Interview Daphne Kapfer, Managing Director of EI: Joint strategies for international sales agents

Cineuropa / Interview by Domenico La Porta « Joint strategies for international sales agents »

As the European Film Market came to an end, Cineuropa talked to Daphné Kapfer, managing director of Europa International, in order to take stock of the joint efforts of film sales agents.

Cineuropa: How was Europa International born?
Daphné Kapfer: The association was created in Berlin in 2011 by its three founding members: The Match Factory, TrustNordisk and Doc & Film International. The initial motivation was to represent the sales agents, the only sector that still didn’t have a lobby that was comparable to Europa Cinemas (for the exhibitors), Europa Distribution (for the distributors) or European Producers Club (for the producers), for example. It was important to ensure that sales agents’ voices were heard during the preparatory phase of Creative Europe.
Michael Weber (The Match Factory) was the president of Europa International for the first three years, and Susan Wendt (TrustNordisk) has taken over the presidency of the organisation from 2014 onwards. Films Distribution, Fortissimo Films, Films Boutique, Doc & Film International, EastWest Filmdistribution and New Europe Film Sales are also on Europa International’s board of directors. Today, it has 35 members.

What impact did you have on the European Commission and its MEDIA programme?
First of all, we managed to establish a dialogue that hadn’t existed beforehand. Then we succeeded in increasing and improving the support available to sales agents (from €1.5 million to €2.7 million euros per year). We managed to lower the eligibility criteria for this support so that it can also be of benefit to small companies (ones that have a line-up of three films instead of four, as was previously the case), and offer an additional risk assessment linked to a sales agent committing to a project solely based on the script (eligible costs of 60% instead of 50%).

What is the organisation’s operational process?
Above all, it’s about defining joint strategies between our members. Up till now, each decision has been made unanimously, following a vote organised by us. We get together twice a year in a general meeting, before the Berlin and Cannes markets open. For two years, we’ve also organised an annual conference that takes place at the same time as the Europa Cinemas conference. This conference is subsidised by the MEDIA programme, within the framework of The Match Factory’s Distribution 2.0 project – a project coordinated by Jenny Walendy that aims to reflect on the strategies linked to the new film distribution channels. Lastly, we work together with the members on the figures related to international sales, which we are going to compile in the form of a study in order to point out the role of the sales agent in the funding and profitability of the films. This study would have been impossible without the trusting relationship that has been built up between the association and its members.

Does one of these strategies consist of getting closer to the cinemas and the exhibitors?
Yes, and incidentally, it’s very obvious if we look at the European Commission, which is looking to strike up a dialogue between, on one hand, the festivals where the film and its marketing are launched, and on the other hand the cinemas and the VoD platforms on which the movie is exhibited. The sales agent’s role is important on this level. It is possible to have international strategies that go beyond the national distributions that are organised independently of one another. Our dialogue with the European Commission is still ongoing on the subject of selective distribution, for example. Today, it’s the sales agent that is in charge of the grouping of distributors, and it doesn’t receive any money for that;; the subsidy goes straight to the distributors, even though some sales agents work very strategically with their distributors on joint, coordinated trans-European actions (posters, trailers, media campaigns, visibility on social networks and so on).
The sales agents have also invested in projects concerning film circulation, such as Eye On Films (Wide Management), day-and-date preparatory actions such as IFFR Live! (TrustNordisk, Fortissimo Films, Doc and Film International) and the EuroVOD project (Memento Films International, The Match Factory). We think it is important that this work is recognised and supported by the European Commission and the MEDIA programme.