Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

How to Work With a Boutique Distributor. Case Study: Preparing to Sell Documentaries at MIPTV & MIPDoc

This week’s focus is on the boutique, international documentary distributor, and particularly on their business model.

Windrose is a Paris and Nurnberg-based firm headed by Pauline Mazenod.

In this unique Case Study, Pauline shares in generous detail her strategy, key business practices, practical advice, and much more.

This post is dedicated to documentary producers who are trying to figure out how to find and work effectively with their distributor.

(First published, March, 2016. Reposted for MIPDoc / MIPTV, 2018. Pauline is a panelist and moderator at the upcoming MIPDoc in Cannes, April 7-8. Here is a link to the MIPDoc program).

windrose 2Windrose sharing a space with Accent Films in the Palais at MIP


Before Windrose

  • French Foreign Affairs ministry in Paris: Pauline focused on European bilateral relations in cinema, culture & science.
  • She saw an opportunity to launch a niche distributor dedicated to quality documentaries.
  • Prior studies: MBA. Undergrad in Poli Sci & Cinema Studies.

Windrose Distribution

  • 9+ years
  • Offices in Paris and Nurnberg
  • Staff: 3


  • Catalog: 600+/- titles
  • Mostly one-offs; a few series.
  • 50% French


Windrose specializes in TV documentaries:

  • High quality.
  • Research-based.
  • Strong in Music & Dance niche.
  • Feature-length documentaries for theatrical release, since 2015-2016
  • No Wildlife.

Recent Highlights

  • Laurent Gbagbo, Dictator or Anti-colonialist sold to Al Jazeera Qatar and others.
  • Waterloo the Ultimate Battle sold to Smithsonian Channel, TV5 Québec, Foxtel Australia, ORF Austria, Al Arabyia, LIC China, Ceska Televize, TVP Portugal, Rai Italy, and many others.
  • Here is the Waterloo link :

Markets Attended

  • Annually: 6+/-
  • Can’t Avoid:
    • MIPCOM
    • Sunny Side of the Doc, La Rochelle: great for French buyers
    • Rendez-Vous, Biarritz
  • Irregularly:
    • IDFA
    • Sheffield
    • Berlinale
    • WCSFP

Cost / Market

  • Depends on the market.
  • Variables include: the registration cost, the stand, print collateral, # films in video library, # people on team, travel costs, etc.
  • Average: 5,000 Euros

Strategic Planning, Development, Production & Distribution
for Documentaries, Specials and Series

Analyze the strengths & weaknesses of your concept.
Develop strategies, business plans & presentations for funders.
Benchmark budgets and timelines.
Define your strategic distribution options.
Plan your attendance at a major market.
Arrange meetings with potential partners worldwide.
Review your creative materials, and much, much more…
Get started right away with an initial review of your project!


  • Depends on the film.
  • Windrose sells in all continents.
  • Strongest markets are German- and French-speaking countries.
  • Most buyers of docs are public TV networks, accounting for around 70% of titles.
  • Windrose also sells to private thematic channels (around 50% of turnover).


  • Smash hits that sell in all territories aren’t possible any longer because each buyer wants something different.
  • We sell all our films, but not to all buyers.
  • The genre and editorial approach shape sales potential:
    • For example, a WW2 D-Day doc might sell across North America and Europe, but Russian buyers won’t like the focus on the Western Front.


  • Mainly TV.
  • Also some Education and Inflight.
  • Not much VOD yet, because the revenues are still very low


  • Windrose earns 30% of license fee revenues, plus around ten percent for costs.
  • For Art/Culture documentaries, which are a particularly tough category to sell, the distribution fee is 50%.


  • The range for documentaries is 30,000-1.2 million Euros
  • The average is 100,000-300,000 Euros

Sources of Catalog (estimate)

  • German territories: 15%.
  • French territories: 50%.
  • Other Europe: 10%.
  • Rest of World: North America, South America: 25%.
  • African producers are highly professional, and are a growing source of high quality, passionate films.
  • No Australian or Asian producers – yet, except one from India.

Typical MIP Schedule

  • Quality meetings from 9am to 6pm every thirty minutes, every day.


  • The key is our long-term market presence
  • Personal relationships are everything
  • You have to be present at markets, over and over again

Marketing Strategy

  • It’s easy to reach the buyers via email, but they are overwhelmed, receiving hundreds of offers every day.
  • They only respond to messages from sellers who they know and trust.
  • The only solution is to be well-known and highly respected for having delivered what you promised over the long-term.
  • You have to show that you anticipate what will work and what won’t work for each client so that you don’t waste their time.

30-minute Meeting Strategy

  • We must have the correct balance of new films.
    • With too few films, we can’t properly fill a 30-minute meeting.
    • With too many, we won’t have time to properly pitch the titles that have the best chance of success.
  • The key takeaway is that in our preparation we have to create the right quality/quantity balance for each client that can be properly presented in 30 minutes.

Preparation for MIPTV or MIPCOM

  • We contact buyers six weeks in advance of the market.
  • Eight weeks is too early.
  • If we wait four weeks, the buyers’ calendars are fully booked.
  • We target the right buyers for our current catalogue, sending each a personalized email.
  • They respect that we’re not wasting their time.

Pitch Prep

  • We work hard on pitches.
  • Each word is important.
  • It’s like being on stage.

Golden Rules

  • Don’t oversell.
  • Be honest!
  • Don’t sell at any cost.

Follow Up

  • The follow up is as important as the pitch.
  • We write to buyers right after the market and try to schedule follow up phone calls within two weeks to one month.
  • It can take a full year after a market to close a deal.

Takeaways for Producers

  • Creative storytelling is a must!
  • Buyers like fresh, imaginative storytelling, within the guidelines for the genre.
  • Producers must create the need for a buyer to sign on to their project. It has to be compelling, original, and new
  • Develop projects specifically for slots, but be original.

List of materials needed from producers

  • Trailer: 3 minutes max
  • One-sheet for each project

Prices: Trends

  • Prices are in most cases falling, but slowly.
  • Slots for Arts / Music documentaries are closing and budgets are dropping.
  • For example, when SBS Australia closed its Arts / Music / Culture / Dance slot, we lost one of the best buyers worldwide in the category.

Pauline’s Takeaways

The secrets of our longevity in a very tough environment are:

  • Small operator with low overhead.
  • Consistent editorial line.
  • Long-term relationships with buyers.
  • Great documentaries with strong story-telling.
  • Films that are smart, interesting and fun.
  • No negative stories: our documentaries must be hopeful.


  • Many thanks to Pauline for so generously sharing her experience and expertise.
  • This post is exactly the drilled-down mix of scarce industry information and practical insight that I hoped to publish when I launched eight years ago.
  • Read more about Windrose here.

More on Distribution

  • Watch our interview with Dr Reiner Moritz, the veteran Music & Fine Arts distributor and producer of hits in the category.
  • He has attended every MIP event since the market was launched in Lyons!
  • Reiner continues to be a great friend and inspiration to

Search for More…

  • Also, use the SEARCH button (above) to find my detailed coverage of key markets.
  • These include Hot Docs, Sunnyside of the Doc, Rendez-vous, MIP, Realscreen, WCSFP, Thessaloniki, AIDC, IDFA, and more.