Before the European Film Market kicked off today in Berlin, sales execs had a handful of issues on their minds. As usual, the weather and the EFM’s position on a jammed calendar were concerns. The length of time that packages are taking to come together was another, bigger one.
Prior to arriving in Germany, a refrain from sales companies was that this year the time between the AFM, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Sundance and Berlin was more condensed and had an impact on dealmaking. Hollywood agencies didn’t reopen after the holidays until January 7, and with a frenzied Sundance falling a mere 10 days later followed by Berlin 10 days after that, it made for some pretty hefty juggling. The Solution’s Lisa Wilson told me agents were saying, “Contact us after Sundance.” But at a week before Berlin, she said, “There’s a limit to how late we can go.”
An exec who’s had projects come together for the EFM still told me, “There’s not enough product coming from talent agencies. Directors are all waiting on studio gigs because indies are made for less money because the foreign marketplace is giving less money for certain material and they’d rather not drop their quotes… And agents are making sure they don’t expose themselves too much.” Another exec says fear is making projects take longer to package. “Agents are so scared to put their clients in movies right now. They think if they fuck up, they’re going to get fired… And that makes actors scared because the agents are scared. They feed off each other.”
Rena Ronson, co-head of UTA‘s independent film group, disagrees with the concept that agents are holding things up. “The component being talked about represents only one aspect of how films are structured in the marketplace”, she said. Ronson pointed to Solace, with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell, which FilmNation is handling, as a movie that came together quickly with talent attachments involved very early on. I also understand from the agenting side that due to the heavy amount of strong projects out there, it takes more time to package because of a greater-than-usual volume. “We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t attach talent,” is what I’ve heard.
A barrage of packages with big-name talent attached did materialize in the past week. Nevertheless, there was an eerie calm at the Ritz Hotel today where most of the big U.S. companies camp out. (Even the waiting time for an elevator was bearable.) Deals started to be announced late today and execs do expect business to pick up going into the weekend.
Among the high-profiles projects to gear up just recently are Johnny Depp-starrer Black Mass (Exclusive Media), the aforementioned Solace (FilmNation), Kill The Messenger with Jeremy Renner (Focus Features International), The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch (FilmNation), For The Dogs directed by Phillip Noyce (Sierra/Affinity), Convention with Jennifer Aniston (K5 International), Dark Places with Charlize Theron (Exclusive Media) and Locke with Tom Hardy (IM Global).
But will getting material to buyers in a short time-frame mean that deals are slow to follow? Veteran sales agent Mark Damon says, “To have a successful market, you have to have all details in buyers’ hands 7 days before.” But, he says, “When you see the amount of time spent dealing with studios, with the talent, with your investor groups and all the agents involved, the amount of time that it really takes to lawyer the whole thing and satisfy everybody and you still have a couple of loose pieces, you don’t want to go to the market and see it falls apart.” The problem, says Damon, is that there are so many parties involved. “It’s more convoluted and complicated than I’ve ever seen it before.”
At least there’s been no snow, so far.