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.
Picture Tree Films is an international sales and production
company based in Berlin, and was created by Andreas Rothbauer and Alex Schulman
in 2013. It had its first market presentations at Berlinale, as well as Cannes 2014. The years of experience in the film business and resourcefulness of this
duo has enabled this relatively new company to ignite with full power,
including numerous films launching with international releases and festival premiers,
including Metal Head (US release by
CINELICIOUS PICS), Mary Queen of
Scots (US release by MOUSETRAP) , Victor
“Young” Perez (US release SYNKRONIZED), West (US release MAIN STREET FILMS) and the German blockbuster Fack Ju Goehte (Suck Me Shakespeer), which grossed 80 Million dollars at the German box office
alone and will see its first international release in France, Italy, Spain,
Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States. and South Korea this fall.
Andreas Rothbauer shares Picture Tree’s success, his
experience, and his take on the transition and evolution of functionality in
Please share an overview of Picture Tree.
Picture Tree Films started over a year ago, and it’s an
integrated model of both production and sales. We’ve been developing our sales operation
over the last 14 months, while at the same time allocating coproduction
projects – our goal is two per year, and we primarily focus on English language
projects, with countries like Canada, South Africa and Australia/New Zealand
that fall under the respective coproduction treaty with Germany.
On the sales side, we do about 10-12 films per year. It’s a
mix of World Cinema and some German films with a crossover potential. With the
coproduction projects that will also be sold by Picture Tree, we are also planning to
complement our line-up with English-language films. In this respect, we’re not
My background is in sales and financing. I joined Beta Film
(one of the biggest European television distributors and a former part of Kirch
Media) in 2000 to build up their theatrical label Beta Cinema, and left to
start Picture Tree in mid 2012.
Most of our films from the Berlin market will be released in
the US, like West (to be released by Main Street Films), Metal Head, which will be released by Cinelicious (a post production house that has
worked with great talents, including Richard Linklater – learn more at Deadline Hollywood) and Raven Banner in Canada. Mary Queen of Scots will premiere at
the MouseTrap Festival this year, and Synkronized (a company which falls under
Millennium in North America) has picked up Victor “Young” Perez.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I grew up in a fairly small town, and after school when our
parents were still at work, we would cruise around and hang out at the local
cinema – the cinema was our babysitter. We befriended the older girls who
worked there, and they let us watch as many films as we could. Film was a
window into another world – geographically, culturally, but also psychologically
and emotionally. It was eye opening to see people with similar troubles… as a
kid, you think you’re alone, and then suddenly things change when you see that
other people have the same issues on the screen. Film can be healing in this
I was a journalist, a critic, and a film researcher. Early
on, I was trying to be a director, but I figured out that all the people around
me in film school were way more talented than me. I knew about the rest of it though – so I went on to find
another way to be in this business.
I found that it’s important for me not just to be on the
content or creative side, but also to understand how films mechanically come
together. It allows me to be in
touch with both worlds, and it involves creativity as well.
What are you noticing
about the latest trends in the industry and what’s on the horizon?
This business is in a transitional period, and, more and
more, I see distributors becoming content creators and producers. Smaller, more flexible units are
starting to emerge, rather than the older, heavier business structures. I see
more strategic alliances between companies without merging, and they’re
completely keeping their branding and functionality, which typically got lost
in the big mergers of the past. It’s about collaboration and smaller entities
that need to have and retain their own specialized logic without having to
compromise it because of corporate alliance.
Now is about being able to respond to all these new
challenges, whether it’s budgets, or new ways of distribution. Is it a film
that goes theatrical everywhere, or does it have to go another route? Does it
go straight to television or VOD, or will it be a day-and-date? Is it something
that combines several different types of distribution? These are the questions
we have to ask ourselves on regular basis.
Despite all the technological advances we’re seeing in
production and distribution, the physical experience of human interaction is necessary
in film sales & distribution – there’s nothing like looking each other in
the eye and closing a deal, and this is why festivals and markets like Berlin,
Cannes, TIFF or AFM will never disappear. They still fulfill an integral
function, and it still comes down to this to make it happen.
Some people have
criticized sales agents for trying to produce as well, and that the creative
side of film is not their place. What’s your take?
You have to make the right alliances with people. I don’t
think that a sales agent can’t identify a good script, and there’s no exclusivity
for producers. We’re all sellers in the film business. It’s a big chain of
selling, and it’s how films get made. For us, it’s like mixing the expertise of
physical production with the expertise of financing and distribution with a
fast moving and flexible business structure. From a content or creative point
of view, I don’t think that everybody can judge a script, but no one really has
any exclusivity for judging it, better or worse. It’s mainly about people
looking at it from a different angle with a different interest.
It is necessary that distribution and content creation come
together, as integrated units, but every unit has to have its own logic.
Otherwise, the whole decision-making process can become slower, and decisions
can be compromised. The independent film business has become more competitive
and fast paced, while the bottleneck of distribution has become tighter for
various reasons. In that respect,
it’s always better that you create alliances, but without interfering
with the logic of the others.
More About Picture
Picture Tree International GmbH was founded in December 2012
by Andreas Rothbauer and Alec Schulmann as an integrated world sales &
production company with headquarters in Berlin.
The core business of Picture Tree International
is worldwide licensing of film rights and the coproduction of international
feature films in an integrated business model.
The company will handle an overall international
sales line-up of up to eight films per year including two co-production
Next to in-house co-productions and projects
from its strategic partners, Picture Tree will secure it’s film portfolio by 3rd
party acquisitions from independent production companies.