Tag Archives: Berlin

Last minute preps for Berlinale Opening

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Workers outside the Potsdamer Platz Theater/Berlinale Palast are ramping up with last minute preparatory efforts for the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival Glamorous Opening for the Race of the Bears 2017. 

(Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)
(Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Press and media room personnel were also discussing the configuring  of the W-LAN for the Berlinale’s  well-known and highly respected world-class media coverage.

The World Premiere of Etienne Comar’s  French film, Django, the story of famous European composer/guitarist and gypsy swing, jazz man, Django Reinhardt, is the Opening Night Film for the 67th Berlinale.  The festival will run February 9th through February 19th.

International film distribution 101

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Mark Litwak, Entertainment Lawyer

Filmmakers fortunate enough to receive distribution offers for their films are often confronted with complex deals to distribute their films. These can bewilder those unfamiliar with the customs and practices of the industry. Let’s begin with a discussion of international film sales.

International sales agents are distributors, although they usually do not own a single theater, home video label or television outlet. They are essentially distributors that license films to territory distributors (“buyers”). Territory distributors acquire rights to exhibit a film within their country although sometimes they may license rights for several different countries. They often find out about films from sales agents whom they meet at various markets held throughout the year. Sales agents and buyers typically attend the three major film markets, which are at Cannes, Berlin and Santa Monica (AFM) as well as TV markets such as Mip and MipCom. This film markets are critical: last year’s Cannes Market alone boasted more than 1,100 sales agents and 10,000 participants from almost 100 different countries.

Sales agents not only license films, but also service buyers by providing them with various materials and elements, including film and video masters, key art, photos and trailers. Most filmmakers have no clue how to go about licensing their film, for instance, to a Turkish buyer, and what terms would be acceptable. Moreover, they don’t even know who the buyers are in most territories.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-6-44-39-pmTwo-thirds of all film revenue now comes from abroad. International sales grew 35 percent from 2007 to 2011, while revenue in North America increased a mere 6 percent. Over the past four years, the number of screens in China has doubled to more than 6,200, a number that’s expected to double again by 2015. Chinese box-office receipts hit a record $1.5 billion last year. With China and other rapidly developing countries building thousands of new theaters, this trend is expected to continue. Indeed, the North American market is by far the toughest market to crack for a low budget independent film without stars.

Reputable sales agents should be willing to accept terms in their contract with filmmakers that protect their interests. Many such provisions do not cost the sales agent anything, as long as the sales agent lives up to the terms of its contract. A requirement for interest on late payments, for example, costs the sales agent nothing as long as payments are made on time. Such a clause is important because it will encourage a sales agent to live up to its commitments, and provide the filmmaker with a viable remedy in case the sales agent defaults. While a competent sales agent provides valuable services, one should always remember the importance of what the filmmaker brings to the table. Without a good film, the sales agent has nothing to sell. Most sales agents produce few if any movies themselves.

Indeed, the North American market is by far the toughest market to crack for a low screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-6-55-20-pmbudget independent film without stars. International sales grew 35 percent from 2007 to 2011, while revenue in North America increased a mere 6 percent.

Here are just a few of the most critical ways for filmmakers to protect their interests in contracting with sales agents:

No changes. The film should not be edited or changed without the filmmaker’s approval. Editing for censorship purposes, television broadcast and changes made for a foreign language release is permissible.

Minimum advertising specified. Contracts should specify the minimum amount the sales agent will spend on promoting the film. These expenses could include advertising in the trade papers, a billboard or payment for a screening room for the film.

Expenses limited. There should be a floor and a ceiling on expenses. Market expenses should be limited to the first year of release and capped per market. Promotional expenses should be limited to direct out-of-pocket costs spent to promote the film, and should specifically exclude the sales agent’s general overhead and staff expenses.

Term. The term should be a reasonable length. The filmmaker should be able to regain rights to the film if the sales agent gives up on it. It is best to have a short initial term and a series of automatic rollovers that apply if certain performance milestones are met.

Indemnity. Filmmakers should be indemnified for any losses incurred as a result of the sales agent’s breach of the terms of the agreement or violation of third party rights.

Possession of negative. The sales agent should simply receive a lab access letter rather than possession of the original negative; the sales agent should not be permitted to remove masters from the laboratory.

Errors and omissions policy. It’s generally the filmmaker’s responsibility to purchase such an insurance policy, though sales agents sometimes may be willing to advance the cost of this insurance. In such an event, the filmmaker should be added as an additional named insured on the policy.

Termination clause. If the sales agent defaults on contractual obligations, the filmmaker should have the right to terminate the contract, and regain rights to license the film in unsold territories as well as obtain money damages. It is only fair for the filmmaker to give the sales agent reasonable prior notice of default before exercising her right to terminate.

Limitation on action. The filmmaker should have at least three years from receipt of any financial statement, or discovery of any accounting irregularity, whichever is later, to contest accounting errors.

Assignment. It is best to prohibit assignment unless filmmaker consents.

Warranties. The filmmaker’s warranties, in regard to infringement of third party rights, should be to the best of the filmmaker’s knowledge and belief, not absolute.

Schedule of minimums. Foreign sales agents should agree to attach to their contract a schedule of minimum acceptable license fees per territory.

Arbitration clause. Every contract should contain an IFTA arbitration clause ensuring that all contractual disputes are subject to binding arbitration with the prevailing party entitled to reimbursement of legal fees and costs. The arbitration award should be final, binding and non-appealable.


A Touching Close to the Record-Setting #Berlinale 2016


Producer and Director Gianfranco Rosi accepts the 2016 Berlinale Golden Bear for Best Film: Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea). (Photo credit: Richard Hubner – Berlinale 2016)

On Saturday, the 66th Berlinale drew to a splendid close with the award ceremony. The event turned out to be a touching evening not least because of the Golden Bear awarded to Fuocoammare by Gianfranco Rosi. It reflected the political spirit that had been perceptible throughout the festival.

For eleven days the Berlinale demonstrated the creative power and diversity of cinema, as well as welcomed guests and the public at many panel discussions and talks on the seventh art. With 337,000 tickets sold a new attendance record in the 66-year history of the festival was achieved.

The 67th Berlin International Film Festival Berlin will be held from February 9 to 19, 2017. (Berlinale Press Office)

The #Berlinale Camera Award

Since 1986 the Berlin International Film Festival has presented the Berlinale Camera to film personalities or institutions to which it feels particularly indebted and wishes to express its thanks.

At the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, three personalities were awarded the Berlinale Camera: producer, cinema operator and film distributor Ben Barenholtz (USA); actor, director, writer and producer Tim Robbins (USA); and cinema operator Marlies Kirchner (Germany).

Ben Barenholtz

Ben Barenholtz, center, a 2016 Berlinale Camera recipient, is flanked by Coen Brothers, Joel, left and Ethan, right. (Photo Credit: Ali Ghandtschi)

Born in Eastern Poland, now part of Ukraine, Ben Barenholtz became one of the most important figures in the American indie film scene. He immigrated to the US in 1947 and began his career as an assistant manager of the RKO Bushwick movie theatre in New York in 1959. From 1966 to 1968, he managed the Village Theater, which became an important venue for the counterculture and anti-Vietnam protests. It also featured many jazz giants of that period, such as Nina Simone and John Coltrane, as well as bands like The Who and Cream. In 1968, he opened the Elgin Cinema, which became a key venue for independent filmmakers and repertory cinema. It provided a home for the early film works by luminaries such as Jack Smith, Andy Warhol, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, and the revival of the Buster Keaton films. He invented the legendary “midnight movie” format, with the screening of El Topo (D: Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970), which helped raise underground filmmaking to cult status. In 1972, Barenholtz founded the distribution company Libra Films, which released films such as Just Before Nightfall (D: Claude Chabrol, 1971), Cousin Cousine (D: Jean-Charles Tacchella, 1975) and Eraserhead (D: David Lynch, 1977). In 1984, he joined Circle Releasing as President, distributing such films as 36 Fillette (D: Catherine Breillat, 1988), Tales from Gimli Hospital (D: Guy Maddin, 1988), Thérèse (D: Alain Cavalier, 1986), and Blood Simple (1984), the Coen brothers’ first feature film.

Barenholtz began his involvement in film production with the Coen brothers, serving as executive producer on Raising Arizona (1987), Miller’s Crossing (1990), and Barton Fink (1991), which swept the three top prizes at the Cannes film festival. He went on to produce many successful films, such as Georgia (D: Ulu Grosbard, 1995) and Requiem for a Dream (D: Darren Aronofsky, 2000). In 2008, he was invited to join the Jury for the Best First Feature Award at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival. He made his directorial debut, Music Inn, about the famous music venue, in 2005, which was followed by Wakaliwood: The Documentary (2012), shot entirely in Kampala, Uganda.

Ben Barenholtz was awarded the Berlinale Camera on Friday, February 12, 2016 in the cinema at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, with the Coen brothers in attendance. A Q&A moderated by Michael Barker followed a screening of the work-in-progress documentary Perseverance, which was produced by Polish Television, and deals with Barenholtz’s life.
The Berlinale Camera award to Ben Barenholtz kicked off a new tradition of honouring an outstanding producer with the prestigious award each year as part of the European Film Market.

Tim Robbins

American actor, writer, director and producer Tim Robbins with 2016 Berlinale Camera Award Trophy during Berlinale 2016. (Photo Credit: Richard Hubner)

 American Tim Robbins has been a successful working actor, director, writer and producer in Hollywood for almost 40 years. He won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Mystic River (D: Clint Eastwood, 2003), and a Best Actor Award at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival for his role in Robert Altman’s The Player (1992). His additional acting credits include such films as Bull Durham (D: Ron Shelton, 1988), Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), The Shawshank Redemption (D: Frank Darabont, 1994), The Hudsucker Proxy (D: Joel & Ethan Coen, 1994), Isabel Coixet’s The Secret Life of Words (2005) and Fernando León de Aranoa’s A Perfect Day (2015.)

Robbins wrote and directed the 1992 political satire, Bob Roberts, and the 1999 film, Cradle Will Rock, which earned a nomination for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and won two Gran Angular Awards – Best Film and Best Director – at the Sitges Film Festival (Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya.) The death row drama, Dead Man Walking, won several prizes at the 1996 Berlin International Film Festival, including a Silver Bear for lead actor Sean Penn, and went on to earn four Academy Award nominations, with Susan Sarandon winning for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Robbins attended the Berlinale once again in 2013 as a member of the International Jury.

In addition to his work on film, Robbins is founder of The Actors’ Gang, a theatre ensemble based in Los Angeles where he has served for over 30 years as Artistic Director. The Gang has been touring throughout the US and internationally with productions of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, George Orwell’s “1984”, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine” and “Embedded”.
Additionally, the Actors’ Gang Prison Project works to help California prison inmates rehabilitate themselves through the arts, with acting members of the Gang, including Robbins, working with inmates in several California Prisons. To date more than 500 inmates have participated in The Prison Project, which recently received the endorsement of the California Department of Corrections and the U.S. Justice Department.
In 2014, Robbins was honored with the National Guild for Community Arts Education Leadership Award, recognizing his innovative and socially conscious work as a film and theater artist, his passionate commitment to equity and social justice, as well as his steadfast advocacy and support for arts education. The Guild noted that “The Prison Project at The Actors’ Gang is an inspiring, national model for our field which demonstrates the power of arts participation to unlock human potential and creativity, heal, and transform lives.”

The Berlinale Camera was awarded to Tim Robbins on Saturday, February 13, 2016 in the Kino International cinema, with Catalan director Isabel Coixet giving the honorific speech and German actor Louis Klamroth presenting. The award ceremony was followed by a screening of Dead Man Walking (1995).

Marlies Kirchner

Berlinale Festival Director Dieter Kosslick, left, with 2016 Berlinale Camera Award recipient Marlies Kirchner, center, and Andreas Rost, right. (Photo Credit: Andreas Teich)

Cinema operator Marlies Kirchner has been dedicated to film for more than 40 years. She first worked for distributor Neue Filmkunst at Cannes, before becoming co-owner of the arthouse Theatiner Filmkunst in Munich. She initially ran it together with her husband, Walter Kirchner, before becoming sole operator in 1975. The cinema, in a listed building, opened in 1957 with the Italian comedy Cops and Robbers starring Totò and, over the years, has become a Munich institution and mecca for movie devotees. The cinema has always presented a programme of high-quality films. From films banned in the Nazi era to avant-garde films, and European auteur cinema, usually shown in their original language with subtitles, the repertory offers Munich’s moviegoers a diverse and sophisticated selection of films. The distribution arm, Neue Filmkunst, supplements that with discoveries from film festivals. The film theatre’s contribution to keeping art films alive and Marlies Kirchner’s endeavours in sustaining high quality cinema in the Bavarian state capital have been honoured several times with the city’s prize for cinemas (“Kinoprogrammpreis”), most recently in 2015. The Munich film festival also dedicated its 1999 homage to her.

Marlies Kirchner was awarded the Berlinale Camera on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at the Berlinale Lunch Club.

The Trophy

Berlinale Camera

The Berlinale Camera has been awarded since 1986. Until 2003, it was donated by Berlin-based jeweller David Goldberg. From 2004 through 2013, Georg Hornemann Objects, a Dusseldorf-based atelier, sponsored the trophy, which goldsmith Hornemann redesigned for the Berlinale in 2008: Modelled on a real camera, the Berlinale Camera now has 128 finely crafted components. Many of these silver and titanium parts, such as the swivel head and tripod, are movable. (Berlinale Press Office)