Film festivals and film markets are those events when your every-day office job as a sales agent turns into a lively and exciting fusion of business meetings, film screenings and all-day-long networking. How does a sales agent’s day look like in Clermont-Ferrand, Annecy, Berlin or Cannes?

In the morning, before leaving the hotel and heading towards the film market, I check my bag to see if everything I need is there: DVDs with the films from our catalogue, especially the latest showreel, leaflets presenting our new acquisitions, some promotion material like postcards and flyers – and sufficient business cards. The day at the market can begin!

If we are collaborating with another institution at the market (like the Polish Film Institute, the Krakow Film Foundation or the Visegrad Animation Forum), I drop by at their booth, place some promotional material there and enquire as to what kind of events they are planning during the festival and when me or my colleague should be present. The first interested visitors stop at the stand – they are programmers from another festival looking for new short films. I hand them our DVD and point out a few films, which might be interesting for their selection.

This is what I will do repeatedly over the course of the day: Presenting our catalogue and promoting our new films. I have several meetings with buyers from TV channels who are looking for content. Most of them we have met several times before, so we know what kind of films they are searching for, and based on their needs we can highlight and recommend selected films to offer them the most suitable programme. We also meet buyers from other fields, such as theatrical distributors and sometimes curators from museums or galleries. Very interesting as well are the meetings with various VOD providers – on the growing market of digital purchase and digital rental, emerging companies approach us with new business models and we have to evaluate how we can collaborate with them. This can prove difficult and time-consuming.

In between my meetings, I visit different booths at the market, mostly representatives of certain countries, where you can request the latest shorts compilations from Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, Canada… My bag is growing bigger and bigger, filling up with DVDs I get from the stands and most of all from the filmmakers I meet. On the one hand, new filmmakers are approaching me to introduce themselves and give me a screener of their work. On the other hand, I’m glad to meet the filmmakers we are already working with, to have a chat, hear about their new projects and maybe introduce them to other people who might be able to support them.

At a film market, days pass by extremely quickly. Sometimes we are invited to participate in a panel or to attend a pitching forum, sometimes the market offers special events such as presentations of different TV channels and their programme profiles. Whenever there is a gap in between my appointments, I visit the video library or maybe even manage to attend a screening in the cinema to look for new acquisitions – and just to enjoy some good films.

Not to forget about socialising! At most of the booths, you will receive an invitation for a reception, a picnic, a cocktail or a party. In the afternoon and evenings you can go to the indicated locations, where you will always find familiar faces as well as some food and drinks – the ideal opportunity to catch up with friends and meet new people. When you start attending festivals and markets, these gatherings can be a bit tiring – especially when you are new in the business and have the impression that everybody knows each other, while you are feeling lost among all those people, companies, organisations and films. However, that’s just the unsettledness of the beginning. Already at the next festival, you will recognize people – after all, the world of film business is not as big and overwhelming as it might look from outside, and especially when working with shorts, you will meet the same people again and again. While attending film markets, I have met some fantastic people – so visiting other festivals is not only about watching new films, but also about meeting these inspiring people again!

At the end of the market, I return home with a suitcase full of films to watch, exhausted and tired, but satisfied and with a smile on my face. In the coming weeks I have to follow up with the people I met, write a lot of e-mails, work through the pile of films next to the DVD player, finish the sales deals we’ve made, send out screening materials and do a lot of paperwork – before packing my suitcase and travelling to the next festival!

text: Anja Šošić (New Europe Film Sales)
photo: Cristina Grosan