What does an agent do?
Sales agents, or sales companies, act on behalf of the producer to sell the rights to an independent film or TV drama to distributors, who then release films on different platforms (cinema, TV, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon). (An independent production is one that has not been produced by a Hollywood studio or ‘major’. Their productions are distributed by their subsidiaries worldwide instead).
Sales agents negotiate with the distributors, based on the sales estimates and detailed assessment of the production’s commercial value.
Sales agents are also responsible for promotion. They promote the films they represent at festivals and film markets, invite distributors to screenings and hold premiere parties. They assemble and organise the delivery of any physical film materials and are usually involved in developing the marketing plan.
The point at which agents get involved in a production varies. Unknown directors, who usually need an agent the most, might have to finish their film before they can find someone to take it on. In other cases, a sales agent might sell a film to a distributor as a concept, a draft script, or at the filming or post-production stage. Funding for a film is often dependent on the deals the sales agent has managed to broker at the start.
Sales agents are continuously acquiring new content to sell from filmmakers and they build relationships with distributors all over the world, so the job usually involves travel.
What’s a sales agent good at?
- Commercial awareness: have an awareness of cultural trends, understand and predict the market both globally and within individual countries, have an eye for talent that fits this (with the ability to read scripts quickly and thoroughly)
- Knowledge of the film-making process: understand all aspects involved in making a film, from script to finance to post-production
- Marketing: be enthusiastic with strong sales skills to secure competitive deals, be able to outline the story of a film in a succinct and engaging way face-to-face, have an understanding of digital marketing and social media
- Networking: establish good relationships and communicate constantly with distribution outlets and festival programmers as well as with filmmakers, use language skills to travel and embrace other cultures, have a wide knowledge of film festivals and markets
- Negotiation: be flexible, able to negotiate conditions, draw up contracts, understand licencing, copyright
- Finance: deal with figures, have the financial knowledge to make sales predictions, negotiate funding and handle a budget