Making Movies Come to Life: What It’s Like to Be a Startup in the Film Industry [Interview]

When we hear the word startup, there are certain industries that instantly spring to mind, such as tech, mobile, e-commerce health and finance. But what about startups that are engaged in something entirely different, that come from a sector that is much less closely related to technology, and are trying to find their place in the same entrepreneurial ecosystem? One example of such a startup is Filmarket Hub, an online platform created to connect professionals of the film industry all over the world, and help directors and screenwriters find producers for their projects-in-development. Based in Barcelona, the team of five are proving that, against all odds, it is possible for a “cultural startup” to achieve things no one believed would work. We spoke with Andrea Giannone, Co-founder and CEO of Filmarket Hub, right after her inspiring pitch at the NUMA Barcelona Demo Day last week at 4YFN.

“Investors who work with startups don’t understand the film industry, and people in the film industry don’t understand startups. We’re caught in the middle.”

You are very different from all the tech startups here [at 4YFN]. Aside from being a business, you also have a cultural mission. Do you find your position as a “cult-startup” difficult?

Yes, I think that in a way, our position is difficult. People often don’t understand what we’re trying to do at first, because we’re not a startup with a cool app that everyone can download on their smartphone. We come from the cultural sector, we’re a company that deals with alternative funding, and we target a niche audience. The core of the problem is that investors who work with startups don’t understand the film industry, and people in the film industry don’t understand startups. So we’re basically caught in the middle.

Two years ago, I was doing a pitch, looking for support in the film industry, and they simply told me that such a thing will never be possible in the world of film-making. On the other hand, when I pitch to people from the startup world, they are skeptical about the film industry, because they think that it’s not profitable to invest in. And here we are, I’m happy to say, proving them all wrong: we are connecting professionals of the film industry all over the world, and we’re making money. In fact, we have amazing metrics, and our revenue is growing every month. So yes, our position is difficult, but we look at it as an opportunity that we can take advantage of. I think that in the end, only people from the film industry can understand what it is that we’re trying to do, and we have to teach them what a startup is.

“If Filmarket Hub doesn’t work out, I’m going to be the greatest producer in the world, because I know the European market so well now.”

How do you feel about what you’ve achieved so far?

Right now we are doing stuff that we never would have thought possible. In the beginning, we just wanted to connect people. Now we have our own marketplace, where we have amazing movies, and incredible companies like Movistar and Studio Canal that are making the film projects come to life. And, seeing as there are only four companies in the world that do something similar, we basically have the entire market. Spain is ours, and we have a strong presence in Mexico, Columbia, and Argentina. We are actually really happy with how far we’ve come. And no one knows the European market like we do. I always say that if Filmarket Hub doesn’t work out, I’m going to be the greatest producer in the world, because I know the European market so well now. It’s like an amazing MBA of film production.

How did you come up with the idea of creating Filmarket Hub?

I was working on an amazing project, a film that I still love, and I found it really complicated to show it to producers. In our industry, if you don’t know anyone, you just feel alone and scared, and you have no way to go. And I thought: why should I depend on the handful of producers that I know, when there are so many out there in the world? Maybe my producer is in Argentina. But how can I get to him? So we came up with the idea of creating something very simple, an online platform where you can upload your project so producers can find it. And what we’re doing now is connecting the entire film industry online, and making feature films, TV series and documentaries come to life.

“You don’t have to wait forever for something to happen. You just upload your project, and you don’t even have to approach the producer. We do all that for you.”

So how does the marketplace work? If I were an artist, how would I go about finding a producer for my script?

All you have to do is upload a first draft of your script, from which we create a one-page summary that anyone can see, but the script itself will be private. You are always in control of who gets to view your script, that’s how we protect your intellectual property. Then, if a producer comes across the summary of your project, and they like it, they can request more information about it. We have a recommendation system: we know exactly what producers are looking for, and when a project with those characteristics appears in the marketplace, we move it. You don’t have to wait forever for something to happen. It’s an automatized process: you just upload your project, and you don’t even have to approach the producer. We do all that for you. We have the technology for this, and we’re about to launch a new version of the website that will be capable of making even better recommendations.

Andrea Giannone, Co-founder and CEO of Barcelona startup Filmarket Hub pitching at NUMA Barcelona demo day 4YFN 2017
Andrea Giannone pitching on stage at NUMA Barcelona Demo Day, 4YFN 2017

I thought producers never looked for projects to produce. Isn’t it always directors and screenwriters who seek out the producers?

That’s exactly how it works. However, producers receive massive amounts of information in their inbox, and they have no time to go through it all, which is why a lot of great ideas get lost in their inboxes. Sometimes producers make the wrong choices, because they haven’t seen everything. This is why we create the right connections that enable artists to realize their projects and help the producers find the greatest ideas. And they’re not just any producers: we always validate them to make sure that they actually have the power to make film projects come to life.

Apart from the marketplace, Filmarket Hub has a couple of other great features. 

We also help artist curate their projects, to make them more attractive. We have additional services such as script analysis, where we give your recommendations on how to improve your script.

If you’re interested in more startup stories from Barcelona, also read about the experience of Portuguese startup HiJiffy in the NUMA Barcelona acceleration program!

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