Media Salles/ FILM FINDERS Panel:
ĎU.S. Distribution of European Filmsí

LíOreal Pavilion, Cannes, May 18, 1999

Hosts:

Romano Fattorossi, MEDIA Salles
Jérôme Paillard, Cannes Market
Moderator:
Sydney Levine, President, FILM FINDERS
 
Panelists:
Geoffrey Gilmore, Sundance Film Festival
Cary Jones, Landmark Theatres
Susan Wrubel, New Yorker Films
Sande Zeig, Artistic License
John Vanco, Cowboy Booking
Sofia Sondervan, Independent Pictures
Milos Stehlik, Facets Video
Donald Krim, Kino Pictures
Amy Israel, Miramax Films
Joe Revitte, Fine Line Features
Michael Nash, Paramount Classics
Gregory Hatanaka, Phaedra Cinema
Dylan Leiner, Sony Pictures Classics
Jon Gerrans, Strand Releasing
Bobby Rock, Trimark Pictures
Richard Lorber, Winstar Multimedia
Daniel Lyon, Motion International, Canada


Jérôme Paillard:

We are very very happy and very honoured to present you this conference with this huge and impressive panel, and I thank you very much for your participation in this conference.

This is the first time that the Cannes Market has been involved in such a conference and we are very happy and interested in continuing this aspect of our work which is to help in the dissemination of information. We do that with our various editions and publications, and I think this is a good way to continue the process.

I would like to introduce Romano Fattorossi, who is the President of MEDIA Salles which is the co-host of this panel, and to introduce Sydney Levine from Film Finders, which is very well known, and which is our partner in many aspects of the market. And now I will give the microphone to Romano. Thank you.
 
 

Romano Fattorossi:

Thank you, Jérôme. Iíll just say a few words of welcome and to thank you for being here. MEDIA Salles is a non-profit association, supported by the Italian Government and by the European Commission through the Media programme. It works in different fields, and one of these is the promotion of European film all around the world. We make studies like this one, the European Cinema Yearbook, which you can pick up there, studies about the cinema industry in the European markets, and now we are focussed on U.S. markets. As you know, there are a lot of American films here in Europe but not so many European films in the United States. We think itís important to study the U.S. market, to understand which is the way to go to distribute more and more European films. I think we can progress in this area. For that reason we go every October to Atlantic City, ShowEast. And as of 1996 we have given a prize to the American distributor who distributes the most European films. In 1996 it was Sony Pictures, in 1998 it was Fox Searchlight Pictures. So we are very happy to organise this panel with Film Finders and the Cannes Market because we think it is another step in the direction of learning more about distribution and exhibition in the American market, for more distribution there of European cinema.
 
 

Sydney Levine:

Welcome and thank you very much for showing up; itís great to see a full audience. My name is Sydney Levine, and Iím president of Film Finders. Film Finders was started, I started it twelve years ago. My partner Peter Belsito is also here in the back of the room. We track independent films, all languages, for film buyers around the world, so if you have a film that youíre producing, if you fill out the forms and give it to us, for free, theyíll call you if theyíre interested in your film and you can start a dialogue.

This is a historical occasion. This is the first time every single U.S. distributor - not quite every, but almost every single - distributor of U.S. - in the United States of European films has been gathered in one place. Itís never happened before, that you as an audience can see all these people in one place, and after I introduce them all and they each tell you who they are, what they are doing, thereíll be 15 minutes only, of questions and answers from the audience, and I do hope youíll ask short questions, but please ask them, and then the people who donít have to rush out to meetings will be here to speak with you afterwards. And itís your occasion, so take advantage and mix with them when the reception starts.

Iíd like to go through our panel and introduce everybody, and then weíll start it.

Iím going to start here:

Geoff Gilmore will be giving our keynote speech, not right this second, but he is one of the United Statesí foremost, most respected, most knowledgeable and discerning purveyor of films. Not only contemporary, as head of the Sundance Film Festival, but historic. Heís been head of the UCLA Film Archives; he will speak to you in both historic and current perspectives.

Next to him, Cary Jones is head of marketing for the Landmark Theatre chains in the United States. The Landmark Theatre chain is currently the only specialty theatre chain in the United States. There are 35,000 theatres in the United States, about 500 of them are, in fact, showing specialty product, that is, independent films, or non-English language European films, or English-language European. Heí s the Landmark Theatres head of marketing, and they are now the only chain that does this.

Susan Wrubel from New Yorker Films will speak after about herself as the head of distribution and acquisitions for New Yorker Films, but I put her here because New Yorker films is also a theatre and she will talk about that. They own a theatre. New York is supposedly the launching place for European films, because you need that critical acclaim for the rest of the United States to want the film, or so they say. Now this may not be true.

Sande Zeig, at Artistic License, also is head of distribution for a new company, Merchant Ivory Productions, and she will speak about her place in this panorama.

John Vanco, of Cowboy Releasing, will speak about an alternative mode of distribution through colleges, an area that has changed, and he and his partner, Noah Cowan who is a programmer for the Toronto Film Festival, are reviving, and heíll talk about it.

Sofia Sondervan was formerly at Miramax in business affairs, sheís head of acquisitions for a new company in New York called Independent Pictures.

Milos Stehlik is from Facets Video. He has been around as long as I have, and he distributes home video like nobody else. He has a thick catalogue of films from every country; he even rents by mail; heíll speak more.

Don Krim Iíve known for a long time. Kino Pictures is his company, he is a long-time New York distributor of European films and other non-English language films.

Amy Israel is head of acquisitions at Miramax - I donít think I need to say too much more.

Fine Line: Joe Revitte is head of acquisitions at Fine Line, which is the specialty arm of New Line Cinema. I donít think I need to say more about them. These are the most well-known, big companies.

Michael Nash is Paramount Classics. Now we all know Paramount is a major studio, but some of the studios have specialty arms. Michael Nash is doing acquisitions for the specialty arm of Paramount.

Gregory Hatanaka is with Phaedra, and heíll speak more about Phaedra, they have a wonderful line-up.

Sony Classics, one of the longest distributors. Dylan works with Michael Barker and Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom, and those folks have been in the business as long as the independent film distribution business has been in existence.

John Gerrans, Strand Releasing, has a partner, Marcus Hu, and they release European films.

Bobby Rock, Trimark. Bobby has been around this business for as long as I have also, heís a real veteran, and so is Richard Lorber. Richard Lorberís new company is called Winstar - they used to be called Fox Lorber. They started with video, classics, European films, and theyíre now in television - heíll tell you more.

And finally, Motion International is Canadian, and Dan Lyon is head of distribution. The Canadian market is our northern neighbour, and itís popular. People say, "Oh, theyíre only 10%" - heíll tell you something about Canada that you all need to know for your futures.

Iíd like to start off with our lead speaker, Geoff Gilmore, Sundance Film festival co-director, whoís directly responsible for the U.S.í most consistently innovative, qualitative and successful festival, and he will make opening remarks after which heíll pass the baton to Cary.

Thank you.
 
 

Geoff Gilmore, Sundance Film Festival:

Good morning. I really have no idea at all why I was selected to give a keynote, about foreign language film. I will say, isnít it nice once again to be on a panel discussing the state of foreign film in the United States. I say itís only something that appears to have been a subject thatís been covered every year in the last twenty years, of whatís going wrong with foreign language film in the United States, and the discussion never seems to end. Maybe I can just serve as a touchstone here, in terms of bringing up some of the issues, because itís a set of issues that I think are complicated. Theyíre issues that will talk about the films, some people talk about the audiences, some people talk about the critics, people talk about the distributors, people talk about the exhibitors, all of them - each of those five - are questions and problems in why doesnít foreign language film have a larger place in the American market.

Given the range of statistics that are available, some 25 to 30 years ago the place of foreign language film in the United States was fairly significant. It was something in the neighbourhood of 5 1/2 % of the total market. That goes back into the late 60s, early 70s. The question is why isnít it there right now? As of 2 years ago, its position in the marketplace was .691%. Had faded from 5 1/2 % to .691%. Why is that an issue? Well, there are some obvious answers, and one of the answers I suppose is that the American independent film did not really exist in the framework that it does today, and that there is an art audience out there, but not necessarily an audience committed to European films. But I think the question is actually a lot more complicated. Thereís a lot of arguments being made, and there always are. Letís start off with a question. Why should, when people talk about foreign language film in the United States, why shouldnít and why should it be a problem? What is the basic fundamental issue? I get into discussions sometimes with European - particularly European - distribution companies, who simply want to ask the question of whatís the problem, and the parochialism of American audiences seem to be an issue that people want to skip over; want to say, well, itís a self-serving issue. Do you know what percentage, by the way, of the American population has a passport? Want to take a guess? 8%.

Sydney: 8% have a passport?

Geoff: 8% of the American population has a passport. I donít know any other statistic which I think reaffirms more specifically what parochialism is all about. Parochialism is ignorance. Parochialism is not understanding. And thatís something in which the United States is absolutely at the head of its class - in terms of not understanding where and what that marketplace is all about. The idea that European, Asian, Latin American, African, other works have a place in the U.S. market, for those of us who have watched the films in the last several decades, I think goes without saying. Every single time a question has been raised: well you cannot distribute this kind of film in the United States, or the growth potential of this film in the United States is limited, or the fact that the distributors are only looking for, now, home runs, to shoot for, only certain levels of films that have a certain kind of upside potential, all are questions that again continue to be issues that distribution companies deal with. And yet one of the major issues that people have to deal with is why therefore are all the exceptions to the rules, of the films that break out, the films that in the last several years and all the result in some ways of Miramax in the theatrical marketplace, keep breaking the POSTINO who broke the record for LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLAT, which is now being broken by LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, all the records for theatrical marketplace seem to always create exceptions as to questioning why, and what kind of films can come into the marketplace. And yet we sit down and say, "Ah, but thatís the exception," "Ah, but - you donít know how much P&A was spent on that," "Ah, but - thatís the kind of film that one can get behind - a specific film like that one can get behind. Thatís not the same thing as talking about whatís going on with distributing most foreign language work."

And letís make it very clear here - weíre not talking simply about European film, or I don't think we are. I really hesitate to say that English language work from Australia, English language work from Ireland, the UK, is a problem - itís a different sort of problem, and thatís really not what Iím addressing at this point. Although I think that some of the same issues sometimes are applicable in terms of whatís going on. The point of the matter is that its very hard for a lot of foreign language work to find its way into the marketplace, and one of the issues that has to do is that the problem right now, simply has to do with the fact that itís probably the most crowded, competitive marketplace that its ever been. Several years ago - 2 years ago - 73 films were released in a 10 week period, from American independent companies during the summer. Seven films a weekend basically, that averages out to, wasnít quite, on the average weíre talking about 8 films a weekend being released. It says a lot about the competition in the market place that the numbers of films that weíre now talking about in terms of American independent work and the number of companies - and I think Sydney did her very best to have them all here today - we should probably trade places, the number of people here versus the audience. In Ď98 there were something in the neighbourhood of 200 films in the art marketplace. Many of those films got only what you might say a kind of a token release: a film that was out there for a couple of weeks, and then for whatever reasons wasnít able to stay in the theatres. The problem with theatres is something weíll talk about; the problem with keeping your place in the theatre, of finding the audience, of doing all the things that everyone says has to happen to not just European or non-English language work, but frankly has to happen to any kind of film which isnít market driven. And the question as to how much of this independent world isnít market driven, is, to be frank, a great deal of it. A great deal of it is going to be critic driven, itís going to be an audience that has to find itself, be fawned; itís not the film which will be represented by whatís on the outside of the box, its whatís on the inside of the box. And that creates again, a very, I think, substantial set of problems.

There are other people here who will talk more eloquently than me, and more specifically than me about the problems of staying in theatres. Without question, one of the problems right now is that even though there are some 31,000/32,000 at this point screens in the United States, at any given point 90% of those screens are dominated by 15-12 films at certain points of the year, when the American majors release their films on sometimes 3 to 4,000, sometimes more, screens apiece. It really changes what the possibilities are, and it really makes the issue of how foreign language film, and how what can happen to foreign language film in the United States a very difficult one. Let me try to make a couple of points and Iíll finish.

The Sundance Film Festival is a festival which is primarily known for actually talking about American independent work. Itís not a festival that only shows American independent work. In fact, of the 100 or so, 105, 108 features that we show, actually 40 to 50 of them are foreign language work. A great number of those films, for instance particularly this year, have had huge responses, films like RUN, LOLA, RUN, or BLACK CAT, WHITE CAT, or things that - a number of different films which have not only audience responses but critical responses. Whether or not those films get then critical releases, substantive releases by distributors, whether or not they have a good critical response, those are questions that some of my peers can answer here. The question as to what can be done about this, again, a question that I think is going to go to a lot of different people. One of the issues that the Sundance Channel, and a couple of my colleagues can refer to this as well, is that maybe the place for foreign language films right now, is not simply in the theatre, but itís also on television. And yet so few of the 30-some, 40-some networks that are available right now show any foreign language work, that itís extremely difficult to talk about where the audience is, and what the response for building that audience is. Clearly the television audience and theatrical audience is a different one, and yet thatís an audience which has to be spoken towards. Again, one of the many rules of thumb, one of the many truths are that you don't watch foreign films, particularly subtitled foreign language film on television. The Sundance Channel has been showing 20% of its work has been foreign language work, and guess what -- people are watching. Big surprise? Again, something to deal with.

But more significantly, I think, people want to know whatís going to happen in the future in the marketplace.

The Sundance Theatres that are about to open is a chain which is committed to showing foreign language work. Itís a chain which I think will, in fact, try to, as much as it can, to in some sense help keep films in theatres, to give them opportunities to find audiences, but I donít want to paint a utopian view of what Sundance is. I donít want to paint a Utopian view in terms of what those theatres are. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much oneís heart is in the right place, about trying to keep foreign language film in the marketplace, in the theatres, getting distribution, making them work, one has to finally talk about whatís been going on in that marketplace, and the problem right now is that itís an overly crowded marketplace in which films are cannibalising each other; in which the audiences for one film are literally eating up the audience for the next film that comes out; and how thatís going to be resolved, weíll see. Itís a big issue. Thank you.
 
 

Sydney: Thank you very much. Cary Jones, Landmark Theatres, will speak for three minutes next about the theatres.
 
 

Cary Jones, Landmark Theatres:

Before echoing some of Geoffís remarks about the overcrowded marketplace, Iíll just give you a few ideas about Landmark Theatres. Our company was founded 25 years ago, primarily to play repertory films, films that already had been in release for some time, but with the development of video and its eventual intrusion in more and more American homes, we had to find a different type of business in which to engage ourselves, so we started getting into first run niche films, specialized films, primarily some of the smaller American independent films, but also to a great extent foreign language cinema. Over the years, Landmark has been developing or trying to develop more and more theatres to play this kinds of film, and we also started taking on some of the more non-traditional studio films as well, films like THE BUTCHER BOY, REMAINS OF THE DAY, and the upcoming John Sayles film LIMBO. But our bread and butter over the years has been playing foreign language and American independents. The films that we do play come from a variety of distributors, most of whom are up here on this panel, and from time to time from individual producers that, for one reason or another, havenít been able to acquire distribution in the United States, but thatís more of a rarity than a rule.

Landmarkís been trying to develop markets in the United States, primarily in the top 20 markets. Currently we have 52 theatres, three more on the way in New York City, Washington D.C. and Chicago. The total screen count right now is 156 different screens, and all of those screens are very very busy. Last week, on somewhat of a more encouraging note, 43% of our screens were actually playing foreign language films, but that changes from week to week. And as Geoff said earlier, a lot of those titles will go by the wayside as more and more films come into the marketplace this spring.

One of the things that Landmark Theatres tries to do to distinguish itself from other cinema chains, but primarily because of the films that weíre playing, is to focus very much on the marketing of these films in conjunction with the distributors. We consider ourselves to be a supplemental marketing team able to contribute to the publicity and promotion of these films, with people that work in each of these individual markets in which we are located and who have a very good sense of how the critics react and what the community responds to. So we try and focus on grass roots outreach programs, to get the word out to the community that thereís something very special about each and every one of these films that we play. Ultimately, even though we can service the mainstream media, its getting to the hearts and minds of the individual filmgoer in these communities that just because a film happens to be in another language, doesnít mean thereís something really relevant to their lives. And in point of fact, from our perception, a lot of the most exciting film thatís coming into our theatres right now are coming from outside the United States. Our feeling is that for foreign language film to grow and thrive in the United States, a lot of people have to work diligently for that. So we truly believe as our i.d. before every film that plays which is a multilingual i.d., that the language of film is indeed universal. So, working with everybody else here on the panel, we really believe that there is a chance to actually grow the market for foreign language cinema.

Sydney: Thank you. Susan.
 
 

Susan Wrubel, New Yorker Films:

Iím with New Yorker Films, and we are probably one of the oldest distribution companies in the country, founded by Daniel Talbot who was initially an exhibitor and still is. We own the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York, or actually Dan does - New Yorker is a completely separate entity at this point from the theatre - and Lincoln Plaza is probably the highest grossing art complex in the country. And aside from Landmark who has a chain, weíre probably one of the only other theatres thatís fully committed to independent and foreign language film. And itís sort of a result of Dan Talbotís theatres that New Yorker Films was founded over 30 years ago. Dan wanted to play a few foreign language titles that didnít have distribution in the U.S. and decided to take them on himself, the first one being BEFORE THE REVOLUTION by Bernardo Bertolucci. Jean-Luc Godardís LES CARABINIERS was one of them and Ousmane Sembeneís BLACK GIRL was one of the others. So since 1965 weíve been pretty much committed to bringing foreign language and very challenging new film to the U.S. and itís still something weíre very committed to.

We do a lot of controversial and challenging works that a lot of other distributors don't want to go near because theyíre either not marketable or theyíre found to be slightly challenging for this market. One of the edges that New Yorker has over some of the other smaller distributors is that we do have a theatre, so that helps us to some extent. But our resources are also very limited because we don't outside support; we donít have any other funding; thereís not a parent company behind us whoís helping us buy product, which is very challenging for us.

We release an average of six releases a year, and for New Yorker a huge release for a year is a million dollars, annual box office, and thatís something that weíve only reached once since Iíve been there, which is going to be three years. That was Chabrolís LA CEREMONIE, and the other two films, or actually three films which have done very well for us are Carlos Sauraís FLAMENCO, Mohsen Makhmalbafís GABBEH and the Dardenne Brothers LA PROMESSE. Those have been our very big hits. And since Iíve been there for about three years I can definitely see that the market is dwindling and shrinking, and I think part of the problem is as Cary talked about is that Americans have some sort of fear of foreign language film, and I think part of it is that they need to be re-educated that these films are not inferior, theyíre not lesser, but that itís basically the same thing and I think to a large extent youíre getting more quality, and youíre getting a variety, whereas with American independents youíre sometimes getting sort of copycat filmmaking, and I know this is a very gross generalization; but I think that in our circumstances the American public sort of needs to be re-educated that a foreign language film can be as good and as fulfilling, and part of the reason that people are sort of veering away from them is that the U.S. market is probably as hot as itís ever been with film, and a lot of the American independents have the money to go out and actually buy the ads and buy the television which we don't, so we do rely a lot on grass roots marketing; itís the sort of thing that Landmark does specialize in.

Sydney: Thank you. Sandy Zeig.
 
 

Sandy Zeig, Artistic License:

I tried to get a job at New Yorker about 10 years ago, and they wouldnít hire me. They told me to get some experience in distribution so I had to start my own company. Artistic License has been in existence for about five years. We usually do about eight films a year. Generally speaking we work very very closely with the producers, on all creative aspects of distribution, which is very unusual. Right now we have four releases: ĎPearls and Swineí, produced by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson. We also did his earlier film, called DEVILíS ISLAND, which was the first Icelandic film to be released in the United States. It did a half a million dollars. Jim Stark, the producer, worked very closely with me on that. Weíre now releasing DANCEMAKER, which was an Academy Award nominated documentary, AFTERLIFE, which is a Japanese film by Hirokazu; and weíll be releasing - Iím working closely with - Merchant Ivory.

Merchant Ivory Films is a new company that will be releasing three films a year. Our first release will be TURNING OF THE DAY, weíre releasing that at Lincoln Plaza on the 28th of May. I think that my objective now is to take small films and to make them look huge on the American market. And I think that weíre doing that now with innovative marketing, innovative promotion, and each film weíre trying to handle in some kind of unusual and very inventive way, and each film as you know is just a completely different marketing challenge.

Sydney: Thank you.
 
 

John Vanco, Cowboy Booking International:

Hi, my name is John Vanco, and along with my partner, Noah Cowan, I run Cowboy Booking International. Cowboy is a very young and small company, weíve been around as a U.S. company for about a year and a half, weíre based in New York, and unlike a lot of the companies represented up here, weíre actually trying to avoid the standard model of foreign language and indie film distributor in the U.S. because finding little films that you fall in love with at a festival like this, and then acquiring them and scraping together the money for your P&A budget and releasing them is a really hard thing to do and itís a really easy way to go in debt and to go out of business. And a lot of the people up here are very practised at this, and obviously avoided that fate. What weíre trying to do to avoid it is actually come up with some non-conventional ways to get principally foreign language films out into the marketplace. Weíre very non-acquisitive.

There are actually three different prongs; I want to talk about the way we work in creating new distribution strategies, to getting into new markets.

The first is the way the company was founded, which was as a international semi-theatrical booking agency. We have output deals with a variety of the top boutique sales agents in the world, including Alliance and Good Machine and Southern Star and Overseas, and Canal Plus, where we take - itís a little different with each one, but in general, we take all of their films in all unsold territories and we market them to semi-theatrical venues, which includes festivals, and institutions, the occasional arthouse theatre, and we try to bring in revenue on these films in markets and territories that have otherwise given up on by the sales agent, because obviously the kind of films weíre talking about arenít going to be sold in the theatrical medium in a lot of markets. So we have a catalogue of about 250 films that we represent in various territories; one of those territories is obviously the United States, and we try to come up with innovative ways of marketing these films. We have a quartet of films from Fortissimo that weíre marketing under the title of "Beijing Underground", for instance, which is four mainland Chinese films made independently and secretly, which we were able to tour around fairly well in the United States. Itís the kind of exposure that these films never would have had otherwise because theyíre too small to be quote, unquote distributable, but weíre happy to get some exposure for them.

The second thing that we do is to create distribution partnerships, with Quentin Tarantinoís Rolling Thunder Pictures to release his films, the Museum of Modern Art to tour packages for them.

The third thing we do is we do occasionally fall in love and buy little films like Jafar Panahiís THE MIRROR and Ziad Doueiriís WEST BEIRUT, which weíre releasing in August, and I have a feeling weíll continue to do that in small ways, but our priority as I said before is coming up with alternative distribution strategy to try to reach the college market, the festival market, and the institutional market which have all risen up to take the place of the arthouse market which has all but disappeared.
 
 

Sofia Sondervan, Independent Pictures:

I work for Independent Pictures, which is also a very new company. It was started in May of Ď98 by Cary Woods, who is the producer of KIDS, and SCREAM, GUMMO, COPLAND. And the reason why he started this company is because he wanted to make, produce, acquire and distribute independent films in the United States and have the freedom to make the films that he wanted to make without being in the real studio system. We are partly owned by New Line Cinema, they own 25% of our company, and distribute all of our films. We do between six and eight films per year, which we produce or acquire, which then are distributed through New Line. If we go above and beyond that number, we have to distribute through other companies.

We just acquired two films in Toronto. Those were our two first acquisitions. Oneís Canadian and oneís British - BABY MOTHER and DOG PARK, and we just finished production on two films which hopefully will be going to Venice, one in Los Angeles, one in New York, and weíre looking to do international co-productions, thatís why weíre here as well, is to find projects that we can come in on as an American partner, which may shoot in Europe or in the United States. We also do world-wide sales on our projects, on our films, and on our acquisitions, if we own those rights. Thatís about it.

Sydney: Thatís good, thank you. Milos is going to speak about Facets and home video.
 
 

Milos Stehlik, Facets Video:

Well before video 24 years ago, I helped co-start Facets Multimedia in Chicago, as a theatre, because like Sandy Zeig who wanted work at New Yorker and had to learn distribution, I wanted to show the films that I couldnít see elsewhere.

And since that time, Facets exists first of all as a kind of a cinematheque which screens premieres, festivals, retrospectives, produces the Chicago International Childrenís Film Festival, and in 1983, following the same pattern of making films accessible to audiences, we, with fear and trepidation, entered the world of home video. But with one difference. Instead of marketing and merchandising videos on a large scale, we saw ourselves as a boutique of foreign, independent, classic American, silent, documentary, experimental, fine arts, and childrenís video, laser disc, dvd. And what Facets Video now is, is a catalogue, which is broadly distributed, and which contains 37,000 titles, in those genres, organized very much according to kind of an hauteur theory, by director, by genre, by country, of which about 12,000 titles are foreign language titles. Aside from the general Facets Video catalogue which is 600 pages, and is also available in an updated form on the internet, there are about 18 other catalogues which are more specialized which we produce during the year, and mail to some one million U.S. individuals.

All of that is kind of an attempt to cross this bridge of parochialism which exists in America, and to make films on video accessible to people, many of whom end up living in small places where there are no art screens. We distribute the work of virtually everyone here who releases works on home video, as well as most recently our own label, Facets Video, which tries to fill in some of the distribution gaps, licensing and releasing, for example, 12 features from Iran, new Iranian cinema including works by Makhmalbaf and Kiarostami, filling in the gaps of the new German cinema, works of woman filmmakers like Helma Sanders-Brahms, Helka Sander and more recently missing works by Antonioni, IDENTIFICATION OF A WOMAN, MYSTERY OF OBERWALD which are not in U.S. for distribution.

Sydney: Thank you very much. Don.
 
 

Donald Krim, Kino International:

I started Kino International in 1977, and we started out at that time just distributing the library of classic films to what was then the repertory theatre market which before video and cable television was pretty substantial. We did business with Landmark Theatres at that time.

In 1979, two years later, we bought our first new first-run film, which was a Japanese film, and since that time weíve been releasing, acquiring and releasing independent and European and Asian film. Since I guess the mid 80s weíve been fairly consistently releasing six to eight new films a year. I guess if we had a niche it would be bringing new young directors to the American market. Most recently we have Alexei Balabanov with BROTHER, we did three Kaurismaki films, and two years ago we did two Wong Kar Wai films, including HAPPY TOGETHER which won the best director award here two years ago. We also have many masters, we now have a catalogue of about 350 films, going back to silent classics including Lumiere, Chaplin, von Stroheim, Keaton, Griffith for which we have distribution in 35mm, 16mm, video, now dvd and on television. We include masters such as Tavernier, Schlondorff, Imamura and Kurosawa.

We are committed ongoing to releasing six to eight or more films a year. We do distribution in theatres, we play anywhere from 20 to 100 markets. Our most successful film grossed $2,000,000 million, which was an American independent called DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, by a black woman filmmaker which I donít think got too wide a distribution in Europe. Weíve done films that grossed a million dollars a number of times, but weíre very happy if we have a film that grosses between half a million and a million dollars, thatís fine for us.

We then put the films out in 16mm which play the university market, we print the catalogue which gets distributed to about 5,000 college film societies and museums.

and then weíve put our films out on video and now dvd. Thatís about it.
 
 

Amy Israel, Miramax:

I think thereís been enough written about Miramax to skip over a lot of it. But what Iíve seen in the last seven years that Iíve worked there is a tremendous growth from being a company that was 95% driven by acquisitions to one that is 50% driven by acquisitions and 50% driven by our own productions in house. Weíve since recently expanded, with a new TV division run by Billy Campbell, and we have Talk Media which is books and a magazine run by Tina Brown. One of the things Iíve been glad to see over the last couple of years and especially this year is that as we have grown and as weíve stepped up to our own productions, be it GOOD WILL HUNTING, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE or ENGLISH PATIENT, weíve also been able to stay in the business that made us, and we keep on picking up films that challenge us, and films that move us, be it something like a LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL to a small Iranian film that we have thatís wonderful thatís just been released recently called CHILDREN OF HEAVEN. Weíve also been able to focus a lot on getting involved with foreign directors, sometimes picking up their films and other times getting involved in a production deal with the director, be it Srdjan Dragojevic or Masayuki Suo who directed SHALL WE DANCE. Weíve also recently got involved in the first English film by the director of OPEN YOUR EYES, Alejandro Amenabar, which is something we wanted to step up to as we remain deeply committed to filmmakers around the world.

Just to comment a little bit about what Geoff was saying earlier, about the difficulty of foreign language films in the American market, and especially having them show on network TV, we will presumably be seeing a dubbed version of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, which will hopefully cross over more - LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL as you know has been a tremendous success - but hopefully with this dub we can reach more children and other people who did not for whatever reason, go to see them film in its original language.
 
 

Joe Revitte - Fine Line:

Fine Line is a division of New Line Cinema, and New Line has been around about 32 years. Fine Line was born out of the early 90s, and what we basically do is release ten to twelve films a year. Basically, Fine Lineís philosophy is we donít do any TV advertising, so we try to make our marketing and publicity money work in very creative ways. We know that weíre going to get a review every Friday morning or the month that the magazine comes out, so we try to gravitate towards films that have a publicity hook toward them, whether it be a debut filmmaker, a controversial idea or anything along those lines, that we can get editorials written about us, we can get features written about us, because weíre not going to be doing the Thursday night full blown TV ads and really spending our money that way. But the way we can get into the theatres and hold them is to have those films that have that little bit of distinctiveness to them, and get them on screens and hold those screens. And sort of the appeal to a company like Fine Line is weíre a muscular boutique, thatís like where I think weíre at.

What that does for us is we can be fairly selective about what films go into our pipeline, but once they get into there just being part of New Line Cinema and being part of Time Warner, gets these films really out there in the marketplace in terms of New Line Home Video and Warner Home Video is pretty much a guarantee to get at the Blockbusters and major video stores, and itís also a chance to get these films onto Ted Turnerís cable channels, and Time Warnerís cable channels. So once Fine Line can sort of select the film, we know that weíre going to be able to back it up and expose it and bring it to an audience in theatrical and in the home video and cable sort of marketplace.

Sydney: Thank you, thanks very much. Next we will have Paramount Classics.
 
 

Michael Nash, Paramount Classics:

Paramount Classics was started in February of last year. We actually just had our first release three weeks ago in the States, a small British coming of age story called GABRIEL. Weíre looking to do six to eight films a year and out of those, I think - we are looking to acquire foreign language films - weíve acquired two so far, actually both came out of the Venice Film Festival - TRAIN OF LIFE, directed by Radu Mihaileanu, whoís actually here I believe, and THE POWDER KEG, directed by Goran Paskaljevic. Paramount was started by Ruth Vitale who was president of Fine Line, and David Dinerstein, head of marketing at Fox Searchlight. Itís interesting, because working at Paramount, on the Paramount lot, which is owned by Viacom, we want to remain small, we want to do movies that we absolutely fall for. David as co-president, and he has a history of Fox Searchlight and Miramax, has a real feel for the foreign language market, and itís interesting because working at a large conglomeration like Viacom, itís funny - I wonder sometimes if Sumner Redstone even knows heís got a division called Paramount Classics.

Weíre about 10 to 15 people, including distribution and marketing, and I think weíre looking to the foreign language films because I think thereís no way to replace quality films - thereís a definite audience in the States for quality films, quality filmmaking. What we tend to look for in a foreign language film in terms of acquisition - our films are director driven; thatís the star - how we like to perceive it - theyíre the star of the film. We want to continue a relationship with this director, maybe they have a presence in the US - I donít believe Goranís films have been released in the US - but I think it helps as far as having stars in films, but there are a small gems being discovered. And as is the case of Goran and Radu, we bring them over and we really promote them, as well as their films, and try and get the audience aware of these filmmakers so when their next films come out, itís an established presence in the states. Itís a name they know, itís a name theyíre familiar with, itís a quality movie like before, and itís important to build their reputation in the United States.

Sydney: Very good - very important about building the reputation of the director.
 
 

Gregory Hatanaka, Phaedra Cinema:

Phaedra Cinema is a US theatrical distribution company that I started back in 1996 when I perceived a gap, a very small gap albeit but still a gap, in the theatrical market by the majors who were at that point suddenly stepping up and acquiring higher ended product. So the idea was that I would acquire festival pictures, very strong festival foreign language films, and give them exposure in the United States no matter how limited. Due to my personal passion for foreign language cinema, our focus is, we tend to gear towards that angle. Weíve got four French films slated for release this year, we have a Swedish picture, and we have a film from Greenland.

Being a company on this level is very very different, not only is it an extremely competitive marketplace, but we don't have the luxury, the advantages of studio backing, for P&A money, or having a home video or television output deal with a major, so weíre having to come up with competitive ways to get our product out into the cinemas. Certainly our films must be festival driven, strong reviews, and weíre looking for names in the cast.

The outlook in the future for foreign language in the States looks very promising; though weíre fighting for the same screens that Miramax is playing their pictures at, weíre still able to get in, and get the product played off consistently in major markets, especially if the picture is doing business, but on top of that there are additional new venues popping up. Landmark consistently continues to build screens in the major markets, which is great; the multiplexes, the chains such as AMC play art product - occasionally; which is good, and then you have venues such as IFC and the Sundance Channel which are picking up foreign language films. And on top of that, you still have the companies like Fox Lorber, New Yorker and Kino, consistently outputting foreign language product. So thatís where it is, I mean companies like us are having to be much more creative on how we get our product out in the marketplace.
 
 

Dylan Leiner, Sony Pictures Classics:

My first question is just why was Fox Searchlight given the 1998 award for most European films released? If someone could provide me with that list that would be great. Thanks.

Sony Pictures Classics has been in existence since 1992 and we have always been tremendously focused on both European and foreign language films, and continue to be so. The triumvirate which runs the company, Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom, has been in the business for about 20 years. Michael and Tom started UA Classics and then Orion Classics where Marcie joined them, and then Sony Pictures Classics.

Iíll just list a few of the films weíve been involved with: INDOCHINE, BURNT BY THE SUN, BELLE EPOQUE, and CHARACTER which all won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film; SLINGSHOT, FAR AWAY SO CLOSE, MARIE BAIE DES ANGES, A FRIEND OF THE DECEASED, FARINELLI, SHANGHAI TRIAD, LES VOLEURS, THE STORY OF XIU JU, we have the two new films by Zhang Yimou, MA VIE EN ROSE, we did MEN WITH GUNS, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, and weíre really excited to be at Cannes this year because we have more films than any other company - three in competition, the Pedro Almodovar film ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, the Kitano film KIKUJIRO, and the Chen Kaige film THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN, as well as the first film that weíve fully financed and produced called THE WINSLOW BOY by David Mamet.

Sony Classics releases between 12 and 15 films a year. We also release film all over the world, and I think weíre one of the few companies in this specialized arena that actually distributes films on a world wide basis - we donít have a foreign sales arm at all - we believe itís really important to keep the filmmakers involved with the process, profile them individually, as well as the films, all over the world, so we go through Columbia Tristar Film Distributors International, and we will do that, and have done it, on films like MA VIE EN ROSE, AFTERGLOW, as well as on the new Bruno Barreto film BOSSA NOVA. Currently in release we have TANGO, we have LA VIE REVEE DES ANGES, which has been in release now for six weeks and weíve just netted a profit in New York, just over this past weekend.

We view this festival as being really a good one for us, and just to finish up, we have been and continue to be very very devoted to European and foreign language films, weíre always finding new and creative ways to get them to our audience. Weíve just done a huge new initiative with dvd, and new titles like TANGO and RUN LOLA RUN are going to be very very creatively different from a lot of the other films in the dvd marketplace with commentary and clips and stills, and so we feel that weíre bringing European films to the American marketplace, and thatís very viable, we see an audience for it, and weíre putting a lot of money and time into it and itís not going to stop.
 
 

Jon Gerrans, Strand Releasing:

Strand has been around for ten years now. Weíve released a little over 100 films, about 50 of those are foreign language, and about 10 to 15 films a year. This year we have twelve, and out of those twelve about eight are foreign language.

In my two minutes remaining, inspired by what Geoff Gilmore said before, that there are eight films released a week, one of the elements that we base our decision on what films we acquire is the filmmakerís support. And just to try to say something a little different from what has been said, and I agree with everyone here, itís surprising how many films we acquire that we donít get the support from the filmmaker or the stars in the U.S., and with eight films opening each week, and with the limited budgets we have, how critical, how important that is, to have the star come into New York, to have the director come in, have the director go to the U.S. festivals that want to program the film, because once theyíre there we can then get the journalists from mostly the independents, which consist of a large portion of our audience. But itís not enough to just sell it to us, half the game is also having the filmmaker and stars come and support it, and when that happens it also builds the director, as we were talking earlier, they receive a lot more attention, so the next film is a little bit bigger, the next is a little larger than that, and it makes our job so much easier.

Sydney: Personal promotion by stars and directors - that means you all if youíre filmmakers - I didnít ask - is very important.
 
 

Bobby Rock, Trimark Pictures:

Iíll pick up on that. Actually, at Trimark we havenít done a lot of foreign language movies, but we are doing one called _______, which is a controversial movie, and we are trying, weíre actually going out to collect her entire library of films, I think sheís done three other films. Her name is Catherine _____, and we are going to educate the journalists and the public with those films before we bring out ______, her recent film. It was in Berlin, we bought it right after that and hopefully it will lead to a lot more foreign language films. Weíve only done one other theatrical release called THE DAY OF THE BEAST by Alex de la Iglesia, and weíve done one very famous one for video which is called LA FEMME NIKITA, which did very well, 1990 or whenever it was. I wasnít there then.

This is a video company, and it was founded fifteen years ago, and Dennis Conner and I are trying to make it a theatrical company with a lot of class - weíve done EVEíS BAYOU and a couple of other movies that are almost foreign language movies except theyíre in English...
 
 

Richard Lorber, Winstar Multimedia/Fox Lorber:

The theme of my mini-speech is convergence and continuum. I started Fox Lorber 18 years ago for a variety of reasons after escaping from academia as an art historian. I found in the mid 80s that the opportunities in video allowed me to pursue my personal passions, and converge with some business opportunities which related to foreign films. By the early 90s, having sold and bought back my company two or three times by then, I finally realized that I had to start our own video label, in order to ensure the continued financial opportunity for the films I was passionate about. Happily, three years ago, in the process again of the perpetual pursuit of capital in niche business, I encountered an interesting telephone company that was really a start up called Winstar, which has become the largest broadband fixed wireless telecommunications company in the U.S., which is a mouthful and probably doesnít mean anything. Don't worry about it. I sold the company to them, and itís taken us about three years to figure out how we want to go forward, which Iím happy to say now will be as Winstar Cinema and Winstar TV and Video. Fox Lorber will continue as our video brands as well as our international brands, we market our films here as Fox Lorber films.

We have in our video library over 300 titles including most of the films by Lina Wertmuller, Tarkovsky, and now weíve acquired the collection of films of François Truffaut. We also started a theatrical division a few years ago, and weíre happy now to release 4 to 6 European or international films, plus retrospectives of touring collections such as the films of Truffaut.

Convergence: We look at films, the issue of foreign language films as a matter of image and text, and we think that the continuum of distribution from theatrical to video and dvd will be supported by the growth of the internet, and weíre very committed to looking at the entire spectrum, continuum of marketing outlets. Theatrical is the least efficient form of getting film work into the public, and the internet allows the unification of diverse communities of interest, we think we will find new ways of reaching very specialized targets through our converging opportunities.

Sydney: Thank you. Now Dan Lyon, youíre going to put one little spin on this, and Iím going to open it up to you all for quick questions.
 
 

Daniel Lyon, Motion International of Canada:

Motion International is part of one of the largest entertainment companies in Canada. In distribution we have about 50 people in theatrical, video and television, and in production we have about two or three hundred people permanently and another couple thousand for our production work. We work a lot with people in other countries - we certainly work with Americans, so for example we represent Dreamworks in Quebec, and we have a joint venture with 20th Century Fox in Canada for television.

In terms of the difference between Canada and the United States, there was a prime minister of Canada, Lester Pierson, who said when people ask you the differences between Canadians and Americans, you should answer in French. So it is an important distinction that 25% of our population is French, we donít consider French a foreign language; however Iím sorry to say that for a large segment of the population in English Canada, French is actually a foreign language. In any case, thereís a very different character in Quebec from the rest of Canada. We sometimes acquire films for Quebec alone, although our preference is certainly to acquire the whole of Canada. So to give you an example of one for Quebec alone is A TRAIN DE VIE, and to give you an example for all of Canada is 8 1/2 WOMEN. And there are certainly many other examples.

We produced, by the way, some years ago, a foreign picture called PORKYíS - that was done with the Americans. More recently, we co-produced with a French company, a picture called THE BELL, which is a family feature that opened already in France and will open shortly in Canada, and was a double shoot.

In Canada, the number of screens unfortunately is proportionally less than what it should be. So we do have a problem in terms of availability of screens for unique and interesting films. So I think weíd like to talk to people like Landmark and Sundance, about maybe even coming to Canada and providing us with some more screens. We have under 2,000, but we have about 10% of the population of the United States, so weíre certainly underscreened.

In terms of why people in the United States and in Europe deal with us as opposed to selling Canadian rights to an American company, in addition to the fact that they like us and we do a good job, we provide a separate guarantee, and the revenue stream is not cross-collateralized against the U.S. So you can do well in Canada and maybe not so well in the US, or vice versa, and there is still a separate revenue stream coming from Canada. Itís very important. Canada is the bridge between Europe and the United States, so in terms of co-productions, where Iíve had many meetings in the past week as well as the past 15 years of my life, what we do is we arrange the co-production financing, and we also either arrange an American partner or we arrange gap financing or some other vehicle, so that the film becomes fully financed.

Sydney: Great, thank you. Before I open it up to you all, Iíd like to know who you are. Would you raise your hand if you are an international sales agent selling films to distributors such as here. How many international sales agents are here? Okay. How many of you are filmmakers? Oh, now I have to find out who you are! How many have made a film already? How many of those films have made it to the U.S.? How many are making or working on a film right now? Your first or second, or third? How many of you are students? Who are you?!

Open to questions. Iím going to choose you, I will repeat your question. Please tell us - make it a very short question - tell us who you are - a student, an exec... Iíll start with you in the back.
 
 
 
 

Iím John Archer, Iím chief executive of Scottish Screen, which is the government body for film in Scotland. Iíd like to know whether you regard Scottish films as foreign language films.

Sydney: Good question.

Amy Israel:

No, but itís an interesting thing with Australian films, English films, and Scottish films and Irish films, is that the accent does make a difference for American audiences. It does get thought of, initially, as an arthouse film, even if the filmís a very mainstream one. Sometimes with accents, there are times when American distributors do have to go in and get the actors back to loop a couple of lines that were difficult for an American audience to understand, for instance with TRAINSPOTTING, the director very very carefully picked a few key scenes that were extremely difficult, especially with Robert Carlyle, and Robert went back in and not all of his dialogue, but very lightly through the film went back through and did a number of ADR sessions for the film so that the barrier of the accent didnít limit it in any way. At least at Miramax weíve done a tremendous amount of Irish, Scottish, English, Australian films and it doesnít limit us, itís just one thing we have to be more aware of it and try to educate the audience and not use it as something to block the film.