IFFR 2022 distribution panel

Source: IFFR

(l-r) Wouter Jansen, Lidia Damatto, Isabel Ivars, Lorna Tee

Sales and distribution experts discussed the realities of doing business in the post-pandemic landscape at International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).

Speaking on a virtual panel, Wouter Jansen, founder of Vienna-based sales and festival distribution agency Square Eyes, said there is a need for increased specialisation to tackle sales and distribution challenges in the increasingly competitive, post-Covid world.

Jansen, whose company focuses on helping non-mainstream films find audiences, said his work is “part talent development, and so really personal. This is what sales involves now.”

He added that today it would be “difficult to start a large sales company because the market is full, and players are becoming stronger and stronger. I see companies start to carve out niche areas for themselves.”

Individuals and companies now work in multiple sectors, said Isabel Ivars, library and festival manager at the UK’s Protagonist Pictures. Sharing ideas across the development process is important, she added.

“Sales agents are getting more engaged in developing ideas, and directors are getting to understand how distribution works,” she added. ”As a result, distributors need to know more about how the process works so they can prepare better in advance to support what is coming their way.”

The pandemic has brought with it the “consolidation of companies, with many working straight through from the beginning to the end” of the film, said Lidia Damatto, international sales and acquisitions executive at Brazil’s O2 Play. “We will see this more in the future. It gives us the advantage of thinking the film through from beginning to end.”

Damatto, who is also a strategist at the Morethan Film Collective Agency, said she felt at home in this environment as O2 Play has been active across production, post-production, distribution as well as international sales since it was founded in 2013.

Overall, the pandemic and digitalisation has made the industry “increasingly inclusive” Jansen said.

Ultimately, this could be an opportunity to introduce changes needed to improve the film industry, Ivars added.

“Over the years, we have been a bit disappointed about where the industry was heading,” Ivars said. ”We were trying to fix things here and there without being able to find a real solution. Now with the pandemic it has become obvious we need to change.

“[At Protagonist] we are trying to change everything that we do including changing the way we promote festivals, our executive producing and selling,” she said, adding that the process was “trial and error” but necessary for those wanting to make the industry “more sustainable”.