A Passion for Distribution
California-based Multivisionnaire Media may be small, but it is mighty.
By Debbie L. Sklar
Good things are said to come in smaller packages.
Take Multivisionnaire Media, a Los Angeles-based international sales agent that facilitates film distribution into all international territories. Multivisionnaire primarily handles feature films that are Genre specific with multiple marketing hooks.
“Our current focus are films with cast and especially action, sci-fi, horror, gay, or any film with a clear 'hook' for buyers,” says Managing Partner Sean T. Haley, who runs the company along with his wife and partner, Erika Kao-Haley. “We handle worldwide distribution including theatrical, television, DVD, digital and other ancillary rights for the films we handle.”
Founded in 2006, Sean has more than 17 years of marketing and market strategy expertise that he cultivated by working in multiple industries, from biotech and transportation to entertainment promotions and partnerships. Traditionally, Multivisionnaire handles all rights, theatrical/television/dvd/digital, since depending on the deal, many rights may be coupled together. Digital and internet distribution opportunites are becoming so important, he says, they are actively building marketing stategies to meet the changing world.
In addition to its headquarters in Alhambra, just a few miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the company also maintains international presence and temporary offices at each of the major film sales markets such as AFM, Cannes, Berlinale/EFM, etc. “We help high quality film projects secure the right distribution opportunity, and handle all sales negotiations, contractings, marketing and, of course, collections for the producers”, Haley said. ” Haley recently broke away from his regular duties to speak with Indie Fest about how the economy has affected film sales in recent months, what’s hot now and why comedy isn’t too big outside of the USA. Here’s a closer look:
Q: Which films are you most proud of that you’ve represented?
A: We are proud of all of them! We believe in each and every title we handle, it's like asking 'which is your favorite child', I just can't do that.
Q: What types of productions are an easy sell in the marketplace?
A: The market is really volatile right now and some tastes have changed internationally in part because of the world economy. On the genre-end, we're seeing the tried and true action, sci-fi fantasy holding their own. Because the economy is so bad, we're getting more requests for comedies and family titles. However, I will point out the comedies must be more sight-gag or slapstick driven like older Adam Sandler films.
Q: What about outside of the USA?
A: Internationally, the right recognizable cast is valuable in almost any genre. Currently internationally, horror (especially the bloody ultra low budget titles) hasn't been selling well at all since so much has flooded the world market. We're seeing too much out of the US, UK, Canada, and France. A few new censorships laws, cultural norms, and general tastes have also reduced demand internationally. Ironically, the bloody-horror films are still doing pretty good here in the US.
Q: As distributors, do you have clear and strong ideas about how a filmmaker can increase the commercial value of their productions?
A: Yea, don't mix genres! I am not offering anything really new here; it's more common sense, but yes, there are always exceptions. Start with a very tight script. Add recognizable cast. Shoot nothing below true HD or even better shoot 35mm and do a digital scan. Make the production value look like a huge budget title because that's what consumers are spoiled with and expect.
Q: What is the worst thing a filmmaker can do?
A: Bad cinematography is the worse thing ever. It's the only element that can never be changed, and will always kill a great story and great acting. Poor acting or editing or sound can always be salvaged, but cinematography can't. As for poor acting, when it's dubbed into another language nobody will know, but you still have to get it by the buyers.
Q: What is Multivisionnaire’s procedure for an independent producer who wants to send a screener in the hope you will represent them?
A: For us, we prefer the filmmaker to email us a brief description of the film with a link to either a teaser or trailer online. Even a call is fine. If they choose to just send material, just send the DVD and contact information, and if they have great key art include that. Otherwise, the beautiful glossy press kit with all the quotes isn't really going to do much since we do our own research on each title we're interested in.
Q: Where should the information be sent?
A: We prefer everything to go to our mailing address to protect the filmmaker's property:
PO Box 1477
Alhambra, CA 91802
Q: What's it like working with people from all over the world?
A: Exciting, challenging, and rewarding. While we're at the markets, our meetings are back to back with buyers from all over the world. On a given day, our meeting schedule may be like this: buyer from Russia, Japan, France, Japan, UK, Spain, US, etc. It takes a lot of adjusting to cultural norms, personalities, and ways of communication, and energy.
Q: Did you ever want to be a filmmaker?
A: As in a filmmaker, as a director? No thank you. I am amazed at the stories I hear from directors and what they go through. So many of them have put years of their life on hold to make a film, and that's incredible to me. I respect each and every filmmaker for that commitment and dedication. I have no interest in a Silver Screen start. I've been asked to do a background cameo a couple times from friends, but because of our workload, I just didn't have the time. Yet.
Q: Where do you think the future of distribution is headed?
A: That's the $100-trillion question. Digital is definitely coming into vogue but everyone is still waiting to see what actually shakes out to be the standard. Digital is so broad and vague it's a mish-mash of elements: Movie on Demand (MOD), Video on Demand (VOD), Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), On Demand (OD), Download to Own (DTO), and more. I see new terms every week. A clear international legal standard definition really needs to be defined soon. The ways things are going is I see a combination of different ways for consumers to get to see films from Digital Video Disc (DVD), Video Compact Disc (VCD), television, theatrical, to whatever. All the elements are the same; it's just adding a digital overlay to it all in various delivery methods. Also, it depends on the territory and its capability.
Q: Is DVD here to stay?
A: Overall, I think DVDs will stay around for a while, but we do see sales quantities are shrinking. I think a shift in our time allocation has more to do with the consumer's demand for film; our lives have changed rather than alternative distribution taking over.
Q: How did you name your company?
A: We used the name to represent the films and the filmmakers we represent. Multivisionnaire as in ‘multiple visions’ created by different filmmakers. It's funny, the French have no problem spelling our name, but it's a challenge when trying to spell Multivisionnaire over the phone to someone in Germany.
Q: What are the future goals of Multivisionnaire?
A: Our overall goal is to continue building our business by continuing to represent great films. We plan to keep it status quo for a little while longer. But, we are working toward developing a production fund to fund a couple films a year, this will be a slow ramp-up, but adding a production arm overlay to Multivisionnaire is where we'll be very soon. Stay tuned, we have an exciting future planned.