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Cannes ISA of the Day: Philippa Kowarsky of Cinephil

Cannes ISA of the Day: Philippa Kowarsky of Cinephil

The ISA of the Day segment of SydneysBuzz resumes for
the Cannes Film Festival 2015. ISAs, or International Sales Agents, help to bring
films into global distribution by selling
rights to distributors worldwide
. Topics
include new trends in distribution and sales, inspirational success stories,
film slates and more. A worthy read for any serious filmmaker looking to have a
better understanding of the chain of business between producing a film and sharing
it with the world. 

Philippa Kowarsky is the Managing
Director of Cinephil, an international sales company that is renowned for
securing financing and distribution for documentaries from all around the
world. Kowarsky started Cinephil 18 years ago on the first of January in 1997.

Cinephil has a solid history
of working with award winning films including Academy Award nominee,
Gatekeepers“ (for which Kowarsky was a nominee, with Cinephil
as the producer); the 2014 Academy Award nominee,
Act of Killing, and Dror
Shaul’s “Sweet Mud”, which won the Grand Jury Prize at

Kowarsky, the first ever film sales agent of Israel,
shares more about her background and the success of Cinephil:

I’ve was doing sales,
marketing and production before I started Cinephil. I worked for some studios
in Israel, and got into sales because there were no companies dedicated to
sales only. I was representing films at the previous company I worked at — when I left, people
just kept coming to me, saying “Will you take my film?” I started CINEPHIL and
we got a film into Rotterdam’s mocumentary section. It was the first CINEPHIL festival.
I didn’t even have a proper concept or mission for my company, but I did meet
sales agents from around the world, and thought, “Perhaps we could have some
sales agents in Israel!” Then it became a bit more formal.

We started doing everything –
features, children’s programming, and documentaries -working
with Israeli and Palestinian films. Over the years, we decided to drop
children’s programming, and then let go of feature films (which I still love).
Now CINEPHIL focuses on documentaries. 

About 8 years ago, we decided
to go International to represent films to the world, from the world –
everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you’re based: Tel Aviv, Paris, Montreal or
New York. Everyone is traveling to all the festivals, and everything is done by
emails and phone. Thanks to technology, we have a very international career and
life, and to make matters better, we also have Heather Wyer working for us out
of Montreal. Having a North American base is great!

How did you enter the film industry? 

A lot of this happened to me
by chance. I received an MA in London for communication policy studies. At the
end of the day, it’s been helpful, because it has given me a deeper
understanding of the media world. That’s been a strong part of Cinephil – being
able to strategize with all this know-how.

When I started 20 years ago,
there was very little international film and television activity in Israel. In
the meantime, the Israeli industry has developed, but getting Israeli films
into festivals was a big deal back then. Now our cinema is well received
everywhere. There are fabulous agencies based in Israel, including our TV
channels which selling product around the world.

How is Cinephil expanding? 

We do sales and distribution
and act as EP’s on films. We’ve always been into development and raising finance
for films, but recently the films we’ve been working with are of a higher
profile. One of the highlights is when we came in as producers for “The Gatekeepers”, for which we were nominated for an Academy Award in 2012. In 2013, we were
back in Los Angeles with “The Act of Killing”, which was nominated as
well.  We are proud to work with Joshua
Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sorensen again on “The Look of Silence”, which
premiered in competition in Venice last year and won the Grand Jury Award on
top of four other awards. Since then, it has won countless awards worldwide. We’re
now working with Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi on “The 50 Year Argument”.

Please discuss your slate for Cannes.

We‘re thrilled to be working
on a Cannes Classics premiere “By Sidney
by Nancy Buirski. CINEPHIL will present several films in the market.
One is “Invasion”, by Abner Benaim, about the USA’s invasion of Panama.

Another is a film that we
just picked up in Tribeca where it made headlines, titled “Among the Believers”, which follows the growth of the Red Mosques
in Pakistan. It portrays a system that offers young children free food and accommodation,
and, in return, the young adepts are force fed the principles of radical Islam
from the moment they can read.   

Other films in the Cannes
Market include “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon”, which
premiered in Sundance, and “The YES
MEN are Revolting”, which will open in the US this summer.

You for Playing”, follows a family struggling with a terminally ill
boy. Ryan, his Dad, an indie video game developer, is building a poetic,
autobiographical video game to document his pain and to tell the story of his
baby.  It’s sophisticated, touching and timely.

Learn more
about Cinephil’s new releases here.

See Cinephil’s full catalogue here.

More About Cinephil:

Cinephil is an international sales and advisory firm,
which has a strong reputation for securing international distribution,
broadcasting and financing deals for documentaries from all over the world on
behalf of film producers and directors. 

With a history of selling unique and
award-winning films,Cinephil also
acts as a strategic advisor and co-producer. 

 has facilitated the sale and financing of
well over a hundred films. Cinephil represented
(and produced) the 2013 Academy Award nominee, “The Gatekeepers“; the 2014 Academy Award nominee, “The Act of Killing“, executive produced by Werner Herzog and
Errol Morris; “Cathedrals of Culture“, a 3D project executive produced by Wim
Wenders and including films by Wim Wenders and Robert Redford, and Martin
Scorsese’s new documentary, “The 50 Year Argument“, about The New York Review of Books.

Managing director, Philippa Kowarsky,
has co-produced many films, including 2014 Academy Award nominee, Dror Moreh’s, “The Gatekeepers“, Dror Shaul’s “Sweet Mud”, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, “Defamation” by Yoav Shamir, “Watermarks” by Yaron Zilberman and the award-winning “Trembling Before G-d” by Sandi DuBowski.

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