FNE together with Europa Distribution is launching a new chapter of the Distributor of the Month section. This time we focus on new strategies in film distribution and the importance of domestic film festivals in releasing new titles. We will also be looking at what distributors can do in order to prevent piracy.
This month we speak to Emil Simeonov, the head of Pro Films (Bulgaria).
FNE: What are the innovative strategies that you choose to apply in film distribution?
Emil Simeonov: Well, most of our strategies are hardly to be labeled as extremely innovative, but of course we have to adapt to the new reality. With global digitalisation, in cinema and in everyday life, we have to be more flexible than ever.
The Internet became our biggest enemy and our best friend at the same time. We use internet, Facebook and other web resources in order to get to our audience, but at the same time we have to watch out for internet pirates and to be faster than them. At least we try to be.
In the last couple of years we refocused our company mainly toward the young audience and although we still distribute some live action films, we are now mainly oriented toward children animations. We plan to work in that direction as it is still relatively unharmed by piracy; the kids want to watch films in their native languages. For the moment this is something that piracy is not able to offer them and that gives us some advantages.
FNE: Are there any challenges implied by these innovations?
E.S.: Of course, we need a highly educated staff; we are almost 24/7 in competition with the piracy. We have some new software or hardware almost every year that we need to learn to work with; we need to be day-and-date with every new fancy platform or social network that emerges. It’s the fast track and sometimes it’s very hard to stay on it.
FNE: What festival is the most important showcase in your country for your films and why? Are there any other showcases in your country besides this festival?
E.S.: Unfortunately, there are no festivals or showcases that are important for us in the country. Actually, there are only two festivals of a real importance in the country, Sofia Film Fest in the spring and Cinemania in the autumn. But none of them has any influence on the kids and family audience.
FNE: How does a success (or "disappointment") in a festival relate to a success (or "disappointment") in cinemas?
E.S: Following the previous answer, unfortunately it doesn’t matter at all.
FNE: Does piracy affect your VOD/DVD releases and is there anything you can do in order to prevent it?
E.S.: The answer is very simple, though very unoptimistic: the DVD market in Bulgaria is practically gone. It doesn’t exist anymore. We released our last film on DVD more than two and a half years ago. And we don’t plan to release any other. The VOD market in Bulgaria is still only a wish for the future.
FNE: Which film do you think might describe your work in the most accurate way and why?
E.S.: Lately it is Niko 2: Little Brother Big Trouble. I think we did a very good job with it, and we have some quite good results. We released the film in competition with Frozen, and despite the smashing results of Disney`s animation, we reached more than 8,000 admissions in the first two weeks.
Five months after its release the film is still running in Bulgaria. This is something impossible for a live action film, even a big studio film. To date we have almost 15,000 admissions, it is quite a good result for an indie film in Bulgaria.
Founded by Emil Simeonov and Vladimir Petrov at the beginning of 2005, Pro Films released theatrically more than 50 independent films so far, most of them European films. Pro Films produced its first feature, Rapid Response Corps, in 2012 and now is working on the sequel.
Simeonov’s professional experience in the cinema industry started as a booking coordinator in 1997. In 2002 he was promoted to Head of the Programme Department of the biggest exhibition company in the country at that time. He left his position in the end of 2004 and founded the distribution company Pro Films in 2005.