ADRIAN WARD/The Banker who loves Cinema

wardWhat is the current role of commercial banks in film financing and how it has changed since the 2008 depression?
I have been working for banks doing financing for films for almost 25 years. Obviously there have been lots of ups and downs during these years.
When I started there were probably somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 banks worldwide, including a number around Europe.
Fast forward to today and maybe there are 10 or 12 and among those there are probably 3 or 4 that do independent film financing and all of them in North America.
There some regional banks in Europe but not at the level that used to be. There is a French bank, a UK bank, but most of it is concentrated here in Los Angeles.
So it has become a much more specialized business, for many reasons. One is obviously what happened in 2008-2009 when many banks did not have experience, the marketplace changed, they lost money.
So a lot of banks decided do get out of the entertainment business altogether.

Would you say that to stay in this business now, requires much more in-depth knowledge of how the industry works?
Absolutely. You have to get to a different level.
You have to understand what the market is and how it works, to know the people in it, not just the producers but also sales agents, foreign distributors, and really understand the details of it.
That’s why there is only a small number of banks that do production lending and a larger number of banks that take pieces of syndicated deals because that requires less knowledge.

How important has become the foreign component (foreign sales, international sales agents) in the business of film financing ? Would you say that the business has become more “international”, so that you have to know not only what goes on in the United States?
Yes, definitely.
It varies with the type of films. But generally speaking the international markets are worth more for a film than just the domestic rights.
So it’s important to know the value of international distribution rights, especially for independent films where the values are probably more significant than domestically.

There are many signs of a growing importance of China in the global film business. Did you have first hand experiences that confirm that?
Yes, obviously China has made a lot of progress in terms of integration in the worldwide entertainment business.
At a very high level you see significant acquisitions by Chinese companies of Us and other entertainment companies. But talking about individual independent producers it is very difficult to take advantage of such a huge market.
You have to keep in mind that China is still a closed market for most films. But since China is looking more outward and making investments in foreign entertainment companies the hope is that this will change

How would you describe the role of the new big streaming services like Netflix, iTunes, etc. in financing films?
It is a very important role. I would say it is crucial. It’s not only a big step in the technological advance of the industry, but also in underpinning distribution and financing of a lot of movies and Tv series.
Netflix has been there for a while and it’s a company with a large appetite for products, a lot of producers are doing business with it already. Then you have Amazon which has even more buying power.
The you have other players like Hulu. It’s an evolution of the marketplace which is very important to everybody involved

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