International Women’s Day: Meet Altitude

This International Women’s Day, we decided to chat with some of the amazing women who play fundamental roles in shaping our company. From international sales to UK distribution, meet the team below!

VICKI BROWN, Director of International Sales

What do you do?

I’m the Director of International Sales which means I sell a film’s distribution rights to buyers around the world so they in turn can show the film to their local audiences. It’s a job that sits across the creative and business side of the industry. I assess scripts and projects that come in to see what I think it will sell for internationally and work with international distributors on the release of the film we sold them in their country.

Why do you do it?

I enjoy finding the right home for a film and seeing it released around the world. The benefit of working in international sales is that it gives you a great overall picture of the whole film business chain from production through to exhibition. I love the ability to travel to various film festivals and markets and learning about different audience tastes and habits.

Who helped you get here?

This industry is notoriously difficult to get into and it often feels like it’s more about who you know than what you know. It would be unfair to single out one individual as I was very fortunate to have worked with some wonderful colleagues over the years who were incredibly supportive and encouraging.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Ha! But seriously, as William Goldman said, no one knows anything so don’t sweat the small stuff and trust your instincts.

EMILY COMPTON, Head Of Operations & Events

What do you do?

I am Head of Operations and Events, which is kind of an umbrella title for Counsellor, Workflow Creator, Contract Negotiator, Brief Writer, Email Extraordinaire, Sound and Grade Approver, Event Devisor and Implementor, Playdate Organiser, and occasional Tea Maker.

Why do you do it?

It is a rare thing to find an industry and role that truly compliments a split personality such as mine. I am aware that I have an organised and deadline motivated side, that has a clear and streamlined vision. Everything is based in tangible, cold, hard, facts. I have an understanding of what needs to be done, and I am quite prepared to roll up my sleeves to do it. But then I also have a more creative and sensitive side, that listens out for nuances in sound mixes, wonders whether the blue of that shot is blue enough and if the camera positions allow for the perfect shot of the talent on stage.

So why do I do it? Well for personal gain and a feeling of being stretched in all areas, along with a love of the team and a belief in what we are doing. It feels like a bit of a no brainer really.

Who helped you get here?

I don’t think I can highlight one person in particular but I can definitely highlight two in recent years. Lia Devlin and Hamish Moseley. They contacted me and tempted me back to the work place after having a child. At the time Altitude Distribution was a much smaller team, and from the very beginning they created a feeling of us all being in it together. Over the years they encouraged me to grow with the company, and into this role.

There are not many single parents in the industry and the balance can be hard. The luxury of time is sometimes in short supply. However with the right support and guidance it is completely possible, it seems, to have it all. Even if the all is a little frazzled and toothpaste stained around the edges at times.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

It’s on you! It’s a small and busy world so be kind. Whilst you can’t always control the outcome of things, you can always control how you react to them. Take confidence in that power. And when in doubt never underestimate the positive effect of waking 15 min earlier than usual to do a spot of yoga.

LIA DEVLIN, Head Of Theatrical

What do you do?

I’m the head of theatrical on the distribution side, which means I oversee the theatrical releases from strategy to execution. In essence it’s a senior coordination role that crosses the many facets and includes business, creative and operations.

Why do you do it?

Going to ‘the pictures’ as a child blew my mind and to this day very few things come close to the experience of cinema for me. There are so many facets to the industry, every film is different and that combined with a dynamic media landscape means there’s rarely a dull moment. It’s those things, combined with working with tribes of creative, friendly, brilliant people, that keep it fulfilling.

Who helped you get here?

Lots of people over the years have supported and inspired me but if I had to name one I would say my boss in my first independent film job, Sam Nichols. She gave me the job that set me in this direction and also, as the saying goes, ‘you need to see it to be it’. I didn’t appreciate at the time how rare it was to have a female MD. She was young too, a real trail blazer and her influence has stayed with me.

There are also a number of people who have supported me after I had children. Whilst many women were/still are having to choose between having a family and career I was lucky to be given autonomy and the opportunity to balance being a parent with meeting the demands of work. That’s something I am hugely grateful for, especially in an industry that is known for being discriminatory.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

I’d advise people develop expertise in a chosen area but avoid getting too siloed. Make efforts to learn about the bigger picture from your seniors and colleagues in other departments and develop your people management and leadership skills.

Also if you ever doubt yourself gen up on imposter syndrome. Take comfort in the fact that 70% of people around you, including people you admire, have it too.

MADDY FINLAY-HUDSON, Distribution Assistant

What do you do?

I am a Distribution Assistant for the UK Theatrical team, so I have my fingers in all the metaphorical pies. Firstly, I oversee a lot of the creative work we use across our social media channels. I help to design assets, write copy and research exciting things to share with our followers. I also help with events, interviews and junkets — as well as interviewing talent and directors to share on this blog. I read scripts and research material for Acquisition and Development and offer reports and coverage.

Why do you do it?

I have wanted to work in the Film Industry since I was about 6 years old and I decided I hated the ending of Titanic, so I wrote an alternative ending and performed it for my family — with an entire cast of teddy bears and Barbie dolls. So, ultimately I do this job as it allows me to explore my strengths and my weaknesses every day. Each day is different, sometimes it’s hard but my love of film gets me out of bed every day and the rest just follows suit.

Who helped you get here?

As a child, we watched 4 films a week, every week. My mum would then ask me about each film, we’d discuss the story, the characters, and the cinematography. From this I’d then spend hours writing scripts and plays based on what I’d seen and she would always support me. She’s my biggest fan and my biggest critic — so she’s integral in my career as I don’t ever want to disappoint her.

But, then there is also Geraldine Moloney, from the Film Distributor’s Association. She helped me get this job, she pushes me to do the best I can and she is never too busy to help me. Thanks to her I have begun my career and for that I will always be grateful.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

I’ve always pushed myself to live a life that’s more exciting than just existing. So I’d say my advice would be to constantly try new things, find the creativity and excitement and then utilise that passion to keep pushing forward. Rejection is a real thing, but so is talent and motivation — don’t ever let anyone put out the fire you have inside to do what you love.

BRYONY FORDE, Director of Theatrical Sales

What do you do?

I’m Director of Theatrical Sales which means I help decide when to release our films in the UK & Ireland and then persuade cinemas to show them.

Why do you do it?

It combines a lot of my favourite things — working on great films, talking to excellent people, and spreadsheets!

Who helped you get here?

My first job in the film industry was working for Cinema For All in Sheffield with Jaq Chell, a badass who has turned that organisation from a one woman band to an ever growing team helping people show films in their communities. I still beat her at Oscar predictions to this day. I’m also very lucky to have had great bosses, mentors and cheerleaders in theatrical sales — Jeremy Baum, Dave Jarmain, Andy Leyshon and Scott Sargeant.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

A lot of people in the industry find their way in through FDA Internships and similar schemes, keep an eye on those and the Independent Cinema Office jobs website. Getting in can be hard but once you’ve got your foot in the door get to know as many people as possible in lots of different companies, it’s a small industry and being known and liked amongst peers can really help when new jobs come up.

KARINA GECHTMAN, Head Of International Marketing & Publicity

What do you do?

My role is to work closely with filmmakers from an early stage of production to establish the pre-launch strategy and create marketing materials for a film that doesn’t yet exist.

My experience has taught me that far from being an afterthought, marketing and publicity play an essential role in the filmmaking process and provide so much added value. From script package, through production to world premieres, I collaborate with directors, producers, financiers and distributors to identify key elements in each film and it’s audience to position the project and make it stand out in an extremely crowded and competitive marketplace.

Why do you do it?

I enjoy being part of the creative filmmaking process yet wearing the more business / marketing hat on. My career started in the studio system which allowed me to work on some big projects with very ‘healthy’ marketing budgets but I realised that I didn’t care for the films. I then moved on to work on independent films and each project has been like a baby to me. I particularly like working with new directors as they tend to push boundaries and reinvent the rules.

It’s very fulfilling to go on a journey with a film from development stage and be there as it’s filmed and edited to then give life to it and launch it to public audience. The excitement (and stress) of unveiling a new film at a premiere is a very rewarding moment.

Who helped you get here?

My mum who always pushed me not to compromise and reach out for my dreams.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

Simple — don’t be afraid to ask questions.

VICTORIA HAMILTON, Office Intern

What do you do?

I am the general intern for Altitude Film Entertainment. I work with all the different departments doing a range of tasks from research, creating images, script coverage, scheduling for events and upkeep of the office. I occasionally get to work on editing marketing material and go on trips to see various stages of the process of making a film.

Why do you do it?

I want to learn more about the film industry and all the different aspects of getting a movie to the cinema. Being at Altitude enables me to try new things and learn about parts of the industry I haven’t had experience working in yet. I have always loved films and got interested in marketing at an early age though photography, I love being able to hear and see how each stressful part of the process works.

Who helped you get here?

I have had the pleasure of being assisted by multiple talented people in the industry that have helped me get into Altitude. Two amazing people Iria and Nahrein, helped me get started in the industry through a course at Film London and introduced me to Maeve. Maeve has been incredibly helpful in providing me with learning opportunities and support throughout my two months here, it has been amazing so far and I’m looking forward to the future with everyone in the Altitude office.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

Many companies know how hard it is to get into the industry so there are more and more programs available to get you started. Internships are also a great and fun way to get to know what’s out there. Good luck!

MARTHA HOOD, Development Executive

What do you do?

I’m the Development Executive in the production arm of Altitude. Primarily I find material to develop into a film or TV series (this could be books, articles or original ideas) which means my desk is a leaning tower of books and scripts. I then work with screenwriters to help get their scripts the best they can be. There’s a talent spotting element to my job as well.

Why do you do it?

I’m obsessed with stories and I love how accessible cinema/TV makes these stories. They teach us how to navigate the world and how to better understand one another.

Who helped you get here?

I have been incredibly lucky to have met and worked with a hugely supportive industry network. However, if I was to pinpoint one person it would have to be my mum. She’s a total (sometimes terrifying) force of nature and I wouldn’t have been able to take the leap of faith into film/TV without her encouragement.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

Knowledge really is power. If you want to work in development, read and watch absolutely everything you can get your hands on — fact and fiction. Read the scripts of your favourite films & TV shows, you’ll be surprised by what you learn even if you can already quote them back to front. Also, even if you know you want to work in development, don’t turn down other opportunities when they present themselves. It’s invaluable to learn about other production roles or how a Sales Agent & Distributor work. There is no one path towards your goal.

SUDE KARADINC, Distribution Assistant

What do you do?

Where should I start? I am a Distribution Assistant, which means I oversee many jobs. Firstly I am responsible for diary management of film festivals and markets. I help to organise premieres, interviews, junkets and press screenings as well as make sure that the essential things are arranged from booking to payment. I also track upcoming projects for the Acquisition Department; compile technical documentation and agreement deals. And last but not least I read scripts, and write blogs for the marketing team for the UK Theatrical department.

Why do you do it?

To create and make progress every single day! I have a huge passion for analysing cinematic elements (such as camera angles, colours, camera movement etc.) while watching movies; that’s why I always knew that I wanted to work in the film industry. I do this job because it is fascinating to leave your mark on this world with remarkable movies.

Who helped you get here?

My mother used to be a fan of European cinema and would talk about Hollywood stars throughout my childhood. However, I cannot neglect the huge help of the Altitude family. I feel beyond lucky as I am working with amazing people who are always helpful and encouraging.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

Improvement is based on thousands of failures, so push yourself out of your comfort zone; stop letting insecurities control your life; and most importantly, be kind and hard-working!

MAEVE LEWTAS, Executive Assistant

What do you do?

Executive Assistant to our two CEOs. Plate spinner/problem solver/safe pair of hands/calm with horses.

Why do you do it?

Well! I can say I have been on quite a journey over the past three years at Altitude… Initially I took this role in order to get back into the habit of working full time after taking a career break to care for my children. It has been a great role to get back into the swing of things, and get an overview of the industry so I could decide what to do next. I am now enrolled on the Script Development Diploma course at the NFTS, and enjoying exploring this side of the industry both through my work here and my studies.

Who helped you get there?

I have known our Chairman and CEO Will Clarke for 15 years and worked with him in various guises at Optimum Releasing, Studio Canal and now at Altitude. This has given me a unique opportunity to understand the workings of the independent film industry in the UK. During these years, I have worked with some incredible teams of talented, supportive, exceptional people and have developed lifelong friendships and working relationships.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

I think this quote by Anne Lamott sums it up nicely for me.. “What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65 .. and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?” To this, I would add: Don’t be shy. Don’t let anyone else define you, and don’t forget to hustle! If you don’t ask, you don’t get. At the very least, people usually have time for a coffee and a chat.

ALICE WERDINE, Marketing Assistant

What do you do?

To put it very briefly, I work in the theatrical marketing team to support our releases — from exhibitor marketing and POS to partnerships and social media. I also manage all the social media accounts, and this blog.

Why do you do it?

I’ve always wanted to work in film, but as a Latina in Europe, a career in film was always completly out of the picture (unless I wanted to go back to Brasil, which I firmly did not). So I put that dream aside and focused all of my attention on a new passion — Psychology — until one historic day in my final year of Uni, a magical envelope arrived on my doorstep; I was now the proud owner of a beautiful, red, EU passport. I then did a 180 on my career plans and ran head-first into developing a career in film in London, without fully knowing what that could even look like. Fortunately, I have found that Film Marketing offers me a great balance between my passions: not only do I have to think creatively about films and film culture, but also I have to think critically about human behaviour. Marketing is ultimately an exercise in trying to understand and communicate with people. And the challenge of getting films through to an audience in this noisy, messy market is fun.

Who helped you get there?

There are a lot of people who have helped me get to where I am today. But one person that really stands out is Anna Bogutskaya; she has guided me in my career in more ways than she can imagine.

But also (and most importantly) my parents, who moved across the Atlantic with four young children, away from their family, culture and language, so that we had access to the best lives possible.

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

Find mentors — people who will listen to you, allow you to be honest, are honest in return, and hold the door open just long enough for you to squeeze into ‘the room where it happens’ (yep, I quoted Hamilton).

But also: know your worth, keep your head high and learn when to say no.

LAURA WILSON, Head Of Acquisitions

What do you do?

I’m Head of Acquisitions which means it’s my job to find projects, from script stage through to completed films for sales and/or distribution. It’s a creative role as I read a lot of scripts and watch a lot of films to assess which ones might be a good fit for Altitude. It also requires business and finance skills as I evaluate what makes sense commercially and negotiate deals.

Why do you do it?

I always knew I wanted to work in film but really narrowed it down to acquisitions as I learnt more about the industry. It combines a lot of my skills but also a lot of my passions; working with creative people, developing projects, following audience trends and of course film itself. I’m very lucky as I get to travel to different festivals and watch a lot of interesting movies.

Who helped you get there?

I am very fortunate to have worked in communicative, collaborative teams where my voice has been valued, even from my first internship & co-ordinator roles. Information & access is essential in order to develop and I have always felt part of a conversation. So, lots of people really. My Mum definitely set me on the path though with her extensive collection of VHS tapes!

What’s one advice you would give to someone trying to get to where you are?

Always work hard, even if no one is watching, it will not go unnoticed in the long run.

UK & IE Distribution arm of Altitude Film Entertainment. Coming soon: @rocksthefilm, @DavidALifeFilm, Calm With Horses & more!

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