Interviews

First Look Pictures/Overseas Filmgroup

First Look Pictures/Overseas Filmgroup, 8800 Sunset Blvd., Suite 302, Los Angeles, CA 90069; (310) 855-1199; fax: 855-0719

What is First Look?
First Look Pictures (FLP) was established in 1990 to assist producers in the development and packaging of new projects. In 1993, FLP created a theatrical distribution division to package, finance, and distribute theatrical motion pictures in the U. S. domestic market.

What is First Look’s relationship to Overseas Filmgroup?
FLP is a division of Overseas Filmgroup (OFG). OFG is an independent sales and distribution company started 17 years ago by Ellen and Robert Little which specializes in sales representation of independent features in all media and all markets worldwide. OFG acquires distribution rights to 10 to 15 films per year. Pictures may be acquired at any stage; from development, into preproduction through postproduction and completion, as well as through negative pick-up.

Who is First Look?
Ellen Little, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer; Robert Little, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer; William Lischak, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer; M. J. Peckos, Senior Vice President, Domestic Distribution & Marketing; Maud Nadler, Vice President, Creative Affairs; Dennis O’Connor, Vice President, Domestic Marketing & Distribution; Erica Potter, Vice President, Domestic Marketing & Publicity.

The driving philosophy behind First Look is. . .

to offer a fresh perspective in independent distribution.

What would people be most surprised to learn about First Look or its founders?
None of us has the same taste.

How many works are in your collection?
Thirty.

Films and filmmakers you distribute:
Films: The Scent of Green Papaya, The Secret of Roan Inish, Antonia’s Line, Party Girl, Infinity, The Designated Mourner, johns, Different for Girls, Mrs. Dalloway, Bitter Sugar. Filmmakers: John Sayles, Marleen Gorris, Leon Ichaso, David Hare, Wally Shawn, Matthew Broderick, Tamra Davis, Bille August, Roland Emmerich, Alex Cox.

What types of works do you distribute?
Feature-length only, all genres, foreign language, cutting edge.

What drives you to acquire the films you do?
Films that we feel passionate about, would love to market, that have box-office potential, and that make economic sense based on the conditions of the marketplace.

Does First Look domestically distribute all of Overseas Filmgroup produced and/or repped titles?
No. The Prophecy was distributed by Miramax and Richard III by United Artists.

Is there such a thing as a “First Look” film?
“Quality” describes our titles the best. Our films are definitely not cookie-cutter material.

Best known title in your collection:

Marleen Gorris’s Antonia’s Line or John Sayles’s The Secret of Roan Inish.

What’s your basic approach to releasing a title?
Strategy, release date, publicity, nurturing, and luck.

Where do First Look titles generally show?
In the top 100 markets, in specialized theaters, in multiplexes, and anywhere that puts a sheet up on the wall and that makes sense for the film.

Where do you find your titles, and how should filmmakers approach you for consideration?
We find films at festivals like Toronto, Cannes, and Sundance, markets like AFM and MIPCOM, and through sales agents and agents. Filmmakers are absolutely encouraged to approach us directly.

Range of production budgets of titles in your collection:

From $2–10 million. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the distribution of independent films over the last 20 years?
Independent English-language films are playing to a broader audience, while foreign language films have lost some of their vitality. A younger audience is more aware of independent films. More money is made available for marketing whether or not it makes sense or is appropriate for a film.

Do you think the label “arthouse film” does more harm than good in the marketing of a title in the current film-going climate?

We prefer the terms “quality,” "independent,” “specialized,” or “niche” to describe and market our titles.

The most important issue facing First Look today

is . . .
studios with “independent” films.

Where will First Look be ten years from now?
In the twenty-first century.

You knew that First Look had made it as a company when. . .
We won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for Antonia’s Line in 1996 and when we received the Entertainment Data Inc. (EDI) award for the highest grossing foreign language film—also for Antonia’s Line in 1996.

If you weren’t distributing films, what would you be doing?

Selling shoes in Rio, brain surgery, working at the Gap.

Another distributor you admire:
Marcus Hu at Strand. He’s made something out of nothing.

The difference between First Look and other distributors of independent films is . . .

we try harder.

Upcoming First Look titles to watch for:
Marleen Gorliss’s first English-language feature, Mrs. Dalloway, starring Vanessa Redgrave; Alegria, the film adaptation of Cirque du Soleil’s production of the same name; Illuminata,
co-written, directed, and starring John Turturro with Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon; and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, by Robert Bierman.

Famous last words:
When choosing a distributor, bigger is not always better.

Distributor F.A.Q. is a column conducted by fax questionnaire profiling a wide range of distributors of independent film and video. If you are a distributor and want to be profiled or are a maker and want to find out more about a particular distributor, contact Lissa Gibbs c/o The Independent, 304 Hudson St., 6th fl., NY, NY 10013, or drop an e-mail to: lissa@sirius.com

Share this Article:
Print this pageEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on Reddit