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Troy Lum left Dendy Films last month after a five year stint as head of acquisitons and distribution, to start a new distribution company, Hopscotch, in partnership with Frank Cox of New Vision. This is the diary of his first (tumultuous) day in his new job at the Cannes Film Festival.

Diary, May 15, 2002:
They say that things happen in threes. Today is the first day of Cannes; it’s the launch of my new company, Hopscotch; and it’s my 28th birthday. I hope it’s a good omen. Film distribution makes you superstitious. I think it’s because there are so many variables that a distributor can’t control that one must place some faith in the supernatural just to maintain sanity.

I pray for rain on the opening weekend of films that I release. I never cut my hair during its opening week. At market screenings I sit three rows from the back in an aisle seat. I touch a button on my shirt when I sign a deal memo. I never buy a film with Jennifer Jason Leigh in it.

8.30 am – 8.30pm
On the way to my first meeting I see a woman with three dogs and two handbags. She looks 25 from the back but 60 from the front. It’s Cannes baby, where arthouse meets tarthouse. I also see three other buyers; we exchange information like addicts giving directions to the next hit. I manage to cross three films off my hotlist. Film X is a piece of shit, Y is sold to Miramax and Z is classified by one buyer who saw it as ‘straight to radio’. We shrug – “there’s nothing here” we all agree. Time to see our dealers.

I have eight meetings back to back and the hotlist seems to get smaller. “Oh, it’s three hours long and it’s from Ubekistan”. I have a meeting with a bloke who I swear has had five lines of coke before we started. He pitches me five titles at top speed and in precise detail. He tells me every plot nuance and his crew details are so precise I fear he is going to tell me who the gaffer is going to be. He pitches me the same film twice but I don’t have the heart to interrupt him.

I realise that no-one from Europe knows what Hopscotch means so I end up throwing an imaginary rock on the floor of every office and I hop around like an idiot until people understand.

Everyone is very supportive though and I’m getting excited about my new life. I realise that most of the people I deal with I consider to be friends and that is a rare privilege. And yes, I do realise that they’re selling to me and it’s kind of their job to be supportive but I really do feel genuine goodwill from them all – why not? It’s a mad game and we are all inmates in the same asylum.

In a dark moment during meeting No. 7, I wonder how long I can live off the kudos of buying Amelie from script. Probably until MIFED and then it’s meaningless. I also use the term ‘product’ instead of film and I wonder whether I am turning into Satan himself. 

During these meetings the mobile rings almost hourly. All my friends and family are calling from Australia to wish me a happy birthday. It’s hard to say ‘I love you’ in front of sales agents but after five birthdays in Cannes I am used to it. I chat to my sister as I lean out of a window at the Carlton. I see a convertible with five girls in bikinis move slowly down the Croisette; there are actors being photographed across the road and a poodle is taking a crap on the pavement. I don’t tell her about anything I see because out of context it makes no sense.

The promo I am meant to be watching is too loud. “HAVE YOU BOUGHT ANYTHING?” she screams down the line. She is barely audible so I pretend not to hear. I wonder if I can start a film distribution company without any films.

I have a birthday dinner with some friends and it’s just great. After five years in the business I finally feel like I belong. But with a cold shudder it also dawns on me that this is a life sentence. I have never done anything else except buy and distribute films. I don’t even know how to do anything else. An accordion player strikes up a tune outside and it’s pretty shit; in fact it’s very shit but I have one of those moments when I catch myself and realise that I have a weird and wonderful job.

12 midnight
On the way to the Petit Majestic my mum calls and finally the day feels complete. “Happy birthday,” she says. “How’s it going?” I almost know what she’s going to say next but the birthday champagne has gone to my head and it catches me off guard. “HAVE YOU BOUGHT ANYTHING?” My worlds have collided.

“No mum, I haven’t seen any movies yet!”

Published May 17, 2002

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Troy Lum

Troy Lum did indeed acquire some Australian/New Zealand film rights for Hopscotch:

Bowling for Columbine

The Little Chinese Mistress

Long Way Home

As at June 2002, release dates have not been set.



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