Hunting down movie copies and licences is a whole world of sleuthing of its own – sometimes it grows into a fascinating search for the right people and connections. The cases where the film has been running recently in Finnish cinemas are the easiest. It’s likely that there is a copy you can get your hands on and there is a Finnish person, association or company that has the licence to show it.
Things get tricky when you want to show a film that has never been distributed in Finnish cinemas. Although you sometimes see movies like this in, say, the series shown by the National Audiovisual Archives (Kava), we’ve learned during our time in Artova Kino that Kava also shows films that they don’t have a copy of at all. For example, out of the works of Abbas Kiarostami, the rights and a 35 mm copy can or could be found in Finland for only The Taste of Cherry and Certified Copy.
If the movie has never been distributed in Finland, the licence must be sought elsewhere. When we decided to show the Kiarostami film Close Up in Artova Kino, the licence was finally found in France. In this case, we were tipped off to the right direction by people who had film festival experience of movie distribution. They had the contact information of the quarters who distribute films they have shown in other film festivals.
You can find a surprising amount of info on the distributors online: the Internet Movie Database and, for films previously shown in Finland, Elonet service are useful. We’ve also made phone calls to Kava and the national broadcasting service, Yle, when looking for contact info. In our experience, people are happy to give a hand.
One observation we’ve made is that one movie can have a number of distributors – one for Europe, one for North America, or even smaller areas, like distributors for France and the UK but no-one for the Nordic countries. Often it has taken several forwarded e-mails to reach the right person. Times like those one is grateful for having started out with a lenient schedule. Finding the right person may well take four weeks what with all the forwarded e-mails. It has been helpful to sit down and write a well thought out message that contains the introduction of Artova Kino and enquiries of a licence / film copies. Later on, work gets done faster when you can simply modify the old text.
While sleuthing, you also find new European distributors. Writing these down for future reference might come in useful when compiling new programs later on. Even if the distributor company isn’t the one you are looking for this time.
When the copies and licensors are located, the next question is the price for showing the film. The prices may vary a lot depending of the distributing company, producer or where the movie was made. Time of publication can also affect the price. The most expensive recompense suggested to Artova Kino for one-time screening of an entire film from a DVD was one thousand euro. (The movie was not shown.) On the other hand, some production companies are happy to give the licence and the film copy for free, given that the showing is organised by volunteers and that there is no entrance fee.
This far Artova Kino has paid 0–450 euro per screened film. After a bit of haggling, the licence for Kiarostami’s Close Up was acquired for 400 euro. The movie was shown from a DVD that had to be bought for the show. Rights for the same movie shown on film would have cost double. Of course, that wouldn’t include the rent of the film copy and delivery to Finland. Sometimes the solutions can be inventive – it never hurts to ask. When negotiating about Derek Jarman’s Blue, we cut a deal directly with the producer, who sent the film copy from London to Helsinki. We were able to incorporate Love&Anarchy film festival into the screening. The festival was useful when transporting the film to Finland.
When planning the Artova Kino screenings, we strove to find different solutions to how to screen films that are usually difficult to show due to transporting expenses. When we found a particular film we wanted to screen, we also thought of possible co-operation partners that would fit the nature of the film. This approach allowed us to import film copies from France as well as the UK. Co-operation continues in showing Nordic films.
The most tricky situations occur when the distributing company has gone bankrupt and the licences are “lost”, in a way. The licensor might be, for example, the company who bought the bankrupt distributor, but the new licensor might be disinterested in selling licences. This leads to a situation where somebody has created a wonderful, exciting film, but it can’t be shown as no-one is taking care of the licences. For the makers, the first priority would probably be that the film gets to be seen.
This was the situation with Gummo by Harmony Korine. The distributor had gone out of business and no-one seemed to have interest in the licences. We e-mailed various production and distribution companies that had, at some point or another, been linked to any of Korine’s productions, but no-one was actively controlling the licences. In the end, we decided to show the film.
To wrap up, here are four guidelines for those who are searching for licences and film copies.
1. Think of suitable individuals, groups or companies who can help you find licences and copies or who might be interested in producing the show. Go directly to producers, directors.
2. Reserve sufficiently time for enquiries.
3. Sit down and write a well thought out e-mail template in Finnish and in English that you will use when looking for the movie licences and copies.
4. Have a list of distributors that you’ve e.g. contacted or found when looking around the Internet.
Translation by Pigasus Translations.