A band of festival-calibre filmmakers and producers are seeking a radical overhaul of the film sales business through a new agency that has secured financing for the initial year from the International Filmmakers Collective based in the UK and Monaco.
Buena Onda Films was formally established last month as a London-registered production and sales collective with the blessing of numerous like-minded filmmakers. They are seeking nothing less than a new paradigm for financing and selling films. These expressions will be made public tomorrow along with those of other producers and sales agents.
Buena Onda's guiding spirits are Donald Ranvaud, whose credits include City Of God, Central Station and Farewell My Concubine, and Simon Channing-Williams, who is Mike Leigh's regular producer.
Buena Onda says it is challenging the yardstick of sales projections that generate false expectations as well as huge financing costs. Its watchwords are 'control', 'ownership' and 'transparency' throughout, from the sales process itself with fixed cut off points, right through to financial reporting.
Also associated with the venture are two UK production companies, Paul Raphael's Starfield and FAME, which is chaired by Stephen Daldry and run by Mike Downey and Sam Taylor . In addition, City Of God director Fernando Meirelles' 02 filmes and Luis Angel Bellaba of Madrid-based Amanda/Aquelarre Producciones have pledged allegiance to the Buena Onda mission of overhauling the current mechanisms by which films are handled in the international marketplace.
Together, this group have assembled a debut slate of part-financed or completed titles from director such as Eliseo Subiela, Rui Guerra, Julie Delpy, Pablo Trapero, writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Luis Sepulveda and first time directors Philippe Barcinsky from Brazil, Anthony Lucero from the US.
All these titles will be sold here in Cannes in a conventional manner and will also be put up for the production fund that is being created to harness the new model.
It is Buena Onda's business innovations, as much as these initial films that are seen as the key selling point. Associated filmmakers will receive 100% of the revenue except for the costs of a delivery and collection agency that will be tied to the bank linked to the production fund.
They will keep direct ownership and control over their own productions from the onset, and all the intended beneficiaries of this system will then re-invest in Buena Onda's sales structure - a bare-bones operation that will comprise two sales executives, who have yet to be named, and two support staff - in proportion to the income generated.
In order to keep a lid on travel costs and endless follow-up calls, Buena Onda is suggesting that projects are launched at one of four events in the industry calendar and they will be finalising the list of participating festivals/markets in Cannes.
"I think putting the creatives back at the centre will liven up some of these events" says Ranvaud " and only after the imaginative presentation of projects (that will include actors, musicians, multimedia and can occur in an art gallery or in a car park) will scripts, locations, dates, budgets, schedules, CD's and T-shirts be handed out with all pre-sales and co-production decisions to be completed within a ten-day timeframe an a pre-established deadline.
"I figured that together with a drastic reduction in costs, which we the filmmakers have been paying for and sales agents have spent, we need to have a physiological process where vision and responsibility (to and by investors) go hand and hand."
Ranvaud, as part of a rousing call-to-arms (for full text of the Buena Onda Films manifesto click HERE), is seeking to stimulate constructive discussion at the Cannes Film Festival this week, so that the model may end up corresponding to the wishes of the film business community.
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He says that since the pay-TV meltdown, the collapse of German funds and the endemic instability that has emerged, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way international film business is conducted.
"I envisage other producers teaming up and forming similar collectives" says Ranvaud " together we may really have a shot at putting all the money on the screen and behave decently towards our investors. If it was truly possible to achieve transparency, 'profits' would become meaningful and budgets would stay closer to the ground so as to be fair (finally) to the investors.
"But also, by owning the gatekeeping structure, the filmmakers would (be sure to) benefit as well. So would distributors, whose views would be held into greater account at a crucial point. So would producers and actors and so would agents as their talent would have more reliable schedules, better planning, and probably better (but certainly more meaningful) backends."
BUENA ONDA'S AIMS:
* Build a Sales Agency co-owned and inspired by the active participation of established filmmakers.
* Counteract the meltdown of pay- and free-TV prices, as well as the unreliability of sales projections and the increase in financing costs with a radical overhaul of the principles, mechanisms and costs of the sales system as we know it.
* Promote DIFFERENT FILMS, DIFFERENTLY. By that we mean: provide a cost efficient basic Sales Structure to launch new projects in a creative and innovative manner soliciting presales and co-productions decisions in very focussed ten day periods, four times a year.
* ALL materials will be made available at these four EVENTS and no contracts will be signed until the deadline, ten days later. The value of unsold territories will be covered by our Production Fund. However, only companies who will have made a bid for their territory will be granted an automatic "first look" of the completed movie.
* Establish the conditions to allow film makers to keep long-term direct ownership and control over their own productions in future, from the onset of individual projects.
* Create transparent financial resources and accounting practices for filmmakers who will not be charged commission but will re-invest in the sales structure in accordance with the sales achieved. Collection and delivery will be achieved by means of a parallel but separate and 'super partes' agency in association with a large banking institution which will establish universal principles and regulations.
* Establish a website where members will be able to track all the projects after each EVENT and find other important resources.
* Promote younger film makers and act as REAL Executive Producers on projects to be promoted in the second stage of development of the company.