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Eastern Europe Teams up with Europa International Sales Agencies

Eastern Europe Teams up with Europa International Sales Agencies

We know that Eastern Europe, like Latin America, is on the move.  As they build their international film business strategies, they are looking up and are ascending, an attitude that stands in stark contrast to the way Western Europe is looking.  Michael Weber, a partner in The Match Factory, an international sales agency he set up with Karl Baumgartner, the German producer par excellence of art house films.  Early on in Michael’s career he distinguished himself by his unique outlook.  At Bavaria Films, he was the first (aside from Fortissimo who was concentrating on bringing banned Chinese films to the West) to see the advantages of selling films from outside his native Germany.  He choose the best of the art house cinema and created a new model for international sales.
At the recent Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Michael, as the founder of Europa International, created a new partnership to broaden the exposure of Eastern European cinema to the world.  What follows is Film New Europe (the Eastern European online trade) interviewing Michael.  This offers a valuable lesson for all who care about the international film industry.

KARLOVY VARY: FNE TV has teamed up with Europa International the organisation of European sales agencies. Together we will be working to create a two-way dialogue between sales agents and film professionals in CEE/Baltics to find ways to bring films from the region to a wider audience.

FNE spoke to Michael Weber head of the German sales outfit Match Factory who have a line-up of 11 films screening in official selection at KVIFF 2013.

Weber is also president of Europa International the organisation of international sales agencies. We asked him about the most important issues impacting the market today especially in CEE/Baltics

FNE: What is Europa International and why do we need it?

WEBER: Europa International is an organisation which represents European sales agents. The sales agents are people who are selling movies internationally to distributors or trying to find distributors for movies from all over Europe but also from all over the world.

I think we all have a quite wide range of movies that we represent.

I think first of all we have some common interests together as sales agents, especially the changes of the technology, the move from 35mm to DCP and we can discuss our experiences with that.

It’s a platform which we didn’t have before where we can also talk between ourselves more about general terms of our business

But at the same time trying to make others more aware of our job, what we are doing, what our role in the business is.

Also of course we kind of lobby toward other organizations, trying to position ourselves, like Euorpa Cinema, Europa Distribution, and also the MEDIA programme of course.

FNE: FNE is orientated towards the countries of the Baltics and Central and Eastern Europe.   How is Europa International relevant specifically for this region?

WEBER: That is an interesting question. I think the question is more general like where are borders in what we are doing and in the business that we are doing.

You mentioned that my company handled a couple of movies from the region.

But this came more specifically out of the interest in the talent that we were dealing with in the region.

So it was never specifically said that we want to deal with movies from Bosnia, or we want to deal with movies from Hungary, that we were specifically interested in directors from the region. We are interested because there is some great talent there.

And in that sense I think that it helps to have more knowledge of what we are doing or maybe whom we are representing, all these 35 sales companies. So we are growing.

And they are all potentially people who could work with producers from that region. I think everyone is very open for that.

FNE: The Match Factory historically has handled films from the CEE/ Baltics region. What do you for when you acquire a film from the region?

WEBER: I think we have to forget borders a bit. Because what I am really interested in the talent of a director or a scriptwriter. There is nothing which differs when looking at a movie from Hungary or Bosnia, Serbia, Poland or Russia than looking at a movie from Argentina or India or anywhere else.

I in the beginning of my career, in my former job, we tried to work only with German films, trying to have a brand. But I think a brand didn’t work.

It was only the unique talent of the director. And we are looking for also stories which can travel. These can be all kinds of stories.

We tried to work only with German directors but that didn’t work

If you are asking if we are looking for stories which deal with the specific history of the region I would say no.

FNE: What are the specific problems associated with international sales of films from our region or from small countries generally?

The specific problem that we have had in the past is that some of the territories are not members of the EU and for them it means that they are not part of the MEDIA programme

For a lot of distributors in Europe they look for European films that qualify for support from the MEDIA programme.

And we always had thanks to Eurimages an additional distribution support covering those territories which were left out by the Media programme.

It is a real challenge for distributors to distribute important films like “An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker” with no support. I think that it is a very good move that MEDIA is working on including these additional territories or that another programme compensates to balance this uneven situation. 

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