is some truth. The Americans go straight to the point. They’re very pragmatic, and the contracts are very long! With the Russians, it can take longer to get answers, and their organization is different. Really, it is a question of observation and listening. It comes from experience, and learning how to deal with them. As for the Spanish, the film makers are very passionate, so it’s important not to let their excitement overwhelm you… even if it turns into anger. At the end of the day, you have to do your best to be aware of how people think, and genuinely reach an understanding with them.
More about New Morning Films:
New Morning Films is a new independent sales company based in Paris, France. It is handled by Germain Labeille, who formerly managed Albany Films International after working at Rezo and Jour2Fete, a French quality Art House distributor. NMF’s editorial line is dedicated to the promotion of upscale Art House, and Indie Films by gifted and promising directors.
In order to build up a close and transparent work relationship with the producers and directors, our catalogue will privilege quality over quantity with no more than six films a year.
Besides Berlin and Cannes, the company will attend key markets and festivals including Warsaw and Thessaloniki to seek out rising talents.
NMF’s ultimate goal is to make use of all means of communication and innovative networks to stimulate emerging talents and optimize film visibility.