Which film distributor can see the big picture?

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The Independent Online
Kenneth Rive

Managing Director

Gala Film Distributors Ltd

I ADORE film and I love the gamble you take when reading a script and deciding to take it on as a distributor. It's like a game of roulette and it is a constant challenge. To succeed as a specialist distributor you need to be honest with your production company and know your product. With this knowledge you are prepared to take certain risks. In the sausage- factory, big-studio distribution companies, they often don't know what they are selling. They are handed the film by Hollywood and are told to distribute it. Unfortunately, these sausage factories are starving the smaller, independent distributors. I find it difficult to admire those distribution monsters. I'd have to say I admire the work of the Green trio (Nigel, Trevor and Michael) at Entertainment Film Distributors as a leading independent UK distributor. They handle their films well and they run great campaigns.

David Holloway

Managing Director

Feature Film Company

THE MOST satisfying thing for me in this business is when you manage to pick up a film that you just know is going to be huge but which has been overlooked by the major studios. Unfortunately for us independents, the big studios have now started looking more closely at the smaller productions and snapping them up if they see potential. So there tend to be too many players looking for the perfect film. But if I were to pick a market leader, I would discount the major studios and plump for the Green family's Entertainment Film company. It started out as a family business and has evolved into the pre-eminent independent distributor in the UK. We model ourselves on it and aspire to its success.

Peter Buckingham

Managing Director

Film Four Distributors Ltd

I ENJOY what I do because it is a targeted activity rather than an ongoing one. You open your film on a Friday and will know by six o'clock whether it is a success or not - satisfaction (or not) is immediate. To be a successful distributor you need to possess three qualities. You need to be capable of listening to your audience; it is vital that you know what it wants. You need to be creative and inventive. You have to be continually looking for ways to make the film stand out. Finally, you have to be constantly moving. This is a madly competitive business and if you stop to look around, you will be overtaken. Distributors need to constantly reinvent their approach to be in tune with the times - cinema places and films are limited and you're fighting for every last one. The trailblazer for meis Daniel Battsek of Buena Vista International (UK). He encapsulates all these qualities and used them to great effect consistently over the years.

Joseph D'Morais

Founder, Chief Executive

Blue Dolphin

WHEN I started, I tended to pick titles according to my taste. But we couldn't survive on a diet of my favourite movies, so we branched out. I've been in the business a long time, and it has changed. The great shame is that there are few surprises now. You rarely come across the completely unknown. Most films are snapped up immediately. Even one of this year's "surprise" hits, The Blair Witch Project, wasn't a complete surprise - they had been drumming up interest on the Internet for some time. I have always wanted to be in films and I am passionate about them, and about what we do here. But many people in the industry are business people and they primarily enjoy the numbers side of distribution. My buzz comes from watching the evolution of a film from concept through to cinema screening. Among those I respect I'd pick of Gala Film Distributors. Thanks to him, I was able to watch Truffaut and Bergman films when I was younger. He was one of the independent industry's initiators. Then there are the Green brothers of Entertainment Film who run a solid company.

Romaine Hart

Managing Director

Mainline Pictures

AS A distributor, I tend to push paper and kick ass on a day-to-day basis but real excitement comes when you see a great movie. I am usually beside myself when I see something I know is good and will make money. Alas, there is often an unhappy compromise to be made when you see a film you don't like but which you know will be lucrative. It is important to be single-minded when it comes to making those sorts of decisions. You have to know what the public wants now and anticipate what it will want tomorrow. I admire Pam Engel of Artificial Eye, a distributor of foreign films. This isn't an easy market for continental film distribution, and she does well.

Liz Wrenn

Managing Director

Alliance Atlantis

I AM involved in all aspects of the distribution process, from acquisition, to investment in production through to sales. But what I enjoy most is the marketing of a film. To be able to market one successfully you have to have an instinct for the audience. Without that instinct, marketing flair is practically redundant. If I had to choose a company which I admire operating at the moment, I'd choose Entertainment Film which is run by the Green brothers. They support their pictures and are making their name as producers. They also have great taste in movies.

Rupert Preston

Managing Director

Metrodome Distribution

THIS IS a business where you have to be prepared to gamble on your final product. You have to spy an opportunity and seize it. If you stand still, even for a second, the chances are someone else will pick up the film. In terms of those I would regard as market leaders, I admire Buena Vista, under the aegis of Daniel Battsek, for its superb marketing skills and I admire the great success of the Greens' Entertainment Film.

Alexis Lloyd

Managing Director

Pathe Distribution

THE REASON why people are drawn to see a particular film on a particular day is not rational. It is almost an instinctive choice, related to emotion, imagination and curiosity. Our work in distribution is to create this element of curiosity, or heighten and encourage it. It is not an automatic and impersonal process - or at least it shouldn't be - because films are not simply products and filmgoers are not simply consumers. This is why success in our industry doesn't depend on being able to analyse the market and use well- tried marketing tools. It depends a great deal on intuition, gut feelings and imagination. And it depends a great deal on being lucky. If I had to name a name in the world of film distribution in the UK, it would be Daniel Battsek, the managing director of Buena Vista, because he has recreated a spirit of independence within the studio system, because he has eclectic tastes, because his intuitions are often the right ones. And because he has the talent of being lucky.

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