Written By: Sid Kali
The world of movie distribution is a tough place. After fighting and sweating to finish a movie you're mentally and physically exhausted.
You just want to take a break and rest, but you can't because finishing a movie is only half the battle. It's time to enter the world of movie distribution.
Movie distribution is a tough place for filmmakers new to the grind. It's hard to switch off the creative mind to deal with the business side of selling movies.
What I've learned the hard way is the movie distribution really starts with promoting and marketing a movie.
Social media is an inexpensive way to get the word out about your movie and create a killer viral buzz online.
It's cool to go the film festival route to get your movie seen by viewers and potential film buyers, but over the years from talking to other filmmakers there is a common feeling that the film festival scene is too crowded now.
U.K. filmmaker Wayne Daniells from LiarDice Films told me his last trip to The Cannes International Film Festival was a ruthless feeding frenzy.
There were a glut of movies and producers were fighting to get the attention of movie distributors.
All in all Wayne expressed that it was a waste of time and money pitching his film there. I've heard the same opinion from other filmmakers that are frustrated with the film festival scene and no longer see it as a good way to secure movie distribution.
I personally like the direct route of contacting movie distributors to see if they're interested in being sent a screener. This is where it helps if you have already been promoting and marketing your movie online using social media.
Movie distributors are more interested in acquiring movies that already have a strong online presence.
I'm strictly speaking from a true independent movie perspective. Studio budget movies are an entirely different animal when it comes to the world of movie distribution.
When it comes to movie distribution for an indie produced film the way it normally happens are independent producers and filmmakers take the risk making the movie without any guaranteed movie distribution deal in place.
They usually have to shop it around to sell it. That's been my personal experience so far. I've never created content with a movie distribution deal in place.
It's like writing a screenplay on spec, but you're dealing with a movie. Promoting and marketing a movie through social media is an absolute must.
Start early before you're movie is even finished. That way when you begin contacting movie distributors you're movie will already have more appeal because people are talking about it.
Movie distributors that cater to releasing independent movies do very little marketing for most of the titles they release.
If you're movie doesn't have any actors or celebrity names attached to it then it won't get marketed outside of the standard insert in a movie distributor catalog.
So once you do secure a movie distribution deal you're already giving your movie a boost by promoting and marketing yourself.
My mind is all over the place today, so let me get back to finding a movie distribution deal. Hold up please. A nice Miller Lite would help me focus right now.
That's much better now. There are different ways to land a film distribution deal. You can spend the money doing the film festival route. Deals get struck all the time at film festivals.
But honestly there is a glut of film festivals. The number of film festivals is way out of whack compared to the number of movie distributors that release independent films.
Skipping the film festival circuit works for many independent movie producers that don't have name actors in their film or know their story won't appeal to an art house crowd.
Hiring a film sales representative is a good call if you skip the film festival scene all together. A film sales representative or producer's rep has contacts with movie distributors to get your movie screened.
Plus many of them can get you into magazines like Indie Slate and MovieMaker to make your movie look more appealing to movie distributors.
They also watch your back when it comes to movie distribution agreements. When filmmakers look at movie distribution agreements it can be overwhelming.
There is lots of legalese "mumbo jumbo" in there designed to lessen the amount of money you make from movie royalty payments or a straightforward buy-out of your movie.
Unless you have experience reading movie distribution contracts it's easy to get taken advantage of. I'm in the habit know even if I have a films sales representative like "El Tigre" watching my back I still read all contracts completely.
You will be surprised at the hidden fees and costs some movie distributors try to get over on a filmmaker with in of all places, the contract definitions section.
My film sales rep and I once found a flat fee of $50,000 for marketing costs in the definitions section.
Hiring an entertainment attorney is another good move, but usually is too costly for a truly independent filmmaker. Plus from my own experience an entertainment attorney is not as helpful as a film sales rep with securing a movie distribution deal or getting you some press.
That's not really the job an entertainment attorney. They're great when it comes to negotiating your movie distribution contract. But most won't get you a deal like a film sales rep. You can bring them in after you have a deal on the table.
I had two sharp entertainment lawyers that saved my ass from getting burned when it came to sell a reality show I produced called "America's Wildest Bachelor Parties." They got me a producer friendly contract and got me paid on time each quarter. I'm glad I hired them.
If it's just not in your budget to hire a film sales rep or entertainment lawyer you can still secure meaningful movie distribution hustling hard yourself.
Promoting and marketing your movie online is followed up by putting together a clean and neat film package to send to movie distributors. Keep it simple with a DVD screener, one-sheet artwork, tight synopsis, tagline and very short bios for key cast or crew that have previous IMDB credits.
To get a list of potential movie distributors see what companies are releasing movies in the same genre as yours. The Internet makes it pretty easy to find contact information nowadays.
Movie distribution companies usually have a contact page for film submissions. Follow the guidelines and mail off your film package. They get a flood of film submissions, so be patient if you don't hear back right away.
Movie distributors have certain times they are aggressively seeking films to fill their catalog and other times they have all they need for now. I have the buying months written down.
Once they get your film package they will Google your movie. That's where having been promoting and marketing your movie online really stands out. It takes more than only having a website or blog.
You need some press and backing from online film bloggers to make your movie standout in the eyes of movie distributors.
I dedicated a chapter about movie distribution in a book on indie filmmaking I wrote. It might help you with more detailed movie distribution information. All the best with marketing and selling your movie.
Get the inside scoop on writing, producing, directing, and movie distribution at Slice Of Americana Films. Check out the life and times of filmmaker Sid Kali.
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