Odyssey Pictures’ CEO John Foster might not be located in New York or Los Angeles, but make no mistake: he and Odyssey are certainly at the forefront of the industry. Concerned with every step of the process from film financing to distribution out of their Dallas base, Foster comes from a rich history of selling film in international markets and has served as a producer’s representative. “I assist them in packaging their product and with DVD sales and advanced commitments,” he said. “Thus we can control our deliveries to maintain a good flow of revenue and return on capital. That part of the business has been elusive to a lot of producers.”
Though most American film producers are familiar with the domestic film market, many are not well-versed in the multifold overseas markets – one area where Foster flourishes. “We find that having being able to produce a consistent product for the open markets and have something to always promote gets us into more of a promotional campaign for product,” Foster noted. “This helps the filmmaker and brings us a better dollar, creating a consistent turnaround.”
Chiefly, Odyssey is interested in films that they can control in a financial sense, namely films with budgets from $3-5 million to a maximum of $12 million. “Anything else is difficult to maintain,” he claimed. One international Odyssey co-production is $15 million, but their assisting with the financing is only around 15%. “The rest of those participants come up with the bulk of the money,” he said.
In terms of their distribution arm, similar to other distributors, Odyssey’s primary focus is to procure product that is already complete. “We get proposed a lot of films and try to give a quick turnaround,” Foster stated, “so product that is ready for market is one of our key interests. Sometimes, we are proposed an arrangement with a film that has gotten into trouble but has done a very good job in the filmmaking stages. We provide all marketing and distribution costs. We have also had experience coming in to provide completion guarantee. We are known for our ability to complete and deliver.”
Not wishing to be pigeonholed into specific types of films, Odyssey considers many types of projects, though they have set buyers interested in family and children’s films. Most of their library consists of English-language films produced in U.S., North America and the U.K., but Odyssey utilizes co-production activities in various countries. “We are not afraid of getting into international-based production,” Foster explained. “It adds to our variety and the various levels of broadcast that we will seek in the cable and TV markets.”
Major Odyssey territories include activity in France, Italy, Germany and Spain, but also Russia and the U.K. including DVD and cable plans for those territories. For their endeavors in the Asian market, Odyssey has a sales agent to handle new material. “We attended the Hong Kong film market – our first exposure there,” Foster said. “We found it to be an exceptionally busy time with a tremendous amount of new buyers and prospects. Our relationships there are open, sincere and on a very professional level. Through our affiliate program, we can also filter into smaller markets that still give us results. We are not spending a fortune trying to attend smaller areas where the return is not as consistent.”
When their films travel overseas, Odyssey often chooses to subtitle given the high cost of dubbing. However, despite the costly and tedious process of dubbing, Foster said that a film becomes more of a sellable or viewable product for the masses after doing so, with less value as a subtitled item.
In imparting his advice to filmmakers, whatever genre a film may be in, Foster stated that Odyssey respects the product for the art that it represents. “Whatever type of film the filmmakers have put their effort into, make sure that you have made every frame mean something,” he recommended. “If you are not totally prepared from start to finish, the end result will not connect to the viewer. That’s what your efforts should be geared towards 1,000% percent.”