Development needs a commercial sensibility: Hopscotch

Abbie Cornish as Fanny BrawneHopscotch Films’ Troy Lum believes it’s vital for any development process to have a commercial sensibility.

What were your strongest performing films of the 2009/2010 financial year?

Mao’s Last Dancer and Bright Star.

What titles didn’t necessarily meet your expectations?

We were a little disappointed with The Boys Are Back; we loved the film and were hoping that it would do a bit better

Were there any surprises?

We had a great result with The Concert, a little film with a big heart.

How experimental are Hopscotch’s plans in terms of distribution models?

We are very cautious in this regard. We are respecting the windows and will only move from this position if there is an industry-wide change

Are you focusing your promotional efforts across a wider range of platforms?

We are much more focused in the digital marketing arena. We have invested heavily in the Hopscotch website and are using this as a major tool in all our marketing efforts

What was your best campaign of the year?

I think that we did a great job on Bright Star. The team was really passionate about this film and it showed.

What genres are not working in Australia at the moment?

Small dramas are becoming increasingly difficult.

Is the 10 percent of the US box office rule still the norm to compare the performance of a film?

Not for us. In some cases we come close to grossing dollar for dollar with the US or in some cases do even better. Recent examples are Micmacs, Mother and Child and Bright Star. In all these cases we grossed more than the US.

While 2009 registered a record box office intake, attendance was down a little. Can ticket premiums compensate for that decrease in attendance, in the long term?

No…like all artificially created bubbles, it is soon to burst

Are audiences losing the meaning of the movie going experience as better home entertainment systems become available?

No, movie going is part of our social fabric. It just needs to ensure that it continues to evolve so that the experience of going to the movies outweighs watching it at home. How can the sense of experience balance the audiences’ need to have things when they want them, where they want them?

Is the slate of Australian films more diverse than it was a couple of years ago? Will the performance of recent local hits increase distributors’ interest in local product?

Yes, I think that the last 12 months has proved that local films can work well in this market across a number of audience bases.

Is the partnership with Roadshow ongoing?

It was a pure partnership in the sense that all major strategy decisions we jointly handled and tasks were split according to the company that either had the best relationships or expertise in that area. The experience was a very positive one and we have an ongoing relationship with Roadshow in home entertainment. Further partnerships are not out of the question.

Overall, how would you describe Hopscotch’s past experience distributing Australian films?

It’s pretty good. We have had great success with Somersault, Bra Boys, Mao’s Last Dancer, Bright Star and The Boys Are Back.

We are also very judicious about what we take on. It’s harder to release Aussie films; there is more work involved but the emotional rewards are greater.

Hopscotch Features puts you in a privileged position, production + distribution. Do you think the $90m, three-year fund SPAA has proposed to stimulate distributor investment in mid-range features ($7-30m) would work?

Yes, I think that this is a much better model as it ensures that the development process has a commercial sensibility which is vitally important. We just need to make sure that we are choosing the right companies to take this responsibility.

Is there any audience knowledge that distributors have that is no reaching local producers/writers/directors?

No, I think we all want to make commercial films. The closer we work together then the better we can share our knowledge

Hopscotch has invested in a number of local projects. Financially, has it been a good decision?

Yes, very much so.

Realistically, what does Hopscotch expect from its Features division in the mid-term?

We would like to produce 1-2 features each year.

What are the main mistakes that Australian producers make when they approach a distributor?

Their script isn’t ready or they don’t have a realistic idea about the audience for their film.

What should they keep in mind when pitching a project – emphasis on the business side instead of just the storyline, perhaps?

We are there to assess things from a business side. I want to know why there story is unique and who exactly is it for.

What are Australian distributors really looking for in a local film?

Strong emotional content

Do you provide feedback when you turn down a local film for distribution?

We try to. Obviously, some responses are deeper than others.

Now that you have Hopscotch Features, would you look at distributing local films that you did not originate?

Of course! We will always continue to assess Australian projects from a distribution perspective.


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