The world of film distribution is a tough place. After struggling and sweating to finish a film, you are exhausted mentally and physically.
You just want to take a break and rest, but you can’t because finishing the movie is only half the battle. It’s time to enter the world of film distribution.
Film distribution is a tough place for new filmmakers to work. It’s hard to turn off the creative mind to deal with the business side of film sales.
What I learned the hard way is that film distribution really starts with promoting and marketing films.
Social media is an inexpensive way to spread the word about your film and create a deadly viral buzz online.
Following the film festival route is cool to get your film seen by viewers and potential film buyers, but through the years of talking to other filmmakers, there’s been a general feeling that the film festival scene is now too crowded.
British filmmaker Wayne Daniells of LiarDice Films told me that his last trip to the Cannes International Film Festival was a violent eating frenzy.
There are many films and producers vying for the attention of film distributors.
Overall Wayne stated that it was a waste of time and money wasting his film there. I have heard the same opinion from other filmmakers who were frustrated with the film festival scene and no longer saw it as a good way to secure film distribution.
I personally like how to directly contact the film distributor to see if they are interested in sending a screener. This is where it helps if you have been promoting and marketing your film online using social media.
Film distributors are more interested in buying films that already have a strong online presence.
I’m really speaking from a true independent film perspective. Studio budget films are an entirely different beast when it comes to the world of film distribution.
In the case of film distribution for indie production films as is usually the case, independent producers and filmmakers take the risk of making films without a guaranteed film distribution agreement.
They usually have to go around selling it. That’s my personal experience so far. I’ve never created content with a film distribution deal.
It’s like writing a screenplay on specs, but you’re dealing with a movie. Promoting and marketing a film through social media is an absolute must.
Start early before your movie finishes. That way, when you start contacting film distributors, your film will be more interesting because people are talking about it.
Film distributors serving independent film releases do very little marketing for most of the titles they release.
If your film does not include the names of actors or celebrities, it will not be marketed outside of the standard inserts in the film distributor’s catalog.
So once you’ve landed a movie distribution deal, you’ve already given your film a boost by promoting and marketing yourself.
My thoughts are all over the place these days, so let me rediscover movie distribution deals. Please wait a moment. The good Miller Lite will help me focus now.
It’s much better now. There are various ways to get a movie distribution deal. You can spend money going the film festival route. Bidding gets hit all the time at film festivals.
But honestly there are a lot of film festivals. The number of film festivals is far more than the number of film distributors who release independent films.
Skipping the film festival string works for many independent film producers who don’t have actors’ names in their films or know their stories won’t appeal to the art house crowd.
Hiring a film sales representative is a good call if you missed the film festival scene all together. A film sales representative or producer representative has contact with the film distributor to have your film shown.
Plus many of them can take you to magazines like Indie Slate and MovieMaker to make your movies look more appealing to film distributors.
They also keep an eye on you in terms of film distribution agreements. When a filmmaker looks at a film distribution agreement, it can be overwhelming.
There’s a lot of legal “bullshit” out there designed to reduce the amount of money you make from paying movie royalties or buying your movies outright.
Unless you have experience reading film distribution contracts, you can easily take advantage of them. I used to know even if I had a sales rep for a movie like “El Tigre” watching over me, I still read all the contracts completely.
You’d be surprised at the hidden costs and fees some film distributors try to get filmmakers with all over the place, part definition contracts.
My film sales rep and I once found a flat fee of $50,000 in marketing costs in the definition section.
Hiring an entertainment attorney is another great move, but usually too expensive for a truly independent filmmaker. Plus from my own experience, an entertainment attorney isn’t as helpful as a movie salesperson by securing movie distribution deals or getting you press.
That’s not really the job of an entertainment lawyer. They are great when it comes to negotiating your film distribution contract. But most won’t get you a deal like movie salespeople. You can bring it in once you have a deal on the table.
I have two sharp entertainment attorneys who saved my ass from burning when it came to selling a reality show I produced called “America’s Wildest Bachelor Party.” They gave me a producer friendly contract and got me paid on time every quarter. I’m glad I hired them.
If it’s not within your budget to hire a film sales representative or entertainment attorney, you can still secure meaningful film distribution by rushing yourself.
Promoting and marketing your films online is followed up by putting together a clean and tidy film package to send to film distributors. Keep it simple with DVD filters, single sheet artwork, tight synopsis, taglines, and very short bios for key cast or crew that have previous IMDB credits.
For a list of potential film distributors, see which companies are releasing films in the same genre as yours. The internet makes it quite easy to find contact information nowadays.
Film distribution companies usually have a contact page for film submissions. Follow the guide and submit your film package. They get a lot of movie submissions, so be patient if you don’t hear them soon.
Film distributors have certain times they are aggressively looking for films to fill their catalog and other times they have everything they need right now. I have the month of purchase written.
Once they get your movie package, they will Google your movie. That’s where promoting and marketing your film online really stands out. It takes more than just having a website or blog.
You need some press and support from online film bloggers to make your film stand out in the eyes of film distributors.
I dedicated a chapter on film distribution in a book on indie filmmaking that I wrote. This might help you with more detailed movie distribution information. All the best with your film marketing and sales.