Not so long ago, film and TV markets were different worlds. Independent film sales agents who attended the American Film Market (AFM) and Cannes might attend events such as Miptv and Mipcom to exploit their library, but theatrical buyers were rarely seen. That position is now changing as film-makers and distributors look to exploit both markets simultaneously.
"Years ago, you would never see a film buyer at a TV market or a TV buyer at a film market. Now you go to markets and you see the same people," says Carey Fitzgerald, managing director of London-based sales agency and distributor High Point.
The lines are becoming blurred between theatrical films and films made for the small screen. Last year, for example, Pascale Ferran's $3m (EUR2.3m) Lady Chatterley was greeted rapturously by critics - but it also had a parallel life as a TV series called Lady Chatterley Et L'Homme Des Bois (two 90-minute episodes).
Sales agent Films Distribution sold Lady Chatterley as a feature film all over the world, and the series was always sold to the same people who bought the feature, says Films Distribution's Nicolas Brigaud-Robert. "There was such demand from our buyers for the feature film that the economic advantage of separating the two was washed away. We had people willing to commit at high-level prices for the feature and for any related material."
The decision to sell both together gives distributors extra leverage when they negotiate TV deals with their local broadcasters. "They can choose which format is suitable for the market," explains Brigaud-Robert.
Belgian boxing drama King Of The World, directed by Guido Henderickx, began as a 5 x 55-minute mini-series produced by Caviar but was also given a theatrical release in a re-edited version by Kinepolis in late 2006. And the BBC's new natural history film Earth is intended for cinematic release by Lionsgate in the UK, Australia and the US, but shares some footage with the BBC TV series Planet Earth.
Meanwhile, it is increasingly common for feature films made for theatrical release in their own countries to be repackaged for TV elsewhere. "Independent films can be very successful theatrically in their country of origin, but then you take them to a film festival and they're not strong enough for a theatrical release in other countries," notes High Point's Fitzgerald.
With windows shortening, producers working across both platforms, and film and TV industries adjusting to new technologies, it is natural overlap is felt in the sales sector, too.
Sales agents with experience in film and television warn it is a mistake to regard TV markets as a dumping ground for bad films. TV buyers are as discerning as their features colleagues, but they have different needs. The trick for sellers is to know in advance what buyers need to schedule. "You have to know what every broadcaster in every country is looking for," says Fitzgerald.
It is not unusual for film and TV buyers to work hand in hand. Often, at the AFM or Cannes, theatrical distributors will take along TV buyers when they are closing deals with a sales agent, if only to ensure the all-important TV deal is in place.
Often, it is apparent which films have the chance of attracting international TV buyers. For example, High Point is taking Pieter Kramer's Ellis In Glamourland, starring Joan Collins, to Miptv. The film has already been a box-office hit in the Netherlands but was always likely to be more suited to the small screen elsewhere.
High Point will also present thriller The Front Line. Well-received on the festival circuit, the film nonetheless failed to sell widely and has been re-packaged.
Certain genres sell well to TV, for example horror films. These may have to be toned down for the small screen but can still find an audience. Documentaries are also suited to both formats. At this year's Miptv, Stockholm-based NonStop Sales will be introducing buyers to Alison Hanson and Sabina Vajraca's Back To Bosnia, which was in official selection at the AFI Festival in 2005 and will be available in its original form and as a shorter TV version.
A hard sell
Deals struck with TV buyers can be just as lucrative as those with theatrical distributors. At TV markets, there are also more potential outlets. Along with the TV rights (pay TV and free TV), the sales agent can sell DVD rights, airline rights and all other ancillary rights. The old market wisdom that theatrical is the engine that drives the ancillary sales does not always apply. Often it is a case of TV driving the DVD sales.
The downside is that selling is more labour intensive. Whereas the German-speaking rights to a film might be negotiated in a single deal at a TV market, it will be sold separately to Germany for free TV, pay TV and DVD; to Austria and to Switzerland.
With so many deals to negotiate sellers need extra staff, adding expense. With this in mind, it is understandable that some smaller sales agents decide TV markets are a step too far. However sellers neglect events such as Miptv and Mipcom at their peril.