Established in 2011, the Producers Workshop is a relatively new development program sponsored by the Marché du Film, the market component of the Cannes Film Festival. Its purpose is to guide producers early in their careers. The program takes place the first three days of the festival, and consists of panels held by industry professionals. Each day is broken up into a morning session and an afternoon session with either a coaching session or a guided tour around lunchtime. In addition to panels, the Producers Workshop gives participants an opportunity to network with peers at a similar stage in the evolution of their careers. Finally, participants gain access to Cinando, an online database geared towards film sales and acquisitions.
Day One started with an introduction by Lucius Barre and a panel. During the 80s, Barre oversaw the foreign advertising of numerous films, most notably, Bernardo Bertolucci’s, “The Last Emperor”. The panel discussed a perfect day at Cannes from the perspective of: a producer, a sales agent, and a distributor. Each had various anecdotes about what they were looking for on a day to day basis, and pointed out how it was often incongruous with the goals of the filmmakers that approach them.
Available via an additional signup process were lunchtime coaching sessions and a guided tour. I was admitted into the guided tour, provided by Sydney Levine, contributing editor for Indiewire. As we walked through the market, it was apparent how truly vast her network was; as the tour progressed we ran into numerous people she knew. Not only did she seem to know everyone, but she also had interesting stories to tell about each one of them.
The second session was on the topic of new media. It was stated, that if the buzzword of 2011 was, “co-productions” then this year’s buzzword [is] “transmedia”. More than once, I’ve been asked the question, “what is transmedia?” Transmedia was a term coined in the 90s, however it has really only hit its stride in the last couple years. My best description is, “a strategy of expanding a narrative across multiple ancillary platforms in an effort to increase awareness among consumers, often utilizing direct engagement models.” This can be achieved through web series, mobile content, video games; really the sky is the limit here, as long as the stories told support the brand.
Day One concluded with a happy hour / networking mixer that included hors d’oeuvres and a sponsored bar.
Day Two started with the panel, “Branding yourself and your projects”. Among the topics discussed were: preparation for meetings with financiers, sales agents and co-producers. How do you analyze and determine what the relevant facts are? And to whom do you present what? Who and when do you pitch? And finally, the do’s and don’ts of project presentation.
Again, lunch was occupied with coaching sessions or a guided tour.
The second session was on production finance and film funds. Throughout Europe, there are various incentives, both on the national and regional level, available to entice filmmakers to shoot in specific locations. In addition, co-production finance strategies were a big component to this year’s lecture. I would define an international co-production as: “a production in which two (or more) companies engage in a partnership with the intent of mitigating financial risk often leveraging governmental incentives as partial forms of financing.” During the panel we explored the various regions throughout Europe in which they gave an example finance breakdown for a specific feature film.
Day Three started off with the question, “What kind of producer are you?” Here the panelists asked the audience to question how they view themselves. What are their motivations for being a producer? Are they a “creative” producer, or “financial” producer; are they “hands on” or “hands off”? Oftentimes indie producers need to wear multiple hats. This panel was great at identifying comfort zones and, if necessary, pushing to reach outside of it.
Lunch consisted of a guided tour for those who hadn’t attended already.
Day Three ended with Angus Finney, from the Film London Production Finance Market, asking the question, “How do you produce for the international market?”. This was possibly my favorite panel. Topics included: what stage of development is an appropriate time to approach financiers; the importance of the package and the key elements; appropriate budgeting; jigsaw puzzle financing; sales and distribution partners; as well as closing the financing. This was a great way to end the program, as there were many elements in Finney’s presentation that were touched upon by others and he was able to wrap everything up nicely.
The Producers Workshop was highly informative and I’d recommend it to anyone in the early stages of their producing careers, especially for those residing in Europe.