Film Sales Agents represent filmmakers who are looking for distribution deals for their films, and who may be first time directors, or directors who work outside of studio productions. Agents may agree to represent a film based on its script and proposal, but usually an unknown director can only acquire an Agent when they have a finished, or almost-completed, film. Film Sales Agents work with filmmakers to develop a strategy for marketing their films.
Once films are sold, Distributors and Agents negotiate the contracts and conditions. When deals have been finalised, Agents are responsible for delivering all the elements of the sold films, including a release print, the inter-negative and inter-positives, sound masters, the script, and various other items, including legal documents. Once films become profitable, Film Sales Agents pay filmmakers their percentage.
Film Sales Agents need to continually acquire new films in order to keep their catalogues fresh and intriguing to buyers. They therefore regularly attend screenings and festivals, and meet with new filmmakers. Film Sales Agents also promote new films at various film festivals and markets; at lavish premiere parties, or film screenings; or by providing VHS/DVD copies for potential buyers. If, against all predictions, a film does not sell, it may be necessary to launch a revamped campaign in order to re-sell it to Distributors.
Agents are also responsible for brokering deals for filmmakers, unless they employ their own legal advisors. Agents usually work with Delivery services, which dispatch all the necessary materials to Distributors; because films are sold to a large number of territories, this work is ongoing. Agents must also provide regular financial accounts for client filmmakers, including a breakdown of costs and income for each film.
Sales Agents, in common with Talent and Literary Agents, need an eye for talent combined with strong business and managerial skills. Successful Film Sales Agents understand the film industry thoroughly, from script, to finance, to post-production. They should know what films are selling currently, and what will be popular in the future. Enthusiasm and charm are vital, in order to attract clients, and to sell films to Distributors. Marketing skills and flexibility are also essential. As well as talent-spotting, effective Film Sales Agents must be able to negotiate, draw up contracts, and deal with the multiplicity of international client and Distributor demands. As Film Sales Agents are expected to work internationally, language skills, and a willingness to travel and to embrace different cultures, are essential.
For Film Sales Agents, MBA qualifications are extremely useful, as are courses in Film Production, Film History and Film Finance. Experience of, or qualifications in, negotiation and selling skills are also helpful for this role.
Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Creative Skillset's and the UK Film Council's Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Screen Academies and a Film Business Academy have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film.
Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive Creative Skillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit http://www.creativeskillset.org/careers/.