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Film Sales Case Study

Justina Petke, Office Assistant | March 2017


Justina began her journey into the industry in 2014 and is currently working for Parkland Pictures as an office based assistant.

Can you tell our members what inspired you to enter the industry?

Nothing else in life gives me the feeling that film does – both the sensation of being transported to a different reality and the moment when the lights go off in cinema. I didn’t want to betray my dreams and felt that I had to become a part of the industry rather than just watch films.

Did you complete any work experience or internships when you began your career, if so how did you find them beneficial?

It was relatively easy for me to begin my career as I went back to my home country Lithuania upon completion of a bachelor’s degree in film production in Derby, United Kingdom. Back in Lithuania, it’s not as difficult to get an entry level position on international film or TV productions: local service companies mainly look for people who speak reasonable English and are prepared to work long hours. In that aspect, it was a lot easier for me to start out my career path that way; meet British industry professionals in Lithuania and move to London with their help rather than coming to London as a fresh film graduate with a blank CV. 

However, from the real-life examples I’ve encountered, work experience and internships are undoubtedly beneficial - as long as you are prepared to give your 100% during the internship and show the employer you deserve permanent employment. In other words – become an irreplaceable asset the company couldn’t imagine their life without!

Can you tell our members about the section of the industry you work in? 

I work for a film sales company so the main task we deal with is acquiring rights to completed films and selling them to distributors worldwide. In terms of working hours and the profile of the job, it’s office-based and has standard 10am-6pm hours. Nevertheless, it’s extremely diverse and engaging as you get to see the industry from many different sides: producers seeking sales representation after completing their project, deals made with them or preparing a slate of films for major international film markets such as Cannes, Berlin or American Film Market. And of course, the excitement of submitting films to film festivals!

Could you tell us about the role of the office assistant in that environment?

As I report directly to Head of Sales, my main job is to make his workload easier. I’ve gradually taken on more responsibilities with time and they now cover a wide range. Inevitably, there’s a sizeable part of admin involved in the job, such as maintaining databases of projects, including all their marketing materials and documentation. Also, I get involved in arranging film deliveries –the process that follows when a film is sold to a distributor and they need to have it in a specific format. I have to make sure films are submitted to festivals in time, arrange and run team meetings. Of course, then there is the most interesting part of the job – reading scripts for projects in development or watching completed films and deciding if they’re worth having in our catalogue!

What would you say are the key qualities when working as a office assistant?

I believe you must be extremely organised: that involves managing your workload, being on top of all activities the company is involved in and having the task list of your boss/manager in mind at all times as well. You want to be known as someone who can get things done easily and preferably with no supervision. At the end of the day, what will make you stand out as a good assistant will be high efficiency more than anything else. From my experience, showing initiative isn’t necessarily a good thing 10 times out of 10 but being able to anticipate what things need to be done and in what order are definitely invaluable qualities.

Speaking of film industry in general, I think it requires being very adaptable: you will often have to work with people who carry enormous responsibilities and are often easily irritable. Therefore, you have to learn how to stay calm and not be affected by the pressure. 

Would you have any advice for those wanting to work in production or film sales?

In terms of production, I would advise to try it out early on in your career and decide whether it’s really the right choice for you. In my opinion, working in actual production is very much a whole different lifestyle rather than a job. It’s not going to suit every individual and sadly they don’t teach that at university. The beautiful thing about film industry is that it has so many different fields; such as exhibition, promotion, talent management and plenty others where you could find a job that’s ideal for you. As a recent graduate, it’s easy to think that production is the only path worth pursuing.

Advice that goes without saying for those wanting to work in sales & distribution: watch as many films and TV dramas (as their dominance in the market is increasing with every minute) as you can – this will not only improve your taste and enable you to give well-judged opinions at work but you will also be aware of latest trends and know what sells well. In general, listening to interviews or podcasts of industry professionals and reading industry news should become a part of your daily life – if you want to appear as someone who has a good grasp of the business.

What has been the most memorable part of your career to date and how did it come about?

To me, career-related memories are more to do with small moments when you realise that you are valued and your work is appreciated; such as compliments from the people you work for or thank-you calls and e-mails… However, from the more recent experiences I felt very grateful for the opportunity to attend European Film Market in Berlin (February 2017). I felt at the heart of what’s currently happening in film industry, was able to speak to industry people from all over the world and represent the company at our stand.

What are your plans for the future? 

I am thoroughly enjoying the field I am in and would love to move in this direction, hopefully with the focus on the acquisitions side. 

What advice would you give to the school leavers, graduates, career changers who want to get into the industry, and what advice would you give to anyone wanting to take the same path as you? 

As sardonic as this may sound, it’s a very difficult industry to enter, and more often than not you will have to deal with being unemployed or work in short-staffed environments. From my point of view, it’s important to decide whether the satisfaction you get from being in the film world will be enough to compensate for the difficult parts. Sadly, there’s still a lot of people who imagine film industry as very glamorous and easy; however, the reality  couldn’t’ be further from the truth and it often takes a lot more sacrifice than any ‘ordinary’ job would. On a brighter note, the opportunities to meet fascinating and multitalented personalities, travel and immerse yourself in all things film-related are immense so I would advise to try yourself out in various fields of the industry, find out where you excel the most and follow your dreams – they know the way!

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