The founder of Myriad Pictures tells Patrick Frater why bigger is better in the changing film sales sector.
Your company prides itself on selling films from a myriad of genres. What are you looking for when you pick up a title'
Although I hate to make comparisons with other companies, we are looking for a broad mix similar to Miramax and Dimension. On the one hand we are looking for quality, artistic, talent-driven films that make unique, compelling viewing. On the other hand, we want mainstream commercial films, be they action or genre films. That's what it takes to be in business today - and to stay in business.
Are you saying that one is a loss leader for the other'
Look at revenues and costs. There is an analogy between movies and publishing in that the wonderfully-written small books make a fraction of the revenues of the bestsellers. You need a few of those in the shop window and to pay the rent. In Myriad's case, some are not so small. The Chen Kaige film has a budget of $30m. That is in the middle. It has a foot in both the commercial and the art camps.
So does that make it riskier than a pure genre project or more viable than a classic arthouse title'
We are pleased that Amuse in Japan, Pathe in the UK and other companies that have made offers are willing to take that risk too. There is a strong upside. It is a title that will undoubtedly work for television and it is an incredibly strong video title.
What was the idea behind the recent corporate manoeuvres in which Germany's IN-motion bought Myriad and then bought J&M Entertainment'
My business partner, Philip von Alvensleben, was one of the principals of the [IN-motion] IPO this summer and always intended that we would be folded into the larger entity. The idea behind the J&M acquisition and the merging of the two is a response to the globalisation of the industry. If you are just a Los Angeles company, or just a London-based company, you are working at a disadvantage. That is why companies like Intermedia have strong offices in both cities; you are drawing from both talent pools. Our strategy is to look for films that can be produced or co-produced in the UK and Europe. That does not mean that German money is going to be our sole source of financing, because there are a lot of other very good partners out there.
How will the two sales companies work together'
We are already integrating the sales staff and the servicing will be handled through London. We are integrating production and acquisitions and want to increase production staff in the UK.
Isn't that too ambitious at a time when the sales business is looking tough'
The days of traditional sales companies that go to festivals and seek out a gem that some producer has managed to get into a festival are over. They are competing with teams of executives from every major and the likes of Miramax. But if you have the right product, the sales business is still a good one to be in. There has to be a production or co-production activity that becomes your main source of product. Once you have a base of product, you can become more opportunistic.
Isn't the changing pan-European scale of some of the buyers also lessening the need for sales companies'
We are constantly battling with that one. If your film gets a profile above a certain level, you get offers from Hollywood or European majors. You have to decide whether to take the extra $1m-$2m you get from a larger deal or take a loss on a film up front in order to have a long-term locomotive for some of your smaller films.
Kirk D'Amico is president and founder of sales and financing company Myriad Pictures, which is now handling Chen Kaige's Killing Me Softly, Liz Hurley- and Steve Buscemi-starrer Double Whammy and Brides, which is being produced by Martin Scorsese and Barbara De Fina. Prior to joining Myriad, he headed sales and co-productions for Village Roadshow Pictures. He has also worked at Samuel Goldwyn, Videfilm, RKO Pictures and as a lawyer at the Federal Communications Commission.