“We are one of the few sales companies focusing on family entertainment and animation,” says Norwegian-born Solveig Langeland whose company Stuttgart-based Sola Media will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in the business next year. “The first four years we also did arthouse and documentaries but then we switched to handling purely animation and family films,” she recalls.
“Of course, we have competitors in our particular niche but those companies are also selling documentaries, arthouse and English-language films for adult audiences,” Solveig says, pointing out “there’s often a healthy competition for the same titles, but that makes you go the extra mile, it keeps you focused and maybe a little more hungry!”
“We feel very comfortable with the choice of our product focus because we think that kids are very important as the next generation of cinema-goers and we like to transport values without any kind of moralising,” she continues. “What’s unique about animation is that you can localise it for a particular market which is something you can’t really do with any other genre,” Solveig explains. “You can get some local stars for the voices, change a song or add a song with local artists, and that gives you lots of marketing possibilities in your local market that you wouldn’t have with a live-action film.” With five full-time staff and one part-timer, Sola Media only launches four to five films onto the market each year “which means that we can move very quickly to make changes to adapt to developments in the market.”
The company normally comes onboard animation projects at the script stage because, as Solveig points out, “we can help in the creative process and give advice on the character designs and visuals.” There isn’t such a hard and fast rule when it comes to live-action, although Sola Media did board THE MAGIC FLUTE and THREE WISHES FOR CINDERELLA, and the company also considers pickups on completed films to complete its animation line-up.
At the same time, the company has been involved at different levels in the financing of projects it has acquired for sales by helping the producers to find co-producers or tap into additional financing. Sola Media thus served, for example, as an executive producer on THREE WISHES FOR CINDERELLA and DREAMBUILDERS as well as associate producer on such titles as MANOU THE SWIFT and LATTE AND THE MAGIC WATERSTONE.
Strong working relationships have been built up over the years with such animation industry players as Dirk Beinhold’s Akkord Film (THE ELFKINS and RABBIT ACADEMY – MISSION: EGGPOSSIBLE) and the director Ali Samadi Ahadi with his animated feature film MOONBOUND and the live-action/animation THE MUCKLES – THE QUEST FOR A NEW HOME. “But obviously we are constantly on the lookout for new talents, so it’s very important for us to be at places like Annecy’s MIFA and Cartoon Movie,” Solveig says. “Being in business now for 20 years means that we are on many people’s radar, but we are still actively going out to look for business.”
What’s for certain is that the animation world holds Solveig and her team in high regard as shown by her peers voting for Sola Media to be honoured as Distributor of the Year at the Cartoon Movie market in Bordeaux in 2019. And films in Sola Media’s line-up have gone on to make their mark at the box-office around the globe. In 2022, MOONBOUND and RABBIT ACADEMY – MISSION: EGGPOSSIBLE were the second and third most successful German films internationally only beaten to pole position in the Top 5 Films by Pablo Larrain’s SPENCER. “MOONBOUND had a very successful release in France with 600,000-plus admissions, and also did well in territories like Turkey, Spain, Poland and Sweden,” Solveig recalls. “We had received the selective scheme support from Creative Europe MEDIA which enabled us to produce many marketing assets like lots of little clips and elements for social media.”
“Marketing assets are a key to our success,” she concludes. “We spend a lot of time working with agencies to create material that people can use. Since we are in a visual business, it’s important to have good, strong visual materials.”