Write an executive summary (see guidelines in syllabus). Feel free to write in either Spanish or English.
This weekend the number 1 movie in theaters was shown on 2,032 theaters throughout the U.S. It was the first week of its release and it generated $41,030,947 dollars. By comparison the number 1 movie shown this weekend in Chile grossed $200,414 dollars and was on 43 screens. Clearly, Chile, with a total population of around 16 million people is not on top of the movie industry’s got-to-be-there list. Still, since 80% of the movies that play in Chile come from the U.S., this automatically means that Chilean movie distributors have to interact a lot with North Americans. Among the 7 major movie distributors in Chile, Tomás Azevedo is the manager of the one of the largest, Dynamite. Dynamite, you might say, is a perfect example of the “big fish in a little pond.”
Tomás spends a lot of his time travelling to the various film festivals: Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Los Angeles, Sundance, etc. A lot of time is spent previewing movies, interviewing with movie producers, attending social events and parties, and getting to know the players. If you are not into the industry you may think that it would be a difficult task to decide which movies to bid on to get the rights to distribute. After all, who wants to spend money on a bad movie? However, this is not the strategy that distributors focus on. “Basically we try to buy the exclusive rights for commercialization for as many movies as we can.” As Tomás explains it, you never know which ones will become a blockbuster and which ones won’t. As such, 80% of the movie rights are purchased before Tomás actually sees the movie. “The sooner you buy the less expensive it will be to do so,” so that becomes part of the strategy.
Another thing that outsiders do not understand is that the rights for commercialization are unique to each country. This implies that producers have to sell separate rights for all of the distributors in different countries. There are not, for example, contracts that are made to show movies in both Argentina and Chile. “It’s not really a matter of securing rights for commercialization in all Spanish-speaking countries or all French-speaking countries.” The laws and regulations are specific to each country. This is another reason why Dynamite fills a niche in Chile, and it is also the reason why they limit their activities to Chile. Dynamite doesn’t try to secure rights to show movies in Peru or Bolivia, for example. “Our strength is our online database. We can provide our clients with instant access to statistics about their movies.
So, what is Tomás’ experience in working with North Americans? “Basically we act the same with everyone, but the Americans are more structured.” That is to say, he finds the Europeans to be more apt to change things, such as the time for appointments and the structure of those meetings. Recently he was at a party the night before some appointments that were scheduled for the next day. “With the Europeans I’d spend a lot more time talking about the party from the previous night; who we met, who was there, what we drank, etc.” They were also more likely to add more food to the meetings too. On the other hand, the Americans were more focused on what was already scheduled for their meetings. They stick to their agenda and go along each item one by one.
Tomás also appreciates the fact that he can count on the American’s word. Recently Tomás was in Los Angeles and he had been talking to a producer for about 30 minutes, someone he was really hoping to work with as a producer. This person basically told Tomás that he’d love to work with him, but he already had a distributor in Chile and that he’d be faithful to the current partner. It wasn’t a matter of how much money another would charge. He simply had an obligation to his current partner. “Although I was disappointed to not be able to work with him, I really appreciated the sense of loyalty that he had with his current partner. And I appreciated the open and honest way that he communicated this to me.” Tomás adds that this experience is actually pretty typical when working with Americans. “You can count on their word, even when things are not written down.”
Before Tomás attends these festivals, he begins the process by sending a premarket agenda and a request for a meeting. At the actual festival however, he realizes that Chile is a second-tier market. The producers want to spend their first few days meeting with the large markets (U.S., Mexico, Brazil). So Tomás is usually busier at the latter end of the festivals. During the meetings the biggest challenge is to work out the criteria for the contract. “For example, in our case we often buy rights that are subject to whether the movie is shown in the U.S. or Mexico first.” There is a better chance of success in Chile if the movie has already become popular in one of the large market areas. Recently Tomás had the experience of securing rights for a movie where the contract stipulated that it had to be released in Mexico first. For some reason, however, they received an invoice before the Mexican release. “When I contacted them about this, the Americans apologized, realized their mistake, and immediately cancelled the invoice.” Tomás mentions this experience because he recently had a similar scenario with a European producer. The rights were subject to a release in the U.S. and Mexico, but the producer tried to hide the fact that the film hadn’t been released in the U.S. and in Mexico it had only been shown one time on one TV station, not anything like what they had agreed on previously. “I’m not saying that all Europeans are like that, but it is my experience that Americans have a mindset that you can depend on. They are good for their word and what they promise is what they do.”
“The other thing I like about Americans is that I never have to worry about them asking for a coima,” a great word used in Chile for “bribes.” Tomás notes that this is more of an issue with other Latin Americans and seems to be more prevalent among TV people than in the movie industry. “We just don’t do it, and so it’s a lot easier when working with Americans because they never ask for it.” In fact, “transparency” is a word that Tomás often uses to describe North Americans. “They tell you exactly what they want and it’s amazing to see how many details they provide.” Every thing is specific. For example, the posters that advertise movies come with incredible details on the location and order of the text, names and words, not to mention the size of the graphics, the placement of the icons and sponsor logos, and the dimensions of the pitch and font. “Of course all producers have their structure for this, but the Americans want to control what is theirs.” Tomás says that he has learned not to ask a lot of questions about this. “The producers know what they are doing and they want to approve all of the artwork. Americans are perfectionists in this area.”
Tomás is also sensitive to the fact that Americans have their concerns about working with Latin Americans. The biggest hurdle is related to copyright issues. Americans know that there are copyright violations in Chile and it makes them reluctant to do business with them. Tomás has to live with the frustration. For example, he is currently dealing with a situation where a well-known movie rental company is selling and renting out one of Dynamite’s movies. “They have no legal right to show it and they know it! It happens a lot here and it costs us a lot of business.” Still, Tomás is happy to say that Dynamite enjoys a positive image among his American and European clients. Chile may not have the largest market in Latin American, but Dynamite’s professional approach, modern database, and conscientious employees have become an ideal partner for many filmmakers around the world.