Daniela Elstner • Exporter
by Fabien Lemercier
09/05/2011 - Interview with Daniela Elstner, who took over the reins at French seller Doc & Film International at the end of 2008 after nine years as head of international sales at Les Films du Losange.
Cineuropa: On the eve of the 2011 Cannes Film Market, what is your analysis of the apparent recent recovery in international film sales?
Daniela Elstner: Things have picked up a little bit. Buyers are quite curious again and are looking for films that aren’t so accessible on the face of it. The big problem is that they’re not necessarily investing more money. At Berlin, the market was quite brisk: distributors are buying, but at prices in direct correlation with the film’s potential in terms of maximum admissions. They can no longer rely on TV sales, which have collapsed, or on the DVD market, which is plummeting everywhere. They do their calculations and come back with offers that are quite low. However, there are always exceptions, three or four films which get several offers per territory and for which there are negotiation margins.
Has the crisis of the last few years changed sellers?
It has brought deep changes to our profession. We have to support films a lot more and secure possible rises in receipts. And while there is competition between sellers for acquisitions, we now share the same problems to the extent that we need to form alliances, for instance with Europa International (see news) in order to have discussions with the MEDIA Programme or with the ADEF in France. We must enhance the status of our profession and our expertise, which producers count on in order to secure financing for their films.
Is the gap widening, along the lines of company size, between the different international sellers?
In France, there is a network of sellers that reflects the variety of different film directors and productions. Independents like Films Distribution and Memento have succeeded and haven’t given up in the face of the crisis. There is always an element of luck, but not when a line-up includes a Palme d’Or, Golden Lion and Golden Bear in the space of a few years.
Of course, investments by groups or big independents like Wild Bunch are so high-level that it is hard to compete with them. But we compete with them in other ways: excellent post-sales service, availability for daily talks… Smaller independent sellers nonetheless need support to enable them to take more risks. This would be good for production because all films, including those selected at major festivals, are not necessarily right for big sellers. And yet, we sometimes refuse these films because we can’t absorb them.
What are your ambitions for the Cannes market?
We’re selling Pierre Schoeller’s The Exercise of State [trailer, film focus] (see news), which has been selected in the Un Certain Regard. It’s a film that’s bound to surprise, about a minister who must deal with what the State imposes on him and his own ideals.
In the Directors’ Fortnight, we have Roland Edzard’s End of Silence [trailer] (see news), an astonishing, masterful debut feature set in a forest with a constant feeling of dread and an underlying violence that explodes; as well as The Night Watchman.
At the market, we’re also going to pre-sell Chantal Akerman’s Almayer’s Folly (see news) and Stan Neumann’s The Eye of the Astronomer (see news), among others. We will also screen Austrian director Marie Kreutz’s The Fatherless [trailer] (see review).