One Day @ FHF: Bulletpoints from the various desks at First Hand Films

Our job is one we have to learn anew all the time. Not only are new films made all the time, and stories are told in new forms never seen before, technology has developed immensely in our field, and continues to do so. And the buyers switch jobs, the jobs change profile, the profiles get reorganized… In the midst of all this, breathtakingly fascinating and interesting as it is, we as sales agents, distributors, often Executive Producers, are also the gateway, the bridge, the window from one film to its audience worldwide. It’s not easy to comprehend the entire scope from filmmaking to filmwatching, and sometimes we ask ourselves what it is we’re actually doing at the office.

So one day in December, we simply wrote it all down. Here goes, from the various desks at First Hand Films, one single day in 2016:

The Intern

  • Morning coffee huddle with entire office, learning from the others what’s up and telling about my tasks at hand
  • Mailing with festivals regarding waivers, sending out screening links
  • Filling out online forms for festival submissions
  • Prepare and upload materials on server for digital delivery to clients
  • Check materials according to requirements from buyers in negotiation with us
  • Checking and updating theatrical bookbill, then checking which theatres can be invoiced
  • Coordinating material deliveries (mails, phone calls) from producers and to broadcasters
  • Going to post office for “physical” material deliveries: hard disks and posters (the latter for our local theatre releases)
  • Gathering receipts and making overview for funding accounting
  • Participate in preparation talk with producers about material deliveries, making sure nothing we don’t need is produced
  • Completing templates for design of flyers for markets and festivals
  • Logging and labelling incoming materials in preparation for it to be sent out
  • Maintaining info on VOD page: updating info and files, checking pricing and various distribution territories

The Head of Acquisitions, also responsible for Sales and Production

  • Morning coffee huddle with entire office
  • Coordinating a deal between two German broadcasters in one contract
  • Negotiating an offer from a European TV station
  • Communicating with producers about what festival strategies and timing (as EP)
  • Feedback on posters in the making for one of our films getting ready to launch (as EP)
  • Feedback to producers about editors for one of our projects (as EP)
  • Exchange information about new markets/festivals with colleagues (discussed where to go, want to do mix of big and small, new and known)
  • Checking / booking markets for spring 2017 – travels when and who (where invited, where not, cost versus what we get from it for the films and for the company)
  • Calling TV buyers in Holland, Sweden, Germany to follow up on titles pending with them
  • Mailing / reminding buyers from all over the world following up pending films (mostly receiving rejections or a note that they have not yet watched)
  • Mailing screening links to buyers of the final cut of a new series many have been waiting for (as EP)
  • Adding information about sales activity in our database (for producers)
  • Going through lists of buyers from 2016 markets to check if all info is in our address database
  • Writing “end of the year” greetings to some buyers
  • Watching and assessing projects, rough cuts and final films and schedule talks with filmmakers
  • Giving (quite tough) feedback on teaser/trailer to new project (as EP)
  • Researching new VOD platform (upon buyer contacting us about it)
  • Communicating with filmmakers about new project – explaining how we work and finding out what they look for
  • Sending Activity Reports to some producers (upon their request)
  • Sending films to a festival (HotDocs) upon their request while filmmakers submit forms
  • Giving a producer we work with a tip re a buyer for a film we do not represent
  • Checking single films for buyers not getting back to us
  • Reading a project in order to give LOI for Swiss and International distribution
  • Cleaning up projects – throwing out those we never heard back from over a longer period of time

Sales and Acquisitions, Swiss and international

  • Negotiating hence and forth with buyers
  • Checking contract draft regarding territories and material requirements
  • Morning coffee huddle with entire office
  • Checking database to follow up sales activities
  • Researching new buyers and logging them in database
  • Following up on producers’ requests
  • Following up on meetings with producers
  • Going through catalogue to verify or get inspired what to offer to who
  • Writing invoices
  • Working on budget
  • Following up and working on funding
  • Writing sales emails (promotional texts to follow up later on phone – CH Distribution)

Office Manager

  • Morning coffee huddle with entire office
  • Mail & Post Handling
  • Allocating bank statements in company software
  • Updating database and skyping with programmer re. bugs and further development
  • Scheduling payments

CEO (until 10 AM but then she starts early and takes breaks in the afternoon)

  • Explaining to a foreign society that films are sold as the filmmakers’ salary, and not a social action, even if story is about refugees, and updating producers on this specific
  • Collection of fees on behalf of project in production needing cash flow process as they might have to agree and give the film out for free
  • Verifying collection of fees on behalf of project in production needing cash flow
  • Reading project and watching clips for assessment of acquisition
  • Morning coffee huddle with entire office
  • Monitoring broadcast of award-winning film in France, checking for ratings and press, contacting respective CE
  • Developing database for more clarity and transparency in connection with the rise of non-exclusive sales
  • Correspondence with Syrian producers trying to find ways to help make those stories travel
  • Committing to a festival attendance both for acquisition of projects and accompaniment of a film’s premiere
  • Checking box office report for a screening at a local cinema (same story about refugees as above)
  • Sending out a list of licenses sold to a filmmaker (upon request)
  • Advising on festival and press strategy for a Swiss film in its launch
  • Reading up on new regulation about Swiss theatrical funding and subsidies
  • Checking on a software glitch a client asked about (mails bouncing while they arrive well) and updating website at the same time