• Helena Wittmann © Sinje Hasheider
    Sales’ Portrait

Picture Tree International

Picture Tree International © Picture Tree International

Berlin-based sales company Picture Tree International (PTI) is celebrating its 10th company anniversary at this year Berlinale / European Film Market with new high profile acquisitions including the Berlinale Special Gala premiere of Robert Schwentke’s SENECA – ON THE CREATION OF EARTHQUAKES, starring John Malkovich, as well as Hans Steinbichler’s bestseller adaptation A WHOLE LIFE, and Marc Rothemund’s feature WEEKEND REBELS.

“From the outset, we had always aimed to be very eclectic in the acquisition strategy for our line-up and have wanted to offer a mix of titles that don’t cannibalize one another,” says the company founder and co-managing director Andreas Rothbauer who can look back on more than 20 years of experience in the fields of development, distribution and international sales. “This means that we’re not limited in terms of content and see ourselves more as license traders than as a brand for just one type of film,” Andreas explains.

“While we don’t focus on specific genres, we’re definitely aiming for more audience-driven films, films that can be entertaining or ones that have particular significance for society through the issues they raise,” adds Yuan Rothbauer who became PTI’s co-managing director with her partner Andreas in 2017 after initially joining the company as Head of Sales & Operations. Prior to working for PTI, Yuan had headed the international department of Star Image Media Group, one of the first and leading theatrical distributors in China, and had been responsible for the acquisition of such titles as SON OF THE MASK and the Oscar winner PAN’S LABYRINTH. During its first ten years of operations, PTI has remained faithful to its goal of eclecticism with a mix of both mainstream and arthouse titles.

From the very beginning, the company developed into a tried-and-trusted partner for established production companies in German-speak­ing Europe such as Constantin Film, Pantaleon, Wiedemann & Berg, Hellinger/Doll, UFA Fiction as well as Austria’s EPO FILM. Titles from these production houses handled by PTI have included the FACK JU GÖHTE blockbuster franchise, Sönke Wortmann’s CONTRA, Wolfgang Petersen’s heist comedy FOUR AGAINST THE BANK as well as Simon Verhoeven’s comedy WELCOME TO GERMANY and the biopic about the legendary downhill skiing icon Franz Klammer titled CHASING THE LINE.

“We don’t have any formalised output or first look deals with these production companies,” Andreas explains, “they are long-standing relationships that we have developed with companies operating at the more commercial end of the business.”

At the same time, PTI is continuously scouting and representing international films. Most recent examples include Jordan’s Oscar entry FARHA by Darin J. Sallam’s, the Slovak/Czech Tallinn Black Nights premiere THE CHAMBERMAID by Mariana Cengel-Solcanská’s, the Iranian arthouse thriller and Venice premiere WITHOUT HER by Adrian Vazirdaftari or Toronto premiere THIS PLACE by V.T. Nayani, starring Devery Jacobs. “We tend to want to come onboard projects as early as possible,” Yuan notes about PTI’s acquisitions strategy. “We evaluate a lot of projects and aim to join the most promising ones, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t take finished films as well. However, we prefer to become involved as early as possible to prepare and succeed within a competitive market environment.”

Meanwhile, 2023 is set to become the year when PTI is aspiring to make some strategic moves beyond the international sales business including the set-up of a separate production outfit and closer identification of strategic partnerships towards a more vertically integrated structure in order to ensure that the company is well positioned for the next ten years. “PTI had anticipated production and vertical integration from the very beginning and our venture capital-driven start-up financing had supported this strategy. As a sales agent, you are already constantly acting as a developer and executive producer alongside your main function as a trader, so making these moves is just a logical step,” Andreas concludes.

Martin Blaney