Film sales and distribution is a year-round business, and film markets are the engine that drives it all.  Film markets are the film version of a trade show, but with more champagne, canapés and celebrities. Every couple of months, thousands of buyers and sellers descend on cities around the world, ready to do business and hunt for the best films.

Film markets are the busiest times of year for both sales agents and distributors. In the weeks before, sales agents are frantically working the phones and hustling for meetings with buyers, to showcase their newest acquisitions, with the end goal of closing distribution deals. At the market, they set up shop in stands, emblazoned with carefully designed film posters, stacks of sales sheets at the ready, and TVs and iPads queued up with slick trailers to hook buyers into going to a screening or taking a screener to view at home.

If you’re an independent filmmaker, particularly if you’re a producer, you should go to a least one film market to see how distribution works first hand. Your film has to fight for space and attention against thousands of others for a shot at distribution. Once you start to understand what the market wants, you’re in a better place to make a film that’s going to have an audience and hopefully make money.

Here’s  a list of the major film and television markets for distribution.

Hot Docs

24th April – 4th May 2014

Toronto, Canada

On now, Hot Docs is a highlight on the documentary circuit. Producers with completed films and rough cuts have the chance to meet one on one with distributors, sales agents and festival programmers at the Distribution Rendezvous and the Hot Doc Deal Maker meetings offers the chance for  preselected producers of the 50 most compelling projects to pitch to an impressive list of decision makers, commissioning editors and financiers. You can find a list of attending decision makers on their website.

Marché du Film

14th – 23rd May 2014

Cannes, France

The granddaddy of them all. Marché du Film is the world’s biggest film market, with 11,796 registered participants in 2013. The market runs at the same time as the festival, with films of all genres from all over the world represented. Deals are closed over the market, with others finalised over the summer.

Last year’s major deals included Lionsgate picking up Blood Ties, Guillaume Canet’s English language directorial debut. The Weinstein Company took Philomena for the US, UK, Canada and Spain following Pathé’s screening of six minutes of footage and Sony Pictures Classics acquired Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive for North America.

Sunny Side of the Doc

23rd – 26th June, 2014

La Rochelle, France

2014 is the 25th anniversary of Sunny Side of the Doc, one of the leading markets dedicated to factual content and is a must for documentary makers. This year, more than 2000 delegates, including 300 commissioners and buyers from more than 60 countries are expected to attend. Sunny Side of the Doc offers delegates the chance to pitch their projects, seek co-productions, attend panels on industry trends, and secure distribution for their films.

Toronto International Film Festival

4th – 14th September 2014

Toronto, Canada

Toronto attracts its share of sales agents and distributors looking for theatrical titles. Deals centre around the films in the festival line up, which leans towards more indie fare and also has a strong documentary presence. Last year, The Weinstein Company picked up Can A Song Save Your Life? (now retitled Begin Again) for $7 million and Focus Features up snapped worldwide rights for Bad Words, also for $7 million.


13th – 16th October 2014

Cannes, France

MIPCOM is the major event in every TV content buyer’s diary. Broadcasters take over the Croisette in search of new content for their programming schedules. Factual, formats, dramas, gameshows, telenovelas, kids programming, documentaries. feature films and more are all under discussion and up for acquisition. A more industry focused market, first time filmmakers and documentary makers might find it harder to get time with broadcasters and sellers here.

American Film Market – AFM

5th – 12th November 2014

Santa Monica, California

One of the three major film markets, along with Marché Du Film and EFM, AFM  leans towards English language genre and commercially orientated fare. If your film is a horror, thriller, action or sci-fi title, AFM’s a great market to launch at.

Last year’s market saw a rash of music biopics seeking financing – Don Cheadle’s Kill The Trumpet Player about jazz legend Miles Davis, Tom Hardy and Elton John wooing buyers for Rocketman, Sexual Healing on the life of Marvin Gaye, and more projects pitched on Janis Joplin, Keith Moon and Tupac Shakur. On the sales side, Jean Claude Van Damme action movie Swelter with about a Las Vegas robbery gone wrong had a strong showing, nearly selling out the world and VMI’s genre flick Gallowwalkers with Wesley Snipes closed deals in the UK, Australia, Germany, Scandinavia and South Korea.

Ventana Sur

2nd – 5th December 2014

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ventana Sur is the main Latin American film market. Short and sweet, it brings in an international contingent with over 300 buyers and sellers in 2013. Much of the business is US distribution deals, tapping into the US’s lucrative Latino market. Latin American pay TV and Spanish distribution feature heavily in the market’s deals as well  as international deals for more art house titles and festival fare.


22nd January – 1st February 2015

Park City, Utah, USA

The first date in the distribution cycle in the New Year, Sundance deals centre around the indie fare screened at the festival, with major players like The Weinstein Company, Sony Pictures Classics and Lionsgate looking for new additions to their slate. 2014 was a slower sales year, but past Sundance deals have included breakout hits like Fruitvale Station and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

European Film Market – EFM

5th February – 13th February 2015

Berlin, Germany

Part of the Berlinale Film Festival, the sales cycle kicks off in earnest at EFM, with buyers scouting and screening for new titles to add to their slates, with the market offering platform for both commercial and art house fare. 2014 saw 8396 participants, 1499 that identified as buyers, and 487 exhibitors.


23rd March – 26th March 2015

Hong Kong

Asia’s largest film and television market, FILMART gives sales agents chance to touch base with Asian buyers on their home ground, especially those who may have missed EFM due to Chinese New Year. This year saw 770 exhibitors from 32 countries and regions and some 6,750 buyers.


13th – 16th April 2015

The first of the MIPs and an essential date in the television landscape, MIPTV is generally a quieter market than the larger MIPCOM in October, but formats, docs, factual, scripted content, kids programming, films all do a bustling trade here with international broadcasters. This year saw BBC Worldwide licensing natural history and factual content to Hong Kong’s TVB and Chinese streaming-video giant Tencent and many international drama co-productions deals inked.

Agree, disagree, questions, thoughts? Hit me up in the comments.

Picture Credit: European Film Market

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