A sales agent is usually a great partner to team up with for any producer – and also a way to get a feeling for the “market value” of a film, before it’s produced.


What is the job of the sales agent?

A sales agent represents job is to sell you movie on the international market – and in some cases to secure domestic distribution. This includes planning of festival and market strategies. They also handle most marketing elements like trailer editing, posters, one sheet and such. The sales company then represents and screens the movie on international film markets and reaches out to buyers in different territories in order to sell the movie. A sales agent can help raise funding for a movie, by handling pre-sales to different territories. In some cases a sales agent can even offer a minimum guarantee that can help with financing – and there are also some sales agents that produces and/or co-produces movies – in order to ensure that a demand for certain genres such as action or sci-fi can be filled. A common set-up for these sales companies is to release about 20 new titles each year, of which five is movies that they either produce themselves or are actively involved in co-producing – the remaining 15 titles are then “pick ups”.


When should you reach out to a sales agent?

If you have a completed picture you should try to get in contact with a sales agent a couple of months before a major market. All sales agents need to release new pictures every market, so they are dependent on new titles. However, they do need some time to plan for the release. For movies in development you could contact a sales agent anytime, but not during, or right before, the markets – since these are very busy times for most sales agents. The exception to this is if you contact a sales agent to book a meeting with them during the market, then you should reach out to them about 4-6 weeks prior to the market – when they schedule their market agenda.


How do you get in contact with a sales agent?

The best way to get into contact with sales agent are most likely by visiting markets like Marche du film (during the Cannes Film Festival) – or American Film Market (AFM). When you register for Marche du Film you also get access to the Cinando database, with information on all registered companies and their line ups. This is a very, very valuable tool for networking. However, it is of course possible to do research over the internet – and schedule meetings over Skype if you can’t attend the markets. A list of exhibiting sales companies at AFM: s website –

Make sure to research the company you get in contact with, what kind of movies they’ve released before and how they’ve preformed – so you get a sales company that is right for you particular movie. However, remember that the sales companies do not want copies of their existing movies. They need to build a good catalogue, with movies that complete each other and not compete with each other. E.g. a sales company that only distributes horror movies will most likely not be interested in a romantic comedy, but neither do they want a movie that builds on the exact same premise and concept as an existing one (if it’s not an old outdated title).


What if you have a movie in development?

You don’t need a completed picture to find a sales agent. In fact I would suggest that you reach out to sales agents as early on as possible, to get some feedback on things like script and casting while in development – and most important have them provide good sales estimates. You can schedule meetings with sales agents and pitch them your project with the help of a one sheet/pre-sale poster and a well written synopsis. You don’t need to enter into a sales agreement with them if you don’t need them to help with financing by doing pre-sales or providing a minimum guarantee just used them to bounce ideas off while developing the script and “package”.


The Sales Agent Agreement

Entering into an agreement with a sales agent can be tricky and somewhat scary, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. The agreement is many times complex and at the same time might control a substantial part, if not all, of the revenues and chances for recoupment on all investments. This is why it’s first and foremost important to make to ask for references and talk to other producers, to ensure that the sales company really is the right company for this particular picture. It might then be a good idea to have an experienced lawyer or consultant review the agreement and negotiate the points that might need to change. Companies like royalty international can help you with this and their cost for reviewing and suggesting changes is around $3,000. If you’re handling the negotiation yourself, you might consider really reviewing the key points in the agreement such as: Terms (media, territory, license period), services, commission, marketing fee, ask- and take prices – and also review such things as the “transparency” regarding audit rights, rights to receives copies of sales agreements – and most important of all; The revenue water fall, which is almost never mention in the agreement, but rather needs to be interpreted in relation to such this as recoupment of MG:s, advances, marketing fees and commission.



Another big issue when you negotiate your agreement with a sales agent is which deliverables is needed. Usually at the very least the sales agent needs some sort of master like a HDCAM SR master, but in most cases the movie needs to be delivered in many different format such as HDCAM and Digibeta both in PAL and NTSC format – and very format in both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio. However, usually not all these masters are actually needed until the movie has sold to a specific territory that might need them. Because of this it might be a good idea to negotiate to have the different masters is produced upon request, to avoid spending money on masters that won’t be used. E. g many times the list of delivery includes a HD CAM in 4:3 aspect ratio, but this is almost never used – at the same time the list of delivery rarely includes a Pro res master, which in many cases can be very easy to use (since it can be uploaded to, and downloaded from, a server). Besides from the video elements the sound elements should also be delivered separate – and one the masters the sound should be included in two versions. One with the dialogue embedded and one with only music and effects (used for dubbing, together with a dialogue script that also needs to be delivered). The music should also be delivered separate so the local distributors can edit their own trailers and spots. Other marketing elements produced such as pictures, posters, billing block and other “key art”, as well as synopsis, pitches, cast and crew biographies and of course the script. Finally, and most important of all, the producer needs to make a “legal delivery” that includes all chain of title documents, copy right reports, all agreements with cast and crew as well as for all licensing agreements for all music and stock footage used – and copies of E&O and other insurances needed.

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