Film Sales Agent
Independent filmmakers can spend years coming up with the perfect idea, scraping together the funding to shoot, and finally completing that masterpiece—but the film may be relegated to the shelf if it cannot be sold to exhibitors. Film sales agents represent filmmakers in need of a distribution agreement.
Generally, it’s independent directors or first-time directors working outside the studio environment who require the help of a film sales agent. Once the distribution deal is finalized, the film sales agent is responsible for delivering all components of the completed film to theaters. With so many films being produced each year, and with a great portion of those lacking a distribution strategy, these wheeler-dealers never lack for a challenge. Competing to find and acquire new films is the lifeblood of a film sales agent, and film premieres, industry parties, and film festivals are the hunting grounds. At the same time, promotion of the films is paramount to their success, so creating strong relationships with distribution outlets is key to their business. At times it may be necessary for a film sales agent to actually broker deals for filmmakers.
Skills & Education
A film sales agent should have an MBA and should complete coursework in film production, history, and finance; a course or two on legal aspects of the film industry would be beneficial as well. Though almost all jobs involving sales require a special ability to schmooze, a film sales agent needs many other skills to be successful. Having the ability to negotiate and sell is an obvious prerequisite, but being able to create relationships with theater owners and exhibitors, as well as sometimes-wary indie filmmakers, is key to success, as is understanding regional differences in taste. Essentially the film sales agent is a “jack of all trades” who knows what will sell and where.
What to Expect
This career may seem glamorous and exciting, but the day-to-day work is time-consuming and stressful. Certainly the parties and festivals can be fun, as can meeting the principals involved in the films, but there is an ever-present element of financial risk. Choosing a project to represent can be a crapshoot, especially when a film is not a blockbuster. It’s up to the film sales agent to find and create opportunities for distribution in other, lower-level outlets.
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