Bill Stephens, Daniel Baur and Oliver Simon of K5 International offer the film industry version of a selective boutique rather than a mass retailer.
The three set up K5 International in January 2007 but did not announce their first title - Tom McCarthy's The Visitor - until November 2007 at the AFM. With their first real market office in Berlin in February, they added a second title: Joshua Goldin's Wonderful World starring Matthew Broderick and Sanaa Lathan.
Clearly, K5 is more concerned with quality than quantity. "We wanted to be very selective," Stephens explains. "We're going to handle four to six per year, so we can be more attentive to producers. We're never going to have a huge slate."
Baur adds: "People know we'll take care of their project, it's not one film out of 15."
Simon set up German-based production outfit K5 Films (Happy As One) in 2001 and Baur joined him as a partner in 2005. When they thought about setting up a separate sales operation, they knew they needed the right partner.
"We needed someone who had sales experience and knowledge, and because we wanted to work on English-language films we started looking in London. Bill was the perfect combination for us," says Simon, who is based in Munich.
Stephens is a 14-year veteran of the previous incarnation of FilmFour, who also headed sales for the now-defunct Renaissance Films.
Baur, based in Cologne, adds: "We were always looking for a partner, not a consultant for a year. We wanted to build something for the long term. To build something slowly and constantly, you need the right kind of people and you don't want to rush into the market."
Their all-important first offering was worth waiting for, Stephens notes. "It took a long time to find the first baby and we wanted to make a statement. The Visitor has done that in spades."
The drama, McCarthy's follow-up to The Station Agent, follows a professor (Richard Jenkins) who becomes involved with a young immigrant couple in New York. Groundswell and Participant produced and K5 has sold it to the UK (Halcyon), Scandinavia (CCV), France/Switzerland (TF1), Israel (Shapira) and Australia/New Zealand (Rialto). Overture has North American rights and released the film on April 11.
Next is comic fable Wonderful World from Ambush Entertainment and Back Lot Pictures, which shot this year in Louisiana.
Films from sister company K5 Films are not on the table yet. "We didn't set up K5 to sell our own movies," says Simon. "That's something we want to avoid at first to show producers we're in this for the long haul with their films." K5 International does become involved with financing and, via K5 Films, can access German funding. The company will concentrate on English-language films with budgets up to $15m in most cases, with Stephens calling budget ranges of $5m-$10m "the real comfort zone".
Running a small company from both the UK and Germany has not been the headache it could have been. "The partners know each others' tastes, so we can communicate quickly," Baur says.
What is more, each project has the attention of all three. Stephens says: "As a policy, all three of us have to want it for a greenlight. You get three hats on any project. We've all got financial backgrounds, Oliver has a screenwriting and development background, Dan has a legal background, and I have sales and marketing experience."
The partners expect to add several projects to K5's slate ahead of Cannes. Again, being selective seems to be paying off. Stephens says: "There are 300 screenplays we've read and we've only said yes to five of those for the next stage. People see that as very positive."