Sales agent

Also known as:

  • Film sales executive

What does an agent do?

Sales agents, or sales companies, act on behalf of the producer to sell the rights to an independent film or TV drama to distributors, who then release films on different platforms (cinema, TV, DVD, Blu-ray, streaming platforms like Netflix or Amazon). (An independent production is one that has not been produced by a Hollywood studio or ‘major’. Their productions are distributed by their subsidiaries worldwide instead).

Sales agents negotiate with the distributors, based on the sales estimates and detailed assessment of the production’s commercial value.

Sales agents are also responsible for promotion. They promote the films they represent at festivals and film markets, invite distributors to screenings and hold premiere parties. They assemble and organise the delivery of any physical film materials and are usually involved in developing the marketing plan.

The point at which agents get involved in a production varies. Unknown directors, who usually need an agent the most, might have to finish their film before they can find someone to take it on. In other cases, a sales agent might sell a film to a distributor as a concept, a draft script, or at the filming or post-production stage. Funding for a film is often dependent on the deals the sales agent has managed to broker at the start.

Sales agents are continuously acquiring new content to sell from filmmakers and they build relationships with distributors all over the world, so the job usually involves travel.

Read

What’s a sales agent good at?

  • Commercial awareness: have an awareness of cultural trends, understand and predict the market both globally and within individual countries, have an eye for talent that fits this (with the ability to read scripts quickly and thoroughly)
  • Knowledge of the film-making process: understand all aspects involved in making a film, from script to finance to post-production
  • Marketing: be enthusiastic with strong sales skills to secure competitive deals, be able to outline the story of a film in a succinct and engaging way face-to-face, have an understanding of digital marketing and social media
  • Networking: establish good relationships and communicate constantly with distribution outlets and festival programmers as well as with filmmakers, use language skills to travel and embrace other cultures, have a wide knowledge of film festivals and markets
  • Negotiation: be flexible, able to negotiate conditions, draw up contracts, understand licencing, copyright
  • Finance: deal with figures, have the financial knowledge to make sales predictions, negotiate funding and handle a budget

Who does a sales agent work with?

Sales agents communicate with distributors on behalf of film producers so they work closely with both of these groups. They also collaborate with other people in sales and distribution like marketing managers and publicists.

How do I become a sales agent?

How do I become a sales agent?

Sales agent roles are senior positions. To become a sales agent you need to have a high level of knowledge and experience of the industry. Occasionally companies will take on film sales assistants. Another good route into sales roles is as a marketing assistant. Go to the marketing assistant profile for details on how to do this. Increasingly sales agents are also coming from backgrounds in law.

At school or college:
If you want to go to university, A-levels or Highers in business studies, economics, English, film studies or politics are useful. Or you might want to take the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:

  • OCR Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • AQA Foundation Technical Level Business: Marketing Communications
  • AQA Technical Level Business: Marketing
  • NCFE Diploma in Skills for Business: Sales and Marketing

Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. However, it can be challenging to find jobs as an apprentice with production companies as many are not able to take people on for a whole year, which is an apprenticeship requirement at the moment. It might be worth looking for a job as an apprentice in an industry that uses similar skills, such as literary agent in publishing. This could help you develop your craft and create a body of work for a portfolio that you can use to find your way into film and TV drama at a later point.

These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK

You might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following frameworks:

Creative Pioneers is a good source of apprenticeships in these fields. This will not necessarily get you into the film industry but will put you in a stronger position to apply for marketing roles.

Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.

Get a degree:
A degree in film studies, law, business studies or media and communication is a good way into this field. You would also benefit from an MBA in film production, film history or film finance. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select ones in filmmaking or film and television production. We recognise courses with our Tick award where they offer training in the relevant fields, dedicate time to building a portfolio, and have strong links with the film and TV drama industries.

Take a short course:
Learn more about the process of getting a film funded to improve your knowledge of business and finance relations within the film industry. Good examples are:

Look outside the industry:
Consider law, finance, business, or marketing roles in any industry as work experience in film sales is highly competitive. A background in sales, business, or finance will show you have the necessary analytical skills for this role.

You might also be interested in…

Being a publicist or a marketing manager.

Further resources

Some other job roles in sales and distribution


Back to sales and distribution