Hi Trish, please could you tell us a little bit about Hopscotch films and what your role involves?
Of course! Hopscotch Films are an Australian film distributor for theatrical and home entertainment, and have been responsible for bringing varying titles such as Somersault, Midnight in Paris and Bowling for Columbine to Australian audiences. We also have a newly developed department called Hopscotch Productions, and with several films in development, watch this space! Last year, Hopscotch was acquired by Entertainment One, allowing Hopscotch more room to acquire bigger and better product, as well as to invest more in the local industry. With EOne coming on board, our management and acquisitions vision has not changed, though our team have grown as we take on more films to distribute, both theatrically and for home entertainment and through digital platforms.
Hopscotch is currently distributor to some of the hottest Australian titles including Wish You Were Here and the hotly tipped The Sapphires. What’s makes you so good at getting the best films – is there a secret to your success?
Troy Lum and Sandie Don lead a small team acquiring our films and from my observations, they choose films that are a mixture of quality filmmaking and local market value. Hopscotch is known for its sophisticated films that will often be on limited released; the films serve the purpose of bringing a story to audiences that crave quality, as opposed to films that merely serve to entertain for 2 hours and are forgotten soon after.
After having just found out what we’ve acquired from Cannes, I agree that they are brilliant with their choices. I’m huge fans of their work, and marketing a Hopscotch film makes my job so much fun - albeit somewhat challenging on occasion!
People are time poor and increasingly, audiences need to be convinced that they will enjoy the film. We work hard with exhibitors and third parties, where we can boost an already engaged audience through cinema membership clubs, retail loyalty programs, or even simply through an e-newsletter. Hopscotch Films have built up a very strong brand and association, so when people see our logo on a cinema screen, I think a lot of them know they’re about to see a film that is different from the Hollywood archetype.
How does Hopscotch secure titles for distribution?
Typically the acquisitions team will get sent a script to read, and then either bid for the film upon contacting the sales agent at the next festival, which could begin a bidding war, or we’ll produce the film through Hopscotch Productions, like Mao’s Last Dancer - which took over $15m at the Australian BO! Our team goes to all the major festivals and markets, including Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Sundance and inevitably come back with some amazing products. Contracts are then drawn up; some include clauses where if we sign with talent on board who later drop out, we can remove ourselves from the project. The power of a star!
Is there a particular Australian film that you really wish Hopscotch had been able to pick up but missed out on?
I really enjoyed Beautiful Kate, I thought it was a soft, sensuous film that provoked thought and emotion in a stunning way. Coming from a novel set in the US, it translated so well to an Australian landscape and that must go the credit of the director and the talent. Although confronting, I remember watching it at the Barbican as part of the LAFF and thinking how proud I was to be Australian. I thought The Black Balloon was terrific as well; perhaps because it did 80s suburbia so well though!
What advice would you give to filmmakers looking to secure distribution with you? What’s the best way to get your attention?
Contact our acquisitions team here firstname.lastname@example.org! That would be a start.
I think Hopscotch devour a quality story, that which is truthful, we’re not searching for a film that is forgotten after you leave the cinema. Again, with our recent EOne acquisition, we’re able to support films in a holistic way, which is exciting and allows me, from a marketing point of view, to understand audiences from the ground up.
You’ve worked in film marketing and exhibition in Australia and the UK, is there a difference in the way films are marketed in each territory?
Exhibition marketing in both territories are very similar, as ultimately it’s all about finding the audience for the programming, although exhibition does primarily focus on the brand. Assessing an audience needs to come through discussion, as your opinion can be drastically different from your colleagues, and you could be in danger of bringing too much of yourself into the decision. What can be really frustrating is when you know you’ve got a terrific programme or slate of films, and your audience just isn’t seeing through the stigmas, be it foreign language, or black and white or even Australian! I guess that would explain why certain film people are always so smug – they know they’re onto something good! Hopscotch is my first role in distribution – I love it! The focus is all about your product, so releasing 1 or 2 films per month, as opposed to 3 or 4 films per fortnight, allows me to really drill down and work with organisations and third parties in a much more concentrated manner. After 5 years in the UK though, I’ve had to really do my research and get reacquainted with Australian life - Sydney had changed dramatically since I left in 2005!
There seems to be an upsurge of interest in Australian Film globally in recent years, why do you think this is?
I’m not sure about an upsurge, and I couldn’t tell you why as the government has not adequately enabled Australians to make films on their account for quite some time. I envy the UK and their funding, as massive as the last cuts were! Australians will continue to tell good stories, and there is an abundance of very talented people telling them. We’re slow adopters, being so isolated, though it seems we are producing better quality films than ever before. Our teaching institutions such as NIDA and AFTRS are fantastic in mentoring the upcoming talent, and as we are and continue to embrace the various cultural, societal and environmental influences across the country, I think we’ll continue to have a story to tell.
Where do you see the Australian Film Industry going in the near future?
From my position at Hopscotch Films, I’m very excited about it. Hopscotch Features have two upcoming titles – I, Frankenstein and A Place for Us – both of which are local titles with tremendous casts – very exciting! And not to get too into politics, if the Labour government lose the next election, I’m not confident the Liberal government headed by Tony Abbot will come to the party and provide arts funding. Votes are not won or lost on arts in this country and rarely makes it into election promises, so we’re damned either way I’m afraid!
What’s your hot tip for upcoming Australian films for us to look out for?
Hopscotch Films will be releasing A Place for Us next year, starring Naomi Watts, Robin Penn, Ben Mendelsohn, Sophie Lowe and James Frecheville - who was magnificent in Animal Kingdom. I’ve seen a few scenes and I think it looks fantastic! Directed by Anne Fontaine and adapted by Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liasions), the film sees Watt and Penn falling in love with each other’s teenage sons. It also features some beautiful locations, shot along the mid-north coast of Australia – one for those homesick Aussie’s in London!
Finally, what’s your all time favourite Australian Film and why?
Hmm. I used to watch The Shiralee all the time when I was young. A brutishly handsome Bryan Brown bringing up his ragamuffin daughter - superb. Notable mentions also include Malcolm, The Man From Snowy River and The Year My Voice Broke. And I know technically not allowed, but Brides of Christ was one of the best mini-series I have ever seen.My God, such an 80s child! You also can’t deny the talent of Baz Luhrmann, especially as his productions provide so much value to the Australian Film industry. After viewing The Great Gatsby trailer this week, this film is certainly hotly anticipated.