Radiator IP Sales’ Ben Vandendaele discusses short film sales and distribution


In anticipation of the forthcoming edition of the Baltic Pitching Forum, top short film sales agent Ben Vandendaele provides some insight into his working methods

The Baltic Pitching Forum, which will be held between 7th and 9th October in Vilnius, Lithuania, brings some of the freshest talents of filmmaking in the Baltic regions (and beyond) and puts them in contact with leading industry professionals. Alongside the core activity of the event, which will see the participants pitch their projects in front of a panel of industry experts who will also provide live feedback, the Baltic Pitching Forum will also play host to a number of masterclasses focusing on various important aspects of the film business. 

One of these events will see BPF panelist Ben Vandendaele, from Radiator IP Sales, discuss Short Film Sales and Distribution Mechanisms. Available both onsite and online, the presentation will try to touch on all aspects of what a sales agent / distributor can do for a film. This will include the case studies of previous Radiator IP Sales films to explain the bridge that can be created to go from a short to a feature and everything in between.

In anticipation of the presentation, to be held on 9th October at 14:30 (UTC+3),  we caught up with Ben to give us a little insight into Radiator IP sales and to touch upon some of the subjects he’ll be discussing in depth.

BPF: Tell us a bit about your background and what led you to setting up Radiator

Ben Vandendaele: I graduated as an editor at the Rits School of Arts in Brussels and for the first years of my professional career, I was working in a production company. Pretty soon I got an opportunity to produce a short film and in 2009, this all started off with Siemiany by Philip James McGoldrick. After the success of the short, several more short films followed and in 2012 I was fully busy with the production and co-production of short films. This resulted in many more international contacts and led me to start doing the distribution for my films myself and that’s how Radiator IP Sales started to slowly grow with a small catalog of 8 short films. This was around 2015, when more European co-productions started to take off and they were getting selected in many festivals. The catalog grew by several films a year and now contains about 170 films, both shorts and features. 

Some people get confused by the myriad of titles such as ‘Sales Agent’ and ‘Distributor’. Can you help define some of the things that you take responsibility for when you take on a title.

A sales agent is the one who sells the films to TV stations, VOD-platforms, distributors,… In other words, he does not sell directly to the audience, but to a party who shows the film to an audience.

A distributor is the person who distributes the film directly to the audience in various ways. Meaning an own platform or a third party platform. An example of this is Vimeo On Demand, where the distributor showcases his films directly to the audience as TVOD or SVOD.

In most cases, for short films, both are applicable and many sales agents are also distributors.

In my case I take care of everything from the moment we start to collaborate.

Give us a couple of examples of titles that you have already represented

Obviously there is Siemiany which was the first film I produced in 2009 and had great success at festivals, with selections at Berlinale, Clermont-Ferrand, Seattle.  Other titles are Figura and Deer Boy by Katarzyna Gondek, Patision Avenue and Route 3 by Thanasis Neofotistos, In Between and Displaced by Samir Karahoda, On the ropes by Manon Nammour, Brutalia, days of labour  by Manolis Mavris, When night meets dawn  by Andreea Cristina Bortun, Fifteen by Sameh Alaa and many more…

What do you look for in a film when you decide to take it on?

It all depends on many different factors. In most cases it’s like an intuitive choice. When it feels okay, then I would like to see how we can collaborate. The best and  preferred moment is to do things at a very early stage, to be able to be part of the whole process and make sure to get out the maximum that can be achieved with the film.

Many of the films that I am working on are from filmmakers that I previously worked with and this is a key element for me. I want to create sustainable long lasting relationships with directors and producers.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers looking for a sales agent?

Make sure you have a good idea and plan why you want to work with a sales agent and define this for yourself, before contacting any. Check out the different catalogs of the sales agents and see where you might feel good. Try to get information from other filmmakers that have worked or are working with sales agents. Approach sales agents by email and make sure that you are very complete in that email. If you have a film that is ready, then include the link to the film in here, not only a trailer for example.

The Baltic Pitching Forum will take place on October 7-9 at the National Gallery of Art (Konstitucijos pr. 22 Vilnius) and online. Attending is free of charge but pre-registration is required. More about the program – here.

The Baltic Pitching Forum is organised by Lithuanian Short Film Agency “Lithuanian Shorts” in partnership with Riga International Film Festival, Riga International Short Film Festival 2ANNAS, PÖFF Shorts (Tallinn International Film Festival Black Nights) and Estonian Short Film Center ShortEst. It is supported by Lithuanian Council for Culture, Lithuanian Film Center, Sweden-Lithuania Cooperation Fund and Audiovisual Works Copyright Association “AVAKA”, Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture. Partners – Nordisk Panorama Market, Uppsala Short Film Festival, Swedish Film Institute, Creative Europe Desk MEDIA Offices in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.