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TIFF ISA of the Day: The Yellow Affair’s Miira Paasilinna

TIFF ISA of the Day: The Yellow Affair's Miira Paasilinna

Coverage of
International Sales Agents (ISAs) has resumed for the Toronto International
Film Festival. This segment covers inspirational companies that have officially
selected films in the festival. SydneysBuzz features ISAs, as they play an
instrumental and necessary role in helping filmmakers to share their visions
and voices with the world.

The Yellow Affair, based in Stockholm and
Helsinki, will be at the Toronto International Film Festival with two official
selections: They Have Escaped (Vanguard Selection) and The Grump (Contemporary
World Cinema). The company has two additional new films including Big News From Grand Rock and Fell

The Yellow Affair has been around for nearly
five years, and 2014 was its fifth year at the Cannes Film Festival as well.
The Yellow Affair’s CEO and International Sales Agent Miira Paasilinna started
the company with Aleksi Bardy, a producer at Helsinki Filmi, a Finnish
production company. 

Miira
shares her company’s nontraditional 50/50 profit model, her background, and her views on changes in the industry: 

How did
you start The Yellow Affair?

I founded the company together with the
chairman of the board, Aleksi Bardy, who’s a producer at Helsinki Filmi. From
the beginning, we’ve worked very closely with them. Before that, I was working
at Non-Stop Sales, a Swedish sales outfit. 

When I was working with Aleksi, he proposed this
new type of business plan for international sales. I thought it was appealing, as it benefitted the producers much more than the traditional model. That was
the reason we started the company. 

How is
your model different?

Basically, we call it the 50/50 model. The
idea is that the producers get money from the first penny, so there’s no cost
off the top. There’s no hidden cost, and things that can be allocated to films
without producers having any control. They immediately get 50% of everything. As the sales agent, we get 50% up to a certain level. Let’s say the film does
really well – we can’t demand 50% of sales forever. We don’t play with costs as
other sales agents do, so that’s been a very important principle for us. Our
producers really like that, because it’s a transparent model. We are proud to
work with our producers and work very closely with them, rather than just doing
it on our own. 

We do work with the traditional model with
some of our bigger films. It’s often up to the producers and what they’re most
comfortable with, but once they look at the numbers, they really like the 50/50
model. 
 

Were you
always in sales?

I have a background in TV production. I’ve been
a producer and a director, and I had a small production company while doing
that. I’m also an economist, so I actually have a business background. I have a
masters degree in economics, and a bachelor’s degree in media. Sales is a good way
to combine creativity with business. That’s one reason why I wanted to do film
sales. I first was kind of geared more to becoming a producer, but then I realized
that I like the marketing, selling and pitching of films. The tempo is a bit
faster, and instead of handling just a few films, you have a big slate of
films. I really enjoy that part.
 

What
types of films do you represent?
 

Our catalog is mostly art house, festival
driven films of high production quality. We carry films from about twenty
countries, so we’re not just geared up with Scandinavian films, even though
we’re based in Helsinki and Stockholm. The combination of good quality film
that we can also sell and bring to festivals is important for us.

We’re
getting into the bigger budget films at the moment. Our first larger scale
film is “The Girl King”, an English language period piece by Mika Kaurismäki. Its world-class cast includes Malin Buska, Sarah Gadon,
Michael Nyqvist, Hippolyte Girardot and Martina Gedeck. It’s in postproduction
at the moment.
 

How do
you feel about the changes of business in the industry?

Looking at all my years in sales, the prices
have definitely gone down for art house films. I see that it’s difficult for
distributors; they’re making less money, and so we are making less money as
well. From our point of view, it’s important to be really selective and know
what type of films to really take in. I think it’s a very difficult market, but
I’m happy to say that we’ve been getting income from VOD sales. When there was
a drop in DVD sales, VOD sales started to pick up, and there are now some ok
deals out there for digital rights.  

I think there’s a bit of a lull now, and
things are changing. There are some incentives that have been negatively
affected in the European film business, and we could already see the reflection
of this at Berlin and Cannes this year, as sales for smaller films were more
difficult. 

The award winning festival films do have a
place in the market, and they can have nice theatrical release. The windows are
just getting shorter at the same time. It’s an interesting challenge, but one
has to be awake and alert all the time to move with the market.

 

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