Francesca Tiberi’s passion for Cinema connected her with her first professional experience in the film industry. She has worked as a film critic for three years and after earning a Master’s Degree in Production and Distribution Management, she collaborated with an Italian distribution company with a focus on art-house films, where she worked on the theatrical release of “The Broken Circle Breakdown” by Felix van Groningen. In 2015, looking for an international experience, Francesca moved to Paris and soon ended up in sales, working in production at La Compagnie de Phares et Balises where she was assistant to the Head of Sales. After her time in Paris, Francesca moved back to Rome and it’s been exactly three years that she is happily working as sales executive at True Colours.
Tara Karajica caught up with Francesca Tiberi at this year’s Vilnius Film Festival – Kino Pavasaris.
Can you talk about your jump from film critic to sales agent and what it meant for your career?
Francesca Tiberi: Actually, it was not a choice. I have always had a great passion for Cinema. So, when I started out, I had not studied Film at all; I studied International Relations, and I wanted to find a way to go to the Cinema for free. I knew that if you were a film critic you could go to film previews or premieres that would be released a week later, so to me, this was the way to go to the Cinema many times during the week and see films for free. This was my first contact with, let’s say, the business; a way to approach Cinema with a professional eye, not only with an audience eye or not anymore with an audience eye. And, doing that, I began attending festivals and I liked it so much that it led me to think about what I could do to stay in this business and do something important for this art, to help in some way the development of the cinema culture in the world or in my country.
Have you achieved this goal so far?
F.T.: Now, I think I have. Because I have a role in the business as a sales agent and this work is a little delicate. In the chain, you have a really delicate role because producers and directors have to trust you and you have the goal to make their work know to the world, so I think I have achieved a goal, or I am achieving it…
What is, would you say, your major success in terms sales? Which film’s sales are you most proud of?
F.T.: I am not that experienced at the moment because I have been working for True Colours for three years, but I think that I am proud of the work I did for Libera Nos by Federica Di Giacomo, which is a documentary that was in Competition at Orizzonti in Venice in 2016. It was quite a challenge to sell a documentary, especially if it’s an Italian one. It deals with exorcism in Southern Italy and it takes, in some way, the local theme of exorcism in Southern Italy to exorcism on a much larger scale. If you read about exorcism you will discover that this problem is still actual in Madrid, Paris and churches are looking more and more for exorcism priests nowadays too, so it’s a great problem. In terms of how to market a documentary in worldwide sales, it is a challenge and I managed to sell it to the UK, which is a quite complicated market because they are really, really picky about Italian films – they usually don’t buy little Italian films and Paolo Sorrentino is also difficult to market in the UK in terms of audience, I think. I managed to sell this documentary to a UK distributor and I am very happy to have achieved this sale.
True Colours is a joint effort. Can you talk about it?
F.T.: True Colours was founded by top Italian indie distributor Lucky Red and Paolo Sorrentino’s production company, Indigo Film. They joined forces to create this sales company. As you know, in Italy there are a few sales agents and the scenario there, as far as sales are concerned, is changing quickly because the market is changing. Old sales agencies are changing, giving place to new ones. True Colors is lucky to have grown in this environment.
In general, in Italy, how many women are there at executive positions, like sales agents or distributors?
F.T.: In Italy, there are a lot of female sales agents. I can also say the same for France. In my opinion, this job is more feasible if you are a woman. There are, of course, smart men who do this work like my colleague Gaetano Maiorino, but you have this feeling that this work is made for women.
Is there any particular reason why you think so?
F.T.: Yes, because if you have to negotiate with someone, you have to be patient; you always have to try to find a solution to meet halfway. I don’t know, I’m not a mother, but, maybe, if you have children, you know that you always have to find a solution and you always need to understand the person you have in front of you. So, yes, if you are a woman, it’s easier to be a sales agent.
There is a woman at the top at True Colours, Catia Rossi. If I understood correctly, you are very honored to work with her. Can you talk about that relationship? Do you consider her a mentor?
F.T.: Yes. She is a mentor for all of us. There are four of us. She is the Head of Sales and she has done this job for fifteen years at Rai Com, Rai Cinema’s branch dedicated to sales. She was proposed at Indigo Film and Lucky Red three years ago to lead this new sales company. And, I remember that when I was doing my internship at the MIA Market in Rome, I was working in the industry office and I was in contact with the people in the business, but I really didn’t who was who or who was doing what; I didn’t know anyone. So, I remember this woman who went back and forth from her table to our office taking brochures and catalogues, and she was so energetic, so powerful… When I read in the trades that she was going to lead this new sales outfit, I said to myself: “It’s not that common that a sales outfit is being set up in Italy, so maybe with her it will be a great chance to learn something serious in this business in Italy” because I was living in Paris in 2015, when True Colours was founded.
In that sense, what is the position of True Colours within the Italian film industry in particular and the international one in general, taking into account it’s a young company led by a woman?
F.T.: You have to consider the fact that the sales companies we have in Italy are all led by women. So, if you think that if a company is led by a woman in Italy, that’s a problem, it’s not, actually. The problem in terms of competitors is international. You have competition inside your country, but as there are very few companies, you have a problem internationally because the market of the film industry is an international one. So, you have to compare and contrast especially with the French ones. In terms of the internal market, our growth has been really impressive because in three years we have gained a lot of trust from most of the best producers in Italy. And, we are proud to have represented, for example, the two last films by Paolo Genovese, Perfect Strangers, that helped a lot our growth, and The Place, that renewed our recognition on the market and confirmed the trust that both the producers and Paolo Genovese have put in us.
What is, according to you, the situation of women in the Italian industry apart from the success of sales agents – in more general terms?
F.T.: In general terms, I can speak for the things I see in my office, the rest, I really don’t know because I am not on the creative side of things. I don’t know a lot of actresses, directors and in the business – in the commercial one –, let’s say that we don’t have a lot of problems. We can, of course, work and there isn’t any problem in this sense.
And, what about gender equality? I am asking because most people tend to confuse gender equality with #metoo and it’s not the same thing. It is related, obviously, but what I am interested in is the situation of Italian women in the film industry in their home country in terms of gender equality.
F.T.: This is a good point, actually, because it’s really, really wrong to mix the two things, I think. And, for this question, I have an answer about gender equality in our office, but also in those of other sales agents. I see a lot of women who are employed and who are doing a great job. For example, the director of the MIA Market is a woman, the two executives who handle the cinema and the co-production market are women and, in our office, we are four women – including the accountant – and one man. And also, at Lucky Red, the majority are women. At Indigo Film, there are three producers – one man, who is Nicola Giuliano, and the other two are women, Francesca Cima and Carlotta Calori. So, I don’t know… In terms of gender equality there are no problems in Italy in this field.
In 2016, you were a participant at the Locarno Industry Academy. How has this helped your career as a sales agent, and in your achieving your professional goals?
F.T.: It was a wonderful experience, but also an unexpected one because I applied without expecting to be selected. It was also a great human experience because you had the chance to build friendships like the one I have with Rita Stanelyte whom I met there, and also with directors. I have a good relationship with Reinaldo Marcus Green who has won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature at Sundance this year with Monsters and Men as well as with Jordan Mattos and Alberto Álvarez of Reel Suspects, another sales agency. For example, this opportunity helped me in the sales of Perfect Strangers here in Lithuania because I met Rita and, after, she wrote me, asking me if I was doing the sales for Perfect Strangers and we made a great deal. I had the chance to get to know Vilnius and its festival where I am always happy to come back.
Do you miss film criticism?
F.T.: Actually, I think not.
What is your favorite film, the one that made you want to work in the film business?
F.T.: Let me think… It’s a difficult question for me every time, because I have different favorite films and it depends on the period in my life I am in. I don’t know what is my favorite film today… maybe Blue is the Warmest Color. It’s one of my favorite films. Also, one of the latest I saw is I, Tonya…
What are your next goals? What do you want to achieve as a sales agent? What is the best possible scenario in which you imagine yourself professionally?
F.T.: I really want to stay in sales. But, I also know that it is changing very quickly, so maybe in three years, sales will be completely different – or not… I don’t know… But, I really love this work and this is also thanks to Catia, actually. I will definitely find a way to stay in sales and help producers and directors reach their goals because we are actually speaking of cultural goals.
This interview was conducted during the 2018 Vilnius Film Festival – Kino Pavasaris.