Thania Dimitrakopoulou has been working as a sales agent for over 12 years. Her work has been dedicated to sharing the finest work of emerging and established filmmakers with the world. She has been working with The Match Factory first as a festival manager and onwards with the sales team, currently as Head of Sales. As a sales agent she works closely with filmmakers, producers, major festivals, distributors and publicists. Among the films she has worked on are: TONI ERDMANN, 45 YEARS, GIRL, ATTENBERG, HAPPY AS LAZZARO, SO LONG MY SON, films by Aki Kaurismäki, Fatih Akin, Marco Bellocchio, Jim Jarmusch and plenty more.
What attracted you to Inside Pictures (IP)?
The approach Inside Pictures takes, the way the program is structured, alongside the great experiences many of my acquaintances from the industry have made with this program, together with my need to expand my knowledge and references, were all these elements that got me looking seriously at IP.
What makes a good Sales Agent and what do you think producers/filmmaker should look to do to get the best out of their sales agent?
A good Sales Agent is one that loves cinema, loves stories and brings this love and passion in one’s work. A good Sales Agent understands the work put into a project and is committed -to their capacities- to giving the best of life to the films they decide to get involved with; this prerequisites deep knowledge of the market, an extensive network and the ability to combine this all for the needs of each film.
First and foremost, producers/filmmakers need to make sure that the sales agents they are opting for are suitable for their project – that the sales agent is a good match for their project and that they see a bright future and long partnership with this sales agent. Trust is a probably the one binding rule for such a partnership and the one that will keep it all together for the good and bad moments along the journey. And a shared passion for the project is the driving force for great work to be put together.
Match Factory is “dedicated to bringing the finest in arthouse cinema to the international market” … How are films to fit that bill discovered/acquired by Match Factory?
There is no magic formula, but what certainly is, is to get excited about a project that comes our way, a filmmaker that we want to work with, past relationships we love to preserve, stories that we feel must be told. After all one needs to truly believe in a project to make one’s utmost for it.
In your 14 years Match Factory… What are some of the most significant changes in the film industry that you’ve witnessed/experienced in relation to the role of a sales agent and/or the work of The Match Factory in the life cycle of a film?
The world turned digital for the most of it. At the beginning, as a festival coordinator, our films were on film; heavy 5-roll prints to carry and send around at festivals; links were not a thing; we would rely on DVDs for submission of our films at the festivals or showing them to distributors outside of the markets.
Then it all started getting digital and I still remember how my eyes needed some time to get adjusted to looking at the super clean digital prints compared the wear and tear you see with 35mm film…yet again utterly charming.
It was interesting to see this transition from the beginning. We thought it would become cheaper for distributors to release films by now as they can reach many more cinemas for very little extra cost. This hasn’t happened. Now, there are new costs brought in, like social media campaigns etc.
What else happened was of course the rise and shine of streamers; their gigantic growth and how they evolve in the film ecosystem is quite impressive to observe. Of course, the way the films are watched has also changed the way the films are brought out there and are sold. This has been a great change in the life of a sales agent of course.
What’s been the greatest impact on you/your company from COVID?
When all of a sudden everything was put on standstill, the production was delayed, festivals were postponed or went online or even cancelled. Cinemas remained closed for a long time and when they reopened, audiences have still not returned to them like before.
All in all, what we knew about our work from the past world, turned upside down; we needed to think differently, plan alternatively, make sure our films, company and staff would all be safe to the extent possible.
What’s changes or innovations, in response to COVID, have you seen in the film industry that will be for the greater good of the industry going into the future and what can’t you wait to see be ‘normal’ once again?
Cannes 2021 was the first festival where few of us were back together…but only a few of us: we were missing most of the Asian and Australian colleagues, the South American colleagues and quite a few of the Americans who did not make the trip to Cannes. So, a big part of the world was not there. On the brighter side of it, it was so great to be back at a festival, giving the films the space and time to be shared with the public. Cannes 2021 was the place where our faith was restored momentarily in a collective manner. It was an essential gathering for the people working at the industry and for the films to be shown in this environment, shared on big screens at theatres filled with audiences sharing the cinematic experience.
We are going to have to think differently about how to bring films to the audiences in the post-COVID era. What we have seen so far is that audiences have not returned to the cinemas as in pre-COVID times; the backlog of films has created great release traffic, distributors are juggling to properly release the films they have already acquired and at the same time they get more reluctant to add to their acquisitions. Till and if this will be ‘normalized’, it will be probably be a bumpy ride.
If the pandemic started today, armed with what we know now, what do you think you and/or company would do different to make it better/easier on the company and/or your own well being … Advice, tips and tricks welcomed.
Wouldn’t it be great to have started today, get vaccines for the whole world and end with it in 3 months tops?
Keep the moral high, support one another, try to find opportunities and plan alternatively, think outside of the box and be armed with courage to move ahead.
Be in constant touch with the film community and keep one’s ears open; we can only learn from another and figure it out together. Together is better.
It’s a Sunday afternoon, it’s raining, you’ve nothing else to do that day, what film are you putting on to relax with?
Anything from the vast classic films library. I recently watched again Jarmusch’s NIGHT ON EARTH (1991); what a pleasant parade of characters! Such great entertainment!