Pim Hermeling • Distribuidor
"Este no es un negocio sexy"
por Gonzalo Suárez
Este artículo está disponible en inglés.
Pim Hermeling started as a marketing manager at Recorded Cinematographic Variety in 1994, before becoming head of the film department of 20th Century Fox. In November 1999 he co-founded A-Film Distribution and by 2004 the company was the biggest independent theatrical and home video distributor in Benelux. In February 2008 he sold his shares of A-Film and later that year started Wild Bunch Benelux Distribution, based in Amsterdam.
Cineuropa talked to Hermeling during the 2010 EAVE Film Marketing Workshop (December 1-5), at which he works as head of studies.
Cineuropa: Who is this workshop for and what are your objectives?
Pim Hermeling: I like to share my experience built up over the last 17 years with new film professionals, as well as to learn from them. I do miss professionals who share their experience with young people. Many stay in the business because they think it’s a sexy business and they’re not willing to hand over the information and experience they have. This is no good. Every five years you need fresh blood in the business. Don’t ask me a lot about marketing online, for example. Everyone needs to learn and everyone should share their knowledge.
Expert producer Frans van Gestel stated that "the industry is sick, almost dead" during one of the sessions. Do you agree with that? If so, how do you make it to survive?
He’s partly right – it’s not a healthy industry because of the piracy, the crisis, and because there’s a lack of vision in the EU industry. We tend to follow what Americans do. I don’t see many people bringing change into the industry so far, at either the local or international level. That has got to do with “luxurious” practices in various competing territories: we had to pay enormous amounts of minimum guarantees (MGs) to sales agents just to get a film and the competition was very high. But now video is going down, broadcasters don’t contribute anymore, so we distributors don’t get our money back. Therefore, I’m not going crazy over the MGs they’re asking anymore, so as to normalise the market – and am hoping everybody does the same, which is not the case sometimes.
The film industry attracts a lot of gold diggers. Every year there are new people buying films in film markets and sales agents are willing to accept offers and MGs from companies that have only been in existence one year. But, as I said previously, this is not a sexy market. A lot of people think I go to a festival to see Nicole Kidman or Tom Cruise. My answer is: "No, I was doing business. The project I’m working on might be sexy but this is basically like literature, watches or jewellery: business!”
DVD sales are decreasing while VoD is increasing. Are the figures falling and rising in proportion to one another, as expected?
VoD is not as strong as everyone suggested. I didn’t expect that anyway – I think it will take at least two or three years before we really see some revenue. On the other hand, video rental is almost dead, mainly because we have not learned from other sectors, such as the music industry. We can all make decent money releasing films if we do business on a normal level.
Sales agents who think we can still pay $1m or $1.5m for a single film for Benelux are simply crazy. That can only be done with one or two films per year. The only chance for making money with films like we used to hangs on the normalisation of the whole process of making a film – from production to the theatrical release.
Last August, Cinemadigitaal.nl was created for nationwide digital distribution. Was there a pressing need for that?
I’ll believe it when I will see it. It sounds a bit lame, but the fact is that Americans have not taken the lead – they are still fighting over all kind of legal issues – yet the independent market cannot think they’re going to change the world. When it comes to this, I do not care about the format but about the content I can market with, i.e., the film itself. I know for certain that nine out of 10 cinemagoers don’t see a difference between every format – and the one who does difference works in the industry! Let the Americans do their work first, and then the independent sector will follow.
What has changed in your marketing methods in the last couple of years?
The Internet is currently one of the most important things for marketing a film. If you don’t promote a film online, you’re lost. Everything is becoming faster than it used to be. A few years ago we had six or seven months to release a film, regardless of whether or not it had already been released in the US. Nowadays, the windows between releases get shorter and even the production process is hectic due to the Internet.
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