Blog: Networking on the Croissette

Phenomenal Films producer Cher Hawrysh (pictured) on how building relationships with sales agents can happen at unexpected moments.
Cher Hawrysh-1

This year, five TIFF 2012 Studio participants are attending the Cannes Film Festival and market. They have been blogging about their experiences and insights gained from conversations with international producers and industry execs, and navigating the festival market. Here, Phenomenal Films producer Cher Hawrysh in her fourth year at Cannes discusses news from and networking on the Croissette.

The Cannes International Film Festival and accompanying market component is an intense, 10-day rosé-coloured marathon of buying, selling, dining, dancing and doing it all again. Though bad weather tends to repeat itself from year to year, the industry is constantly refreshed with new projects, new players, new incentives and new talent being feted on the screen.

Many refreshing announcements were made at this year’s festival, a few of which are worth noting here. While London-based Canadian Courtney Noble moved from acquisitions at Fortissimo Films to Goldcrest Films International, Michael Benaroya (Kill Your Darlings, Lawless) launched a new sales company, International Films Trust. And independent-film financing and distribution expert Cassian Elwes unveiled e2b Capital, a new entertainment company for independent filmmakers and financiers seeking financing and global distribution expertise.

In my fourth consecutive year at Cannes it has been refreshing to see familiar faces and feel relationships deepen over scheduled meetings and brief conversations at cocktail parties and events while navigating through the tuxedo and gown filled crowds.

Conversations continued with sales agents regarding Bruce McDonald’s upcoming feature Baby, How’d We Ever Get This Way. In one such meeting, Visit Films’ (based in New York) director of acquisitions Aida Lipera talked about building relationships with filmmakers with an eye toward longevity. “We’re interested in the current film, as well as the projects filmmakers are developing,” she said.

She emphasized that she wasn’t looking for exclusivity or for agreements written in stone, since every film isn’t necessarily right for every agent. The important thing was to build a catalogue based on relationships with filmmakers they would like to continue to work with. According to Lipera, the earlier in the script phase one reaches out to international sales agents, the better.

Marina Cordini from Toronto’s Breakthrough Entertainment believes that sales agents’ value comes from their knowledge of the complex tastes of buyers, enabling custom-made strategies for success. Marina indicated that she doesn’t tell filmmakers what to do, but instead identifies these subtleties so that the filmmakers, armed with the information, can find creative ways of handling it.

But the highlight of my Cannes experience was one that might be considered typical of the festival: a chance meeting on a dance floor in the wee hours of the glamorous Weinstein Party. While models in gorgeous gowns rubbed shoulders with the likes of Tim Burton, Clive Owen and the eponymous Mr. Weinstein, I found myself on the dance floor alongside a group of journalists, producers and executives blowing off the steam that comes from the intense schedules and lack of sleep that defines the festival experience. When the music stopped and the lights came on, it dawned on me that I was dancing beside a high-powered agent; our dance session inspired a conversation, and, from there, a lunch meeting was scheduled.

The Studio program is TIFF Industry’s first year-round program, open to Ontario-based producers and aimed at developing next-level creative and business skills and knowledge of the global marketplace through panels, programs and seminars with Canadian and international film experts.