“We’re handling fewer and fewer films, and we follow more of a ‘boutique-like’ approach”
Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming
Gabrielle Rozing • Sales agent, Fortissimo Films
We sat down with the Dutch outfit’s general manager to discuss its editorial strategies and its line-up, among other topics
Cineuropa met up with Gabrielle Rozing, general manager at Amsterdam-based sales agent Fortissimo Films. Rozing spoke about various aspects of the firm’s work and how it has changed owing to the pandemic and to some internal business changes.
Cineuropa: Could you please introduce Fortissimo Films’ editorial policy for us? How is the company staffed?
Gabrielle Rozing: Ten years ago, Fortissimo Films was a very big company with 30 people on the staff. Nowadays, there are four employees. It’s been the four of us over the last four or five years. It’s much smaller than it used to be, and this obviously influences the choices you make and the type of films you handle... We’ve got partners in China, and we work a lot with Asian cinema. Somehow, we’ve got back to the origins, or what the company used to be 30 years ago, when we began working with Hong Kongese and Chinese cinemas. Now we’re operating within that area, with a lot of Chinese and Japanese titles, but we also select other films that speak to us and that we think are good. We follow Marie Kondō’s motto: she’s an American-Japanese writer, and she’s very good at organising things. She says: “When you pick something up and it sparks joy, then you keep it, and if it doesn’t, just throw it away.” So we ask ourselves: “Does it spark joy?” It doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy or a “light” film, but it needs to tell us something.
How many titles do you rep each year?
In the past, we could have handled up to ten titles, but over the last five years, that amount has shrunk to five or six. This year, we’ll be repping three titles. So we’re handling fewer and fewer films, and we follow more of a “boutique-like” approach. We see that it takes much more time to present a film, to market it properly, and since there are fewer people on the team, we handle fewer movies. And, of course, you need to make sure you pick up the right ones.
What are some of the latest titles you have acquired?
Our latest acquisition was Natalia Sinelnikova’s We Might as Well Be Dead [+see also:
interview: Natalia Sinelnikova
film profile]. It’s one of the German films submitted as an Oscars contender. It was screened in the Perspektive Deutsches Kino section of the Berlinale, and after that, it played at Tribeca. Other recent titles include the animated film by Masaaki Yuasa Inu-Oh, Shinzo Katayama’s Missing, as well as some Chinese films, such as Ann Hui’s Love After Love and Cao Jinling’s Anima. We also handled some Chinese fantasy films which went straight to Netflix – namely, The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity and Super Me.
What about the size of your catalogue?
Our catalogue includes about 80 titles from all around the world. Among them, we still have Alex van Warmerdam’s first nine films, a few documentary features and some other Asian titles, such as Tokyo Sonata and Norwegian Wood.
Could you elaborate on why you’re veering towards a more “boutique-like” approach?
This process started when we changed ownership six years ago. Wouter [Barendrecht] died in 2008, and then Michael [J Werner] took over. In 2016, we were bought by a Chinese company. Even before that, many staffing changes were already afoot. There were five of us at the time. The climate for sales agents has been changing a lot over the last 15 years, and the last two COVID years certainly didn’t help to sustain this business. If you’re one of the very big sales firms – the likes of HanWay or Wild Bunch, for example – things may be different, but there are many agencies that are much smaller out there. It’s becoming common practice to pick fewer films in order to put more effort into them. Besides, I think the pandemic has had a huge impact, and especially for young, first-time filmmakers, it has been devastating. [...] For the sales agents, I think this period is maybe even a bit worse than it was one or two years ago, when it had just started and everyone was hoping it would end soon. But now, things are more difficult and more unstable. At Cannes, everyone was positive, but the audience is not coming back to cinemas yet. I hope this will change in September or October so that buyers can gain more confidence.
Do you happen to invest in the production of films or help fund them?
Rarely. Right now, it’s not a very good market to invest in or take risks over. We do help filmmakers find funding and direct them towards the right resources. We follow a lot of projects from the script or treatment phase; we read them and give feedback, and many people consult us for casting choices or other aspects. We don’t produce or invest, though, as we don’t have the capacity to do that at the moment. We focus on sales, but we also have a talent agency in China. We help Western editors, composers and cinematographers who want to work in China, and we connect them with Chinese producers.
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