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Join us for a conversation introducing Screenwest’s Interim Talent Development Manager Chantal Chateauneuf for some tips and tricks for attaching market to your project.

Chantal has worked with practitioners at all stages of their career, from emerging directors at the MIFF Accelerator Lab to established producers and veteran filmmakers at Mongrel Media and Celluloid Dreams. With fortuitous timing after her recent move to Perth, Chantal’s engagement with Screenwest will see her contribute significantly to the development of practitioners within the Western Australian screen industry.

Podcast Transcript

Read podcast transcript.

[Introduction – 00:00]

Xoe:

You’re listening to Screenwest’s In Conversation with Chantal Chateauneuf.

In today’s session, we interview Chantal for some tips and tricks for attaching market to your project. With fortuitous timing after her recent move to Perth, Chantal’s engagement with Screenwest will see her contributing significantly to the development of practitioners within the Western Australian Screen Industry.

From Screenwest, this is In Conversation.

Eva:

I’m very excited to be introducing the wonderful Chantal Chateauneuf. So Chantal will be taking over my position at Screenwest as the new Talent Development Manager, while I’m on maternity leave. And I’m very excited about Chantal because she has a wealth of experience.

Her experience ranges from international sales and domestic distribution to industry events and filmmaker skills development. She’s held positions with Mongrel Media, Celluloid Dreams, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Melbourne International Film Festival Industry and AIDC.

In 2017, Chantal was named a Future Leader, Sales and Acquisitions by Screen International and she holds a BA in Art History from McGill University.

Welcome to Screenwest, Chantal!

Chantal:

Thank you so much, Eva. I’m so happy to be here.

[Chantal’s Previous Experience – 01:25]

Eva:

I’m so happy to have you here. And I’m very excited for industry because I believe that you’ll be able to offer so much from your experience. And I thought it’d be really great to get together today to have a chat about your previous experience, so industry can sort of get to know your background and also know what they can come and chat to you about here at Screenwest.

So something that I think is really fantastic is your market experience. And to start off with, I was going to do a deep dive and just ask you if you can tell us a bit about your experience as a sales agent and some of the films you’ve been involved in.

Chantal:

So I started working in international sales in 2014. I was working for Mongrel Media, who are a Canadian distribution company, and they launched an international sales division, which was helmed by Charlotte Mickie, who has done a lot of Australian films in her time, including The Babadook, Animal Kingdom… The list goes on.

So, Charlotte and I worked together at Mongrel for about three years. I started as Sales Coordinator and moved into working as a sales agent. We worked on a few dozen films when I was at Mongrel. Some of the Australian highlights that we worked on were Simon Stone’s The Daughter, Rachel Perkins’s Jasper Jones. And then when Charlotte and I worked together at Celluloid Dreams, Celluloid was handling West Coast Visions recipient 1% as well as Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth.

So over the years I’ve handled a variety of films, done the festival circuit, and I’m available to share my information and market knowledge with the Western Australian film community. And I’m really excited to chat with everyone.

[Tips for Getting Market Attachment – 02:59]

Eva:

Awesome, that’s amazing! And I guess on that, do you have any tips for filmmakers wanting to attach market to their projects?

Chantal:

Absolutely. I would say the first tip that I have is to find a strong producer who ideally has those international marketplace connections.

Typically as a sales agent, we are dealing directly with the producer. So that is something that I would definitely recommend, is having someone with whom, your vision for the project aligns. And also, is a strong advocate for you and the project to the international marketplace.

Secondly, always have your pitch polished and ready to go. Everyone in the industry is really busy and has a lot going on. And typically you’d need to act as though you only have one kick at the can. Always have your pitch ready, not just for what you’re working on right now, but things that you’re looking to do in the future. Oftentimes that’s definitely something that people in the industry want to know is not just where you are right now, but where you want to go.

So I think that always having a couple of other ideas in your back pocket to talk about is always a great idea.

Chantal (04:09):

Thirdly, I think in terms of attaching market to your project, having previous examples of your work is incredibly valuable. One of the things that I think is so great about Elevate+ this year is that development funding will be provided towards a feature, not just the short that it gets made as part of the Elevate Program.

And one of the things that’s so great about that is, for a sales agent or really just your producer, it’s incredibly difficult to finance first features, much more so than working with the director, who’s got a couple of films under their belt, and having an example of your work or multiple examples, specifically ones that speak to the feature that you want to develop, are incredibly important.

It allows the sales agent, or anyone really who’s looking at the project, to see what your vision is, not just have the script in front of them and then kind of imagining what it would look like. It’s super useful to have a concrete example of what you want the feature to be. So, yes, so those would be my three tips. Always be prepared, have examples of your work and find a good producer.

Eva:

I think they’re great tips. That was my next question was how hard is it to finance a first time director?

Because being in this role at Screenwest, that’s one of the things I’m so aware of is, how do we skill up industry? How do we give them opportunities that can actually help them to create that next step in their career? That’s going to give them that credit, whether it’s a television series, whether it’s a feature series and often, all of it’s connected back to market, and it’s all of it’s connected back to being able to sell that director to that marketplace.

So I guess we’ve talked a bit about short films or having that proof of concept. Is there anything else that comes to mind or is there any other ways that you can mitigate the package to try and bring on market?

Chantal:

Absolutely. And I think one of the best ways to do that is to surround yourself with the strongest team possible.

As a sales agent, looking at a first time filmmaker, you’re taking a risk and you know, the market generally these days is pretty risk-averse. So anything that you can do to strengthen your overall package is incredibly helpful, whether it’s working with an established producer, even bringing on an executive producer who has a lot of market experience that can contribute that to the project, having the strongest DOP, the best editor, anything that you can do to build a strong overall package is really something that I would advise.

Eva:

How much do you think cast is a trigger as well for market?

Chantal:

Depending on the size of the budget in particular, it’s pretty key. If you’re dealing with a larger budget film, you need to have the level of cast that will trigger the amount of presales to help drive that financing process.

Depending on the genre, particularly things like horror, it’s not as important because the audience isn’t necessarily looking for cast; they’re looking for a great story and a wild piece of entertainment. Whereas if you’re trying to finance a drama, cast is that much more important because it gives you a hook, it gives you something to get people interested in seeing the film. So yes, I would say that cast is key.

[Stories that Sell – 07:35]

Eva:

So we’ve talked about the package, we’ve talked about directors and casts and all the things you need, but then just getting to the nuts and bolts of story. What types of stories in your experience will sell? Is there a secret recipe or…

Chantal:

Honestly, I don’t think so, because if it’s a story that hasn’t been told before or is being told in a new way, honestly, I think that trumps so many other considerations. People ask, should I be working on a genre film, instead of the drama or the comedy that they’ve had on their slate for a while.

But honestly I think if the story is authentic and new, that is the most important thing that is what’s going to cut through in a really crowded marketplace. So yes, I think really having that emphasis on original content, no matter the genre is what’s most important.

[Tips for Pitching to Market – 08:31]

Eva:

And do you have any pitch tips? Is there anything that comes to mind in terms of like when you go to the market and meet with people, tips on how to approach people or not to approach people. Even, for example, leading up to Cannes, like how long do you look to book in your meetings? When’s a good time?

Because obviously marketplaces is also very busy for buyers and distributors which is primary and then I think sometimes producers are secondary, but it’s also very important part of the process.

So is there any advice you can give to navigating that landscape?

Chantal:

Absolutely. So typically with any market, the bulk of the frantic high pace selling tends to happen over the first week, even the first weekend. So what I would advise is if you are planning to attend a market, if you can go early, great, see films, go to parties, talk to people.

But in terms of booking your meetings with sales agents, I would always aim to book in the second week. Typically sales agents will linger on after that first five days of craziness. And that’s really the point at which a lot of agents are in the head space and have the capacity to deal with producer meetings.

Because you’re right, Eva, it’s incredibly important for us. It’s not just about the films that we have at the market. It’s about finding films for the next market. So yes, my piece of advice would be to aim to book later in the market with sales agents and do your research.

Don’t go to a sales agent who has experienced doing big budget rom coms with cast if you have an indie drama with a first time filmmaker. Just look at the slates of sales agents, look at the kinds of films they’ve done and tailor your pitch.

That would be my other piece of advice, write to specific people, talk about why your film would fit their slate, referencing the examples of films that they’ve done previously. And, give me enough information in terms of your key elements, but you don’t need to tell me the whole story.

Chantal (10:43):

That would be my biggest pitch tip. Don’t give me the whole story. Give me a two to three line synopses and then talk about why this story is important. I don’t need to hear the whole story. You need to get me to read your script. That is my number one tip. Don’t give your whole synopsis when you’re meeting with anyone, give it two to three line quick hit. Talk about your key elements, talk about the director, talk about the producer, talk about where you think it can go in the market. It’s not just about the plot of your film.

Eva:

That’s amazing advice. And I guess just when you’re saying that, I’m just thinking about things I’ve done myself previously in terms of research, but Screen Australia have a really great spreadsheet document on their resources, which lists all the sales agents, which have done Australian films.

Before I’d go to market, I’d always look at that and then tee up my meetings, but you sort of have an idea based on that, what kind of material they’re interested in and you can also make connections between existing Australian films, but also then you know who to contact to set up a meeting and you can go on their website and do a bit of research. But yeah, I think that’s amazing advice.

[Making the most of Skills Development Opportunities – 11:54]

Eva:

We’ve spoken a lot about your international sales experience, but there’s more to you than that.

You’ve run some really great skills development programs. I believe that Melbourne International Film Festival that you ran the Directors Accelerator Program. You were also involved in 37 South, looking after PostScript & Direct.

So with that skills development background as well, is there any other tips and tricks you want to pass on to Western Australian filmmakers in that space, like how to navigate those opportunities or just any other general tips, which you think are really important for career building?

Chantal:

I think the biggest thing with career building and these opportunities is just to take as much advantage as possible.

Go to events, talk to people. And don’t just talk to the people that you might perceive to be important. Talk to everyone because you never know who you might work with in the future. You might encounter someone who is looking for a piece of their project, someone that they can bring in and that person could be you. It might not be this project. It could be the next one or the one after that. But that would be my biggest piece of advice.

Particularly the film industry is pretty small and I think it’s really important to get out there, put your best foot forward and try and make as many connections as possible, really.

Eva:

I think there’s so much truth in that I remember when I was in L.A., and the manager’s always being like, “Be nice to everyone because you never know when that assistant is going to be your boss.” You never know when that’s going to happen.

And I guess another truth to this is, I remember meeting you five years ago in Cannes, when you were working at Mongrel and then I bumped into you again at MIFF and you’re like, “Hey Eva, I’m coming over to Perth.” And we’ve kept in contact. And now you’re living here, which is really amazing.

Chantal:

Exactly.

Eva:

It’s such a small world.

Chantal:

Yeah. That’s definitely something I would say. My career has taken me in many unexpected directions and yeah, absolutely. I think that an amazing rule of thumb for life, not just for film, is be nice to everyone because you never know, you never know what great things could come of it.

Eva:

Well, thank you, Chantal. I’m very excited that you’re going to be taking over this position and I think the industry will really benefit from having you here. And we’re very lucky to have you and thank you so much.

Chantal:

Yeah. Thank you so much. I’m really happy to be here. I’m looking forward to being a resource and a voice for Western Australian talent. So please send me an email, give me a call if you have questions, I’m an open door and I look forward to talking to you all.

[Outro – 14:34]

Xoe:

This has been Screenwest’s In Conversation with Chantal Chateauneuf and Eva Di Blasio. This podcast was brought to you by Screenwest. Screenwest wishes to thank Lotterywest for their continuing support of the WA Screen Industry.

Today’s episode was edited by XB studios with music by Andrew Wright and produced by Eva Di Blasio for Screenwest.

[Transcript Ends]

In Conversation is a Screenwest production.

Screenwest is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing strategic leadership and assistance to the film and television industry in Western Australia.

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