The following blog originally ran on filmindependent. Special thanks to author Tom Sveen. Another edition of the LA Film Festival is in the books. Audiences applauded and filmmakers left the theaters grinning from ear to ear. But… where do their movies go from here?
Film Distribution: New Rules For Selling Your Film
We are going to share new rules for selling your movie. Before we talk about modern film distribution, a little context…. Back then film distribution was controlled by a bunch of companies that safeguarded access the marketplace. As an independent filmmaker, if you were lucky enough to garner a distribution deal, odds were good the deal was less than satisfying. This was my experience on my first feature. After receiving phone calls from would-be distributors full of empty promises, I started to dislike the predatory nature of traditional film distribution.
Back then, the only alternative to this old film distribution model was self-distribution. And if you remember, the term itself was synonymous with loser. For this reason alone, many filmmakers signed away their rights for the mere validation of seeing their movie in the video stores. And every few months these same filmmakers would receive financial statements in the mail.
The statement would show movie revenue minus marketing expenses. And the bottom line? Zero monies paid to the filmmaker. And this was the indie film distribution paradigm accepted as a rite of passage. Thankfully, times have changed. As a result of internet film distribution and the inevitable demise of DVD retail distribution you can now reach a global marketplace!
When we released our first feature on Amazon and started making sales, it was hard to believe we could do so without a traditional film distribution deal. At first we did not understand the power of modern self-distribution. As it turned out, a few of the distributors who previously rejected us started calling with better offers.
It was at this point, I realized the paradigm was shifting in favor of the filmmaker. Indie filmmakers now had access to the marketplace. That changed everything for me. Since then, developments in inexpensive production technology coupled with access to the marketplace means that you can now make, market and sell your movie without permission. But the problem is, you are not the only filmmaker that knows this. Each year thousands of movies enter the market, making it increasingly challenging to get your movie seen.
You now have the ability to release your movie globally without signing away your rights to an unscrupulous distributor. And even though many distributors would like to pretend otherwise, with a little ingenuity and a strong marketing plan, you can control your own independent movie business. Sourcing your own audience and executing your own marketing, sales and distribution plan is far less sexy than making a movie or filling your closet with filmmaking equipment.
Most filmmakers spend at least two years or longer working to get a movie made. But very few filmmakers focus on what to do once the movie is in the can. Whenever I give talks , I always ask the audience, what is your plan for marketing and distribution? Confused looks. Someone mutters: Every filmmaker wants recognition — even if you refuse to admit it. But with over 5, backyard indies being made each year, I have to ask a tough question:. Most people decide which movies to watch based on recommendations from trusted friends.
Movie studios spend millions to spark word of mouth. But for some reason, most indie filmmakers pretend marketing is not applicable to us. But between procuring an awesome script, raising money and actually making the movie, we often cross our fingers and hope for a miracle. Aside from your mom and kid-sister, nobody knows about your movie. And while I am sure you went to many film festivals and traded post cards with other filmmakers who in return, provided you their post cards , you probably quickly realized two facts:.
These people have kids, jobs, worries, sleepless nights, gym memberships and car payments. So when they sit down to watch a movie, time is limited. Only you can answer that question. But my suggestion is to do your homework before you take the next steps. If you want more info on how to sell your movie, check out the sell your movie system. If you enjoyed reading this article, make sure you grab a copy of my filmmaker checklist.
A Guide to Independent Film Distribution in the 21st Century
It has been said that making a movie is not nearly as difficult as getting it distributed. Because of the enormous amount of cost in money and time involved in distributing a movie, a distributor must feel confident that they can make a sufficient return on their investment. Having the backing of a major studio or a well known director or star can greatly improve the chances of securing a good distribution deal. Independent filmmakers often use film festivals as an opportunity to get the attention of distributors. Once a distributor is interested in a film, the two parties arrive at a distribution agreement based on one of two financial models:. In the leasing model, the distributor agrees to pay a fixed amount for the rights to distribute the film.
We are going to share new rules for selling your movie. Before we talk about modern film distribution, a little context….
Indie Rights, a subsidiary of Nelson Madison Films, is a full service, global distributor with direct relationships to major distribution outlets. Based on the experience of it's founders, Linda Nelson and Michael Madison, the need for a new type of distribution for truly independent films is evident. Thousands of great independent films are made each year and never find an audience. These festivals used to be filled with fresh original voices from new talent, but now act as marketing vehicles for "classic divisions" of major studios or showcases for already established actors, directors and producers.
How Movie Distribution Works
These days, distribution deals vary about as much as snowflakes, no two seem to be the same. But there are still some general categories that help frame the big decisions ahead. In this section we look at the pros and cons of all-rights distribution deal, hybrid distribution and self distribution. But here's one major caveat before you get stuck in. As this guide develops it will eventually have regional-specific advice and guidance but for now we are largely focussing on describing a model of distribution which applies mostly to North America, Western Europe and Australasia, and to parts of Latin America and Asia.
10 Film Distribution Basics
As with a lot of my colleagues, I looked at all the films that had inspired me and assumed a lot regarding how they got out into the world. I assumed there were a lot of rules; I assumed that there was a right and wrong way to approach a distributor and I assumed there was a set way a film was released into the world; and for a long time in independent film, that was the case. No one tells you who is supposed to reach out to whom—do you call the distributors or do they call you? For example, the distribution deal for my first feature came out of a kind yet informal email exchange with someone from The Orchard, but is that typical? At the end of our chat, Rebecca suggested we join forces and create a distribution resource for filmmakers that could help break down the walls between artists and gatekeepers. To create this resource, I reached out to the distributors who are currently acquiring and releasing independent films and asked them a series of questions:. What follows is a breakdown of the distributors who were willing to participate and be transparent in giving an inside look at their process. We reached out to more companies than are listed here: All distributors are welcome on this list regardless of size or release model.
Types of distribution deals
Last spring, he co-founded 30West with entrepreneur and producer Dan Friedkin. The person company buys films, sells them and invests in them at various stages of production. As more and more independent movies are consigned to on-demand debuts or forced to forgo a stint in cinemas, 30West wants to fill a vacuum. Only a handful of the promising films that premiered there walked away with a legitimate theatrical release commitment. Streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon are upending the way movies are viewed and distributed, while an old order, once ruled by the likes of the Weinstein Co.
Sundance: Changing of the Guard Opens Door for Forward-Thinking Players
Distribution and the Indie Filmmaker By: Mark Litwak Many independent filmmakers are surprised at the amount of effort and skill required to secure an equitable distribution agreement. With the dramatic increase in independent production, it is apparent that many filmmakers have mastered the skills needed to secure the money and equipment needed to produce a film. The major obstacle facing many filmmakers is how to secure distribution for their motion picture. This article explores the tactics and strategies that can be used to obtain a favorable distribution deal for the indie filmmaker. In negotiating the distribution deal, the relative bargaining power of the parties is determined by the perceived desirability of the film and how much risk each party is willing to take. With a major studio project, the studio has often borne most, if not all, the financial risk. Typically, the studio pays for development, production and distribution. On the other hand, when a film is developed and produced by an independent Filmmaker, as an entrepreneur the filmmaker bears the risk of failure.
.VIDEO ON THEME: How To Distribute An Independent Movie