Main Media Filmmaking
Certificate in Collaborative Filmmaking at Maine Media College

Quick Tips for Selling Your Film at the Cannes Market: Negotiating with Sales Agents by Stacey Parks

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Reference: StudentFilmmakers Magazine

Cannes Film Festival is approaching, filmmakers are getting their films ready to go sell there, and I’ve been speaking with producers lately about the deals they’ve made with various sales agencies. Here are a few quick pointers: things to look out for and be aware of when working with sales agents.

First of all, when a sales agent agrees to bring your film to the Cannes Film Festival market, you are not IN the Cannes Film Festival. You are at the Market. Big difference!

Also, when a sales agent brings your film to the Cannes Market, you do NOT have distribution; you have a sales agent. The job of the sales agent is to find you distribution deals; they sell your distribution rights to various distributors around the world and take a commission for their efforts.

In addition to your negotiated commission with them (usually somewhere between 10% and 25%), they will want to take a fee for marketing expenses (which can be anywhere from $5K to $50K).

Now here’s where things get tricky. For example, if the sales agents are out there selling your film to distributors, and they get to keep the first $50K of sales that come in to cover their marketing expenses, and then start taking a 25% commission on all the sales after that, when do you think you’ll actually get paid? Can you say…NEVER?

Okay, I’m being cynical. Anyway, it will take a long, long time unless your film starts making hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue right off the bat… which I would never plan on because you want to play things conservatively.
One solution to this little conundrum is to negotiate with the sales agent that they are allowed NO MONEY in marketing expenses. Tell them you want to negotiate with them just a percentage commission that they’ll take off the top of every sale, and no more.

Stick to your guns, and if they really want your film, they’ll concede. After all, why should you be responsible for their overhead costs?

It’s something that always got under my skin when I was working as a sales agent – taking all these huge fees from filmmakers to pay our marketing expenses… It just doesn’t seem fair.

That is why I think, ultimately, the sales agency is a dying business model.

Stacey Parks is the author of the “Inside Guide to Independent Film Distribution.” Stacey has worked in independent film for over 10 years and is currently a sales executive at the BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles. She was previously a foreign sales agent for many years. Her website is

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