Ronal challenges the market

IN THE PIPELINE. Ronal might well be a wuss with low self-esteem, but that's hardly the case with the team behind "Ronal the Barbarian", a new 3D animation feature coming out in autumn 2011. After a busy week at AFM, sales agent Tine Klint is no less confident that the film's international outreach strategy, which involves three language versions, is paying off – learning all the while the subtle nuances of swearing on film.

"It's been fantastic," says a jetlagged Tine Klint, managing director of the Danish sales agency LevelK. "I met with so much interest from buyers, and the film is already pre-sold to Russia and the Baltic countries."

"The film is a spoof on traditional adventure stories, and that's something most people recognize as funny."

Tine Klint is just back from the American Film Market in Santa Monica launching Einstein Film's "Ronal the Barbarian", a 3D stereoscopic animation feature directed by Philip Einstein Lipski, Thorbjørn Christoffersen and Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen. The film is in the vein of the latter two's "Terkel in Trouble" and "Journey to Saturn".

But whereas these films weren't specifically targeted for international markets, this is very much the case with "Ronal the Barbarian".

English, Spanish and Danish version

Scripted by the three directors, the film follows the unlikely hero Ronal, whom fate has chosen to save his fellow villagers from enslavement by the evil Lord Volcazar.

From the outset, the film will be produced in two languages – English and Danish – to increase its international potential and to give it a better shot at attracting buyers early on. Consequently Tine Klint brought teasers in English with her to the AFM, but also a specially made teaser in Spanish.

"I suspect that this is one of the first real attempts to make different language versions from the very beginning," says Tine Klint. "The teasers that I showed illustrate the full potential of the film, its sassy humour and storyline. What you see is essentially what you get – and in a language you understand and that fits naturally. This proved to be very convincing, and it gave us lots of positive response," says Tine Klint.

"The teasers are an essential part of our online marketing strategies. We want to place them on various niche websites, like fantasy sites and blogs connected to selected festivals, and hopefully create a buzz among potential audiences who will start asking about the film and where they can see it. If the distributors can sense that there's a positive demand even before the film is out, they're more likely to buy later on and pay a better price."

Humour as a driving force

Holding the key to commercial success is only half the way. For the film to attract attention in the first place, there's obviously more to it. In the case of "Ronal the Barbarian", a driving force in the film is humour. A cultish and mischievous humour at that, which the filmmakers hope will strike a chord with a broad international audience.

"Luckily, people found it very funny," says Tine Klint about the reactions at AFM. "The creators are very conscious about the gags being widely understandable. In 'Journey to Saturn' you'll find the same kind of humour, but with more local jokes, about the Danish prime minister and so on. You won't find that in 'Ronal the Barbarian'. Here you have a universal story about an anti-hero with no real admirable traits – physical nor otherwise – who nonetheless ends up saving the day. The film is a spoof on traditional adventure stories, and that's something most people recognize as funny."

Acceptable swearing

A main concern for Tine Klint as an international sales agent is getting the age rating as low as possible when targeting a market like the US. This will bring in a better price from the distributors.

"One of the things I took home from AFM was that we have to be very particular with the slang we use in the film. For instance, the barbarians use the f-word in the English teaser version, and that, I found out, is completely taboo, at least if you're aiming at a low rating. 'Screw you' is much more acceptable! To me as a European it sounds pretty much the same, but in an American context there's a huge difference. So I guess Ronal and his barbarians will be swearing accordingly in the film, but without losing their edge," says Tine Klint.

English trailer