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'Selling Films Is Not A Red Carpet Job'

We tell you what it takes to do it in this conversation with Producer & Head of Sales at Qwest Media Franciane Abassan.

BY Agnes Amondi

Mar 29, 2023, 12:00 PM

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Life has a way of redirecting us to our desired paths. Having worked in the financial sector at the beginning of her career, French-born Ivorian and Guadeloupean Franciane Abassan pivoted and joined the audiovisual field 20 years ago after a tragic event in her family. It made her realise the briefness of life and thus her decision to go after what she is passionate about. 

Franciane began her film career at Doc & Co, a documentary film distribution company in Paris where she honed her craft in film distribution. She later moved to London where she worked as a consultant and gained exposure to the television landscape of the United Kingdom.

During this period, she met her current business partner with whom she manages and runs her own distribution and production company Qwest Media.

We caught up with Franciane and talked about her career and how the content is fairing when it comes to film distribution. 

What drew you to film?

I’ve always loved film. When I was 13 years old, I saw a Hollywood film being filmed in Paris and four years later as a university student I got an invite to visit BBC studios where I got a first-hand experience of what television is all about, and this further spurred my interest in film

When I went back to Paris, I interned at a television studio where I worked as an assistant host animator for two shows. This allowed me to fully explore the behind-the-scenes - what it was like filming a sitcom, presenting a kid's show and learning all about television production.

Why does the continent struggle to attract a global audience to watch its films?

I partly agree and partly disagree with your question and here’s why. We have studios in the continent that have signed contracts with global streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon which means that if you are in Europe, you can access African films.

We also have producers, actors, and writers from Africa based in the USA or already in Africa who’ve landed big contracts with Netflix, Disney, Sony Pictures Television and AMC Networks, which is another way of ensuring that our content will be seen worldwide. 

That said, we need to start producing content of the highest quality so that we can create demand and have a higher asking price. 

The counterargument to that is the need to have our own platforms and not rely on foreign ones to circulate our content. What do you say to that?  

The biggest challenge that we face in establishing our own platforms that would rival giants like Netflix or Disney is money. Europe has tried to do this. Three major French channels - French Television, TF1 and M6 - came together to challenge Netflix but failed.  

The costs needed to compete with them is enormous and if we are ever to do that; we need to have a proper strategy and financial plan, otherwise, it will always be an uphill task.

That said, recently African pay TV MultiChoice Group, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Sky unveiled a partnership which will form the new Showmax group and create the leading streaming service in Africa.

Showmax subscribers will have access to premium content of local and international programming. MultiChoice will own 70 percent of the new Showmax group and NBCUniversal 30 per cent.

What does it take to sell a film?

The most important thing is the quality of the film. If the story resonates with the global audience, then it makes a great piece. After that, you need to place it in the right avenues to attract potential distributors and buyers.

What's the difference between selling films on the continent and outside of the continent?

It is difficult to sell content that is not well-polished. Whilst I understand the need for the creators to make films, sometimes they produce substandard work because they mainly focus on quantity and not so much on quality. As such, if I am selling their films internationally, I request them to improve the quality of their productions. 

If the films are meant for the local market, then it’s not such a big deal because regardless of the technical issues they may have, they tend to sell and even produce profits for them. 

How did your journey with Pavillon Afriques start?

Karine and I met at an event, but we disconnected. We met again years later at another event in Europe and she invited me to make a presentation during an online workshop session of Pavillon Afriques as a speaker and we’ve collaborated since.

Have you sold any films through Pavillon Afriques?

Not yet so far, but Karine now knows what I am looking for, so we keep pushing. 

What would you tell an upcoming filmmaker?

Get experience. If you want to act, get involved by taking acting or filming classes, and learning your craft. If you want to distribute films, go to a distribution company, but just so you know, selling films is not a red-carpet job (haha).