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Q&A with short film distributor Anais Colpin at Manifest

Friday 30 December 2022, by Abla Kandalaft

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

We recently chatted with Anais Colpin, Coordinator and Sales Manager at Manifest Pictures about her start in the world of distribution, her current role and short film strategy.

Hi Anais. Can you tell us more about your role in distribution? What’s an average day like?

Short film distribution takes up where the filmmaker and the producer’s work ends. At Manifest, there are 4 of us: 2 interns that support our work, Andrea, Festivals Manager, and myself, Coordinator and Sales Manager. I’ve been there since the start of Manifest so I’ve done a bit of everything. I’ll speak fairly generally.

The role of a dsitributor is to support a film’s screening journey. Once the film is done, we put together a strategy (premiere, which festivals, which territories.) We meet the director and producer to validate this strategy and get things going. We oversee registrations and applications, selection follow-up, use of screening material....

We also oversee sales (on TV, VOD, rentals...), as well as all the admin (accountancy, salaries, contracts), film viewings and scouting, communications (website updates, line up creation, social media posts), partnerships and travel.

I touch on all these things so don’t really have a typical average day. But usually over a month, I’ll travel a couple of times (jury, film markets, roundtables and masterclasses). I also do some admin over a few days. I’ll watch lots of films at the office and meet programmers, producers, filmmakers. I’ll also help the rest of the team out and validate applications.

I’ll usually spend a day or two on sales (chasing people up, new offers...).
I’ll also spend time every couple of months lecturing in schools, universities or professional training courses.

To give you an idea, on an average day, I’ll start with urgent emails, I’ll have work lunches with professionals and spend the afternoon on a lengthier task: accounts, sales, validations etc.... and I like ending the day by watching a couple of shorts.

Anais Colpin (Unifrance)

How did you get into distribution?

I did cultural studies and communications at Lille university and went to the Netherlands as part of an Erasmus exchange. I then did a Master’s in Cultural Management in Lille. I don’t actually remember that much about my studies (professionally speaking... I did learn a lot of theory!) but I had the chance to do an internship at the Fresnoy, a digital arts school in the NOrth of France. I assisted Natalia Trebik, who was in charge of distribution at the school. I helped especially with shorts.

I then did an internship at the Cannes Film Festival, at the shorts section. I helped organise the Short Film Corner, the shorts market at the festival. I helped with accreditation mainly but I was able to organise professional events.

These internships led me to meet Olivier Chantriaux, a producer, at the Fresnoy. He wanted to create a distribution company that would bring under one roof festival applications for 3 companies (Les Fées Productions, Offshore, Filmo). We met, I thought it was a great idea and we began working together.

What is the aspect of your job you like the most?

Definitely meeting people. All the office work really comes to life and makes sense in festivals, when we finally see our films on the big screen and meet filmmakers and producers.
I also like the freedom that comes with a brand new position: ideas are always welcome and it’s up to us to make them happen.

And finally, sales. It’s the most challenging part but it’s always gratifying to manage to sell a film.

What would you say is the best way to approach a distributor with a short?

Festivals and meeting people. That’s the best way.

But we also receive a lot of shorts by email. I would advise making an effort in presentation, highlighting important actors, mentioning selections, showing the distributor that you’re familiar with their catalogue and that your film fits in.

Is it better to have gone through the festival circuit or send films in?

For us, the easiest thing is to start working with the film straight after it’s finished as we like to have a global distribution strategy. It’s sometimes hard to get cracking from the last bit of post-production but it’s best to contact us before the start of the distribution / screening process.

If that’s not possible, try and send us a film that’s as fresh as possible, even if the first selections have been made. We’ve also loved some films that we’ve picked up once they’re on the circuit.

Do you have a list of preferred festivals or platforms where you tend to discover new shorts?

Well, as I was saying, the fresher the better. So we tend to go to festivals that have exclusivity: Clermont, Cannes, Sundance... and that meet our own tastes.

We’re also partners of a number of festivals where we award prizes: Brest, Contis and more recently Poitiers (we handle the distribution of the films in competition). We know and like their programming.

Otherwise, films on platforms tend to be a bit too old for us. But we do like to know what’s being made, which films have been successful, what works etc...I do use pro platforms like Unifrance’s Short Film Gallery or Clermont’s videotheque.

And if I just want to watch films for fun, I do like to watch Universcourt, Universcine’s YouTube channel.

What would you say are the things to avoid?

I’d say avoid back and forths with distributors. We get a lot of emails and it’s best to be efficient: send some key info and add a link to the film in the first email. We also receive a lot of films, so do give us a chance before chasing up!

And finally, avoid sending films just before the start of a festival that you’ll be at or we risk missing it.

What tends to catch your eye? What do you appreciate seeing in shorts?

We tend to go with our "coups de coeur". We do have a preference for films that take certain risks, in their formats or themes. We’re an all-women team so we’re quite keen on feminist issues. Personally, I particularly like animated films and I love discovering new ones in festivals.

One last piece of advice for filmmakers?

Don’t be scared of travelling and meeting people. It can only be a good thing for your current film or your next one. And watch shorts! So you get to know what works, what gets sold, shown and so on. If you live in France for example, you can watch shorts on Arte or France TV or sometimes on My Canal, shorts are made freely available.

« Des jeunes filles enterrent leur vie » de Maïté Sonnet

What are your favourite shorts for 2022?

I know I should be objective and I proudly support all my films so I’ll name films that aren’t with Manifest. The most recent one is Ice merchants by João Gonzalez, a beautiful and very moving animation that I discovered in Cannes, which is still doing well in Poitiers. And another shout out to Burial of Life as a Young Girl by Maïté Sonnet.

Finally, is it sometimes worth sending a film that has one or two things needing a polish?

Yes, totally. As I was saying, we often take in films when they’re just about finished and it’s actually easier to then to prepare our strategy. We can watch a version the director is proud of, that he’s happy to present and for which he will happily receive feedback as we’ll be the first to see it.

Any message or comments?


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