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COVID-19 Chronicles: CMG President Ed Noeltner on Surviving an Unpredictable Animated Movie Landscape

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COVID-19 Chronicles: CMG President Ed Noeltner on Surviving an Unpredictable Animated Movie Landscape

Beverly Hills-based Cinema Management Group has played an important role in bringing internationally produced animated features to fans around the world since it was founded by Edward Noeltner in 2003. Noeltner, who previously served as president of Senator Films Intl. in Berlin, head of TV at Pandora Cinema in Paris, senior VP of intl. distribution at AB Svensk Filmindustri and senior VP of sales and distribution at Miramax, has overseen the distribution of animated pics such as Adventures in Zambezia, Hoodwinked!, Khumba, The Legend of Sarila, Ratchet & Clank, Loving Vincent and Saving Santa over the past two decades. CMG’s current slate includes intl. titles such as Kayara, Panda Bear in Africa, Ainbo, Seal Team, Canterville Ghost, Noak’s Ark, Salma’s Big Wish and Away.

“I think it’s safe to say that the current crisis is like none other faced by any of us in the recent past,” says Noeltner. “But at CMG, we’ve had to keep the wheels moving with productions underway on all seven of our animated theatricals in many different continents, and it has certainly been daunting trying to tackle all the unique issues while keeping our doors ‘virtually’ open for our staff and clients. Our strategy has been to ‘mitigate risk, protect employees, support our clients: our producers and distributors.’ We pulled together as a team and here’s how:

  • Obsessive About Hygiene – Even before implementing the WFH, we were on board about maintaining a respectful social distance in the office – no handshakes, hand-sanitizers everywhere, we disinfected our door knobs, computer keyboards, desks, and wash, wash, wash!
  • Remote Work Option – For many years at CMG now, we have had a software in place that we all use year-round while we are away at markets and/or festivals that allows anyone on our team, including CMG Europe SAS in Paris, the ability to work hand in hand with our headquarters office in Beverly Hills. With this immediate access, we can continue to work at our desks remotely from home and anywhere in the world.
  • Markets, Festivals and Conferences – HK Filmart, MIPTV, SXSW, Tribeca, Marché du Film / Cannes Film Festival, MIFA-Annecy – CMG had already locked down our annual attendance at all these markets/festivals with deposits for exhibitor booths, festival accreditations, flights and housing for our team’s 2020 attendance. As the lock-down has been extended, we’ve managed to cancel, regrettably, our attendance, flights and accommodations and are in the process of obtaining all the refunds possible. So far, with little exception, organizers, airlines and hotels have been very understanding and accommodating. We will greatly miss meeting with our clients during the coming months but are positioning ourselves to taking full advantage of the Virtual Market in Cannes for both acquisitions and sales. 
  • Shifted Sales Strategy – In light of the canceled markets/festivals, and our personal meetings, our marketing team has been rethinking strategies and using new online tools to reach out in this altered landscape. We’ve been using all of the latest communication tools for checking in with our clients irrespective of business. It’s good to know that at the end of the day, it’s not always about commercial considerations, but fellow humans and humanity at large. Relationships matter and business can follow later. 
  • Mitigating Income Reduction – Our team is working diligently to avoid economic distress in the short term. We are continuing to make sales, applying for government loans and making new relationships with financial institutions who are actively supporting our industry. All employees have found comfort in the fact that their jobs, and the company, are not going anywhere any time soon. Our banking partners have been extremely supportive and have taken the big picture view that we will come out of this if everyone helps each other.
  • Daily Huddle – The CMG team meets every morning on Zoom video calls while we circulate an agenda, brainstorm and strategize our daily and weekly goals. It has been great and reassuring to have the ability to see the team every morning, and yes, we have definitely contributed to the rising share price of Zoom! 😊
  • Agility with Production: Pipeline and Workflow – Our production partners around the globe have done an amazing job in working remotely as well as reassigning aspects of production to different partners to enhance bandwidth. Some work splits have been changed and producers have been very proactive to make these changes.

Noeltner adds that he and his team spend something like 18 hours a day going from time-zone to time-zone catching up with their producers around the world, and he provided us with some photos of his team hard at work online!

For more info, visit www.cinemamanagementgroup.com

CMG Animations team

CMG Animations team

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CMG Animations map

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