It’s almost 18 months since world sales company ARRI MEDIA International was relaunched with a new name – The Playmaker Munich – as a brand within the SL Group whose operations stretch from postproduction through VFX and restoration to camera rental, co-production and world sales under one roof. They may have a new name, but Antonio Exacoustos, The Playmaker’s Head of International Sales and Productions, and his team are still as passionate as ever about their work as a sales company.
“We can now operate in a much freer and more flexible way as an independent limited company within the new group compared to the previous structure,” Exacoustos explains. “We still see ourselves as a boutique sales outfit exclusively handling feature films and we will continue focusing on fiction films in the future” “At the same time, the new name has given us an opportunity to create our own identity and corporate image for how we are seen by people outside the company,” adds Moritz Hemminger, The Playmaker’s Deputy Head of Sales and Acquisitions.
A cursory glance at The Playmaker’s current line-up shows that the films on offer are listed under three headings: “Family & Fun”, “Masters & Talents” and “Thrills & Chills”.
“We are keen to continue working with the leading producers of family entertainment in Germany like SamFilm, blue eyes Fiction and Lieblingsfilm who are now known internationally for the high quality of their productions,” Exacoustos says.
“Before the pandemic we had mainly German arthouse titles in the “Masters & Talents” strand, but we are now more selective in the titles we pick up there,” Hemminger adds.
The past year saw The Playmaker take on international sales for such films as Stefan Jäger’s MONTE VERITÁ, which had its world premiere on Locarno’s Piazza Grande in August 2021, Swiss filmmaker Michael Steiner’s AND TOMORROW WE WILL BE DEAD, which opened Zürich FF last year, as well as Jöns Jönsson’s AXIOM which premiered in the Berlinale’s Encounters competition in February 2022.“Meanwhile, one area we would like to con-centrate more in the future is on genre titles which can be thriller, action, horror, sci-fi or fantasy,” Hemminger explains.
A start had already been made back in 2017 when the company had come onboard Oliver Kienle’s psychological thriller FOUR HANDS on the basis of the screenplay. The debut feature screened at festivals like Tallinn’s Black Nights, Les Arcs, Fantaspoa and Motelx Lisbon and was sold to distributors around the world from the USA to Japan.
Since then, The Playmaker has had growing success with genre films originating from German-speaking territories. For example, Austrian director Magdalena Lauritsch’s English-language sci-fi disaster film RUBIKON was picked up by such leading genre distributors as the USA’s IFC Films, the UK’s Signature Entertainment and Australia’s Rialto Entertainment. And Lukas Rinker’s black comedy real-time thriller HOLY SHIT! sold to distributors in South Korea, Japan, China, France and the Baltic states after its market premiere in Cannes in June.
This commitment to genre cinema has now prompted The Playmaker and its sister company PHAROS to launch the PHAROS SHIVER SCREEN AWARD at this year’s Hof International Film FestivalGenre shorts and first and second features selected for this year’s programme will automatically be in the running for a € 2,500 cash prize which will also include mentoring and option for the handling of world sales by The Playmaker and a first look deal to represent the winner’s next feature film.
“There has been a lot of positive feedback to the initiative,” Exacoustos notes, pointing out that genre cinema is experiencing a real revival thanks to directors like Jordan Peele, Julia Ducournau and Ari Aster as well as German filmmakers like Baran Bo Odar, Christian Alvart or Peter Thorwarth. “We are now seeing more and more filmmakers from the German-speaking area active in this field, so we want to play our part in helping to create more genre diversity in the cinemas,” he concludes.