Thursday, 1 December 2011

Tip #100: Free film school

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

This is the 100th and final production tip in the making of our low budget film Ambleton Delight.

One question we have often been asked is, should I go to film school? Those in our production team have been to a film school of some sort. Itsuka Yamasaki and Sinead Ferguson went to Raindance and Kieron James studied acting at ACT (Academy of Creative Training) and I went to Brighton Film School. However, we would all undoubtedly say the same thing... that we learned more making this film than we ever did in the classroom, as this blog will testify.

So why go at all? The answer really depends on what you want out of it. If you are wanting specific information or instruction or a particular qualification for credibility, then the answer is definitely yes find the right school or course and go for it. But if you are wanting to learn about practical film production, this will very rarely happen in a typical film school environment. And be particularly careful of film schools or courses run by those who have made super low-budget films, especially if they are charging you an amount that makes you question whether the last part of the course will also recommend setting up your own course to recoup production expenses! We made our film very cheaply which is why we have been happy to provide all information for free.

The best idea is to either get involved in film production in some form, such as through work experience, as a runner or production assistant or to make your own film from scratch. But either way, read as much as you possibly can about filmmaking -not just online but in books- and watch as many film extras such as the behind-the-scenes featurettes as possible. Then go out there and put it into action. It is the hardest way to learn, but it is definitely the best.

This blog as covered each area of production along the way of making our film, so if you need some ideas of how to do it, and how not to do it, check this complete list of tips:

Intro to blog
1. Use what you've got


2. First Draft
3. Writers block

4. Production software
5. Naming a film
6. Production team
7. Financing
8. Public funding
9. Self funding
10. Product placement

11. Short or feature
12. Naming characters
13. Script
14. Budget

15. Locations as characters
16. Finding locations
17. Key locations
18. Seamless locations
19. Unorthodox location scout
20. Location permission
21. Location tips

22. Casting
23. Production design
24. Character design
25. Low budget design tips

26. Sets
27. Auditions
28. Named actor
29. Rehearsals
30. Contracts
31. Actor's agents
32. Crew


33. Cinematic camera
34. Tapeless workflow
35. Second unit
36. Storyboards
37. Shot lists/schedules
38. Send out good press releases
39. Low budget make-up options
40. Call sheets

41. Catering
42. Lighting kit
43. Lighting techniques
44. Props
45. Sound
46. Wardrobe
47. Filming rain
48. 'Guerrilla' filming
49. Film and production stills

50. Director with a vision
51. Director communication
52. Directing basics
53. Acting
54. Successful actor
55. Prima donna actor
56. Night shoots
57. Day-for-night
58. Actors
59. Extras
60. Continuity
61. Making Of
62. Paperwork


63. Editing workflow
64. Editing tools and techniques
65. Sourcing music
66. Special effects
67. Bands and solo artists
68. Tailor-made film score
69. Scoring to picture

70. Colour grading (timing)
71. Final sound mix
72. ADR
73. Voice over
74. 5.1 surround sound
75. Audio commentary

76. DVD master
77. DVD copies
78. Formats
79. Blu-ray
80. Subtitles
81. Film logo
82. Film poster
83. Trailer
84. Credits
85. Website
86. Social networking
87. Free software

88. Artwork permission
89. Final cut
90. Test audience
91. Premiere
92. Film festivals
93. Distribution
94. DVD artwork
95. Classification
96. Copyright

97. Communication
98. Haters
99. Mistakes
100. Free film school

Any corrections or dead links etc please let us know.

And don't forget our videos as well:

Thank you to all the contributors to the blog and those who have been following. We wish you all the best in whatever film(s) you are making and hope that this blog has some part in making your creative dreams come true!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tip #99: Learn from our mistakes

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

As cast and crew we are all very proud of the film we produced. Not only the way it was made and for how little, but the final product is something we are very satisfied with, as in many cases it has exceeded expectations. However, that doesn't mean it couldn't have been a lot better!

In fact, from my perspective as the director I think there were 10 key mistakes that I was personally involved in making:

1. Under-developed script
The script was an adaption of a short film concept that itself was based on a true story. It was written in a matter of months and although we had many different drafts and long script editing sessions with three writers, the producers and a script supervisor present the fact remains that a lot more could and should have been done. It should have been a lot shorter, several scenes could have been reduced or collated together and in particular dialogue condensed to avoid unnecessary repetition. (see tip #13).

2. Name of the film
A film title should be memorable and this one just isn't. People struggle with it. It was originally entitled "Apple Pie" but this seemed too simple and it went through several different versions until resting on a fictitious village name and the name of the dessert. It was a nice idea...but if people can't remember it, then it doesn't work (see tip #5).

3. Too many locations and characters
We tried to keep the number of locations and characters to a minimum, with several characters condensed into one, but somehow these aspects of the production kept expanding and in the end made a lot more work for everyone involved (see tip #15).

4. Target audience
We never really addressed who our target audience was, other than those who enjoy the generic "drama" genre. This was probably due to the "inspired by a true story" and "passion piece" elements of the production, but that is no excuse. We should have identified our audience more, as this is crucial for marketing the film later, and also for considering classification (see tip #95).

5. Logo clearance
During the production we did try to avoid including logos and brands that could cause issues, but we just weren't vigilant or inventive enough, especially in two particular cases involving beer and TinTin pajamas that lead to headaches in post-production (see tip #88).

6. No sales agent
This was a biggie. It was not until the film was well done and dusted that there was even a mention of "a sales agent" and we still didn't even know who or what it meant! In actual fact we shouldn't have even finished the first draft before organising one. By all means don't make the same mistake of neglecting to learn about this before entering production (see tip #92)

7. Gave away our budget
When we completed the film on so little -despite assurances that we couldn't do it- we thought this was a positive aspect of the production that we could use to help the profile of the film. So early press releases and film trailers mention the next-to-nothing budget. It might work for a zombie film made on £45, but for a serious village-based drama we actually shot ourselves in the foot. Since the film does not look low-budget we were selling ourselves short and giving the wrong impression. And that's exactly what happened. (see tip #14).

8. Too festival focused
Still unaware of what a sales agent was we instead focused on film festivals, mistakenly believing this would lead to more opportunities. We played the "premiere" game aiming for festivals that could premiere the film. While it wasn't a total failure, actually our time and money would have been better spent getting a sales agent and proper distribution. (see tip #92).

9. Indie distributor
We eventually settled for an indie distributor which seemed like a good decision at the time, but in reality at our present rate we are probably unlikely to make even our budget back any time soon. Personally, I think it would have been better if we had gone the self-distribution route, even though such an option has definite drawbacks (see tip #93).

10. The blog and social media
Our low budget film production blog has from the very start worn its heart on its sleeve, detailing the mistakes, agony and pitfalls of making a next-to-nothing budget film, as well as sharing what worked for us with the hope that other filmmakers might join in with more advice. Instead many fellow filmmakers have at best misinterpreted our intentions, at worst used it as a platform to launch insults and abuse (see tip #98).

So was this blog a waste of time, a mistake? Well from the positive feedback I am sure there are filmmakers who will benefit from it, as there is everything we would like to have known if only someone else had told us before we started. But the fact is that while modern web-based social media has brought everyone closer together, that also means you are brought close to some real nutters! So in all honesty, I would recommend creating and maintaining a distance when it comes to social media, as the emotional cost of dealing with on-line immaturity is sometimes just not worth it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tip #98: Prepare for the haters

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

It is a disturbing aspect of being a filmmaker, but unfortunately the not-so-simple act of making a film will automatically put you in line for possible abuse, either directly, or more likely indirectly, (as with website 'trolls').

You may also think that this would more likely come from disgruntled and anonymous audiences who dislike the end product. The fact is that the four main sources of abuse will come from possibly surprising quarters: fellow filmmakers.

Constructive criticism
Before looking at some specific examples we must emphasise the importance of constructive criticism and how this differs from insulting or attacking filmmakers or their films. There is a simple saying frequently used on film sets: "Don't give me a problem, give me a solution". This shows how the following examples certainly differ from constructive criticism which should be warmly welcomed by all filmmakers. I personally encourage people to criticise and comment on my work and will take onboard such advice (refer to a recent blog about test audiences here) especially when they give practical suggestions and solutions to what they think isn't working or could be done better.

However this is completely different from those who make unfounded, aggressive and in many cases just plain insulting comments. Their intent is not to help the film or the filmmaker but -just the same as the proverbial school bully- to make themselves feel better by putting others down. Which is not only childish but a real shame to discover that such immature behaviour exists within an industry that thrives on teamwork. In many cases it stems from bitterness, jealously and issues that are more their own making and irrelevant to the filmmaker or film they are attacking.

1. From cast (the "prima donnas")
We have already covered the fact that unfortunately there are actors who can suddenly turn abusive over imagined ill-treatment. Unlike the other three sources, this can be a particular problem for a low budget production if it requires recasting. For more information on dealing with prima donnas check here.

2. From crew
During the making of Ambleton Delight the production team extended every effort to make cast and crew feel as comfortable and appreciated as possible -despite the fact that this can be a very difficult task when working on such a low budget.

The general response has been very positive. But we have heard stories from other film sets where this is not the case, with DoPs having to take over the role of the director due to a row with the cast, of crew storming off sets because they are bored or feel they are being 'used', of unpaid runners suing a production company, or those who just don't turn up at all. And then there are those who bad mouth the production team afterward, instead of raising the concerns at the time.

3. From volunteers
We had an interesting situation where a man who had previously worked in the film business, kindly offered the rear of his restaurant premises for a shoot. He volunteered, without us even asking, an offer we eventually took up when we found ourselves in a tight spot. The location worked well, but due to failing light we asked if it was possible to come and film pickups. Unfortunately, one of the producers who made the telephone call obviously caught this man in a different mood, who became so abusive over the phone that it made any thought of shooting pickups completely impossible. We have no idea what changed his attitude, except that he possibly assumed we actually had a larger budget than what he previously thought. This is in fact the key issue when receiving help from volunteers especially when you also have high professional standards -it can sometimes send the wrong message.

4. From fellow filmmakers
And then the most surprising (or maybe not so surprising?) source: from those the same as you. You would think that the amount of effort involved in film production would garner at least a small amount of mutual respect. Apparently not.

Here are some 'printable' examples of what fellow filmmakers have written about our production and production blog....

Karel Bata a UK filmmaker (lives in a "posh bit" of London, was the first to take unreasonable offense by alleging our lighting blog recommended not using a DoP (which it did not) and went on to post on forums and bulletins insults and allegations such as "He's made a huge public gaff, and is now getting his head chewed off. He'll learn from it...complete IDIOT here."

Freya Black, a UK filmmaker also wrote about our lighting blog: "How nasty can you get!....making such a massive fool of themselves in public, I personally just find it embarrassing...will just make me cringe, even if it has high bizarre certainly seems like you have been disloyal and unappreciative".

Mike Mann ( also took exception to the lighting blog describing it as a "slap in the face to DPs disguised as a tip to the masses."

Fellow low budget filmmaker Jonathan Williams regards our production diary as "spam disguised as endless, and often substandard 'tips'... as a means of pulling them to your website and attempting to sell them your DVD".

Valentine Palmer, a Brighton, UK based actor/presenter most famous for some TV bit parts and for directing a porn film. "Your feature film (with a title too laughable to even mention)... within the first few minutes of the film’s showing, (I could see) that this was an absolute disaster.... you appear to be manifestly incapable of taking charge of the director’s chair for any kind of major filmic undertaking... The screenplay of your film gave the impression of having been written by someone who had never bothered to study the construction of a movie. There was no noticeable plot arc, character arc or scene arc. There was certainly no apparent 3-act structure within a film devoid of action, humour, suspense or romance."

Gregory Singer, Director at Stallion AV Productions in the Greater New York area and who describes himself as "proud to be Korean... shy around people, but not with a camera" began by describing the film as "Nice. Not great, but nice." But became increasingly unpleasant and over the course of many months posted many unfounded accusations on Shooting People bulletins including those that took "issue with" our production blog which he goes so far as to call "dangerous" and "disseminating bad information... Breaking the law is promoted as *good* low budget filmmaking technique...Unilaterally redefining decades old set job descriptions because 'having no money' makes you an exception?" He called us "newbies" and asked: "What exactly do you think DP or DoP stands for? DIRECTOR of Photography. Did you go through several MOVIE DIRECTORS when shooting this film? Is it a sort of Round Robin production where everybody gets a chance to do each job?"

UK filmmaker and blogger Ben Blaine (picture with brother Chris above) also entered the furor over our blog which he labelled "the Ambleton Delight Debacle" calling it "delicious bru-ha-ha... where a couple of badly chosen words about DPs have sparked a furore."

Dan Selakovich an editor/writer from LA, took exception to the blog on continuity, reading an unwritten job description inbetween the lines, saying "We are into my pet peeve of the view of script supervisor, and this low-budget tip has gotten it wrong... again....One more part of this "tip" that makes my blood boil...that's rank beginner stuff....What you leave out in your "tips" is blinding... More of my nasty comments below: I don't find your blogs practical. I find them utterly incomplete."

Someone who calls themselves "Anonymous" wrote this curious entry on the lighting blog "Dear Mr. set yourself up for this....Very strange how I don't see more directors holding a boom. Seems to me you should take your 'advice' and go 'Australian'".

Tom Tremayne even questions our "creativity" when he writes: "It's a shame that supposedly creative people feel they need to impart advice that's merely common sense dressed up as something else!"

You might wonder why we have gone to the effort of reprinting what is mostly either unfounded, misconstrued or just plain insulting comments, especially since we have received several times more positive and appreciative feedback, not to mention even some awards. Well it just goes to show how as a passionate and heartfelt low budget filmmaker you will also need to develop a thick skin and a sense of humour, and especially don't expect any sympathy or even support from fellow filmmakers!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Tip #97: Your most valuable tool - communication

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

It is one of the most common complaints -not knowing what is happening. Not knowing when and where the filming will be, not knowing what is expected, not knowing how long it will take, not knowing what has happened to the film.... As filmmakers we are creating an artform that is meant to communicate a message but sometimes we perhaps inadvertently overlook the fact effectively communicating with cast and crew is an equally important priority.

Communication is your most valuable tool as filmmaker, but before using it on your audience think of these areas:

Every key date of filming should have a call sheet sent in advance of it. At least 12 hours before if possible. It should contain all the information your cast and crew need: location, times, contact information, directions etc. For more information and examples check here.

2.Contact list
From the very beginning set up a document with all key members of cast and crew listed with their mobile numbers. Don't rely just on your own phone -it can get lost, plus you can easily share this document with members of your production team as and where necessary. Print it out and have it on you at all times. Use people's mobile phones to contact them directly and keep them up-to-date with last minute changes in times and locations. Again, the contact list will help you make sure you don't forget someone when there is a sudden change in schedule.

Start an e-mail list for your cast and crew and keep them regularly updated via this method on the progress of the production. It is also an excellent way to cut down on printing costs
-you can send scripts and actors may only need to print out the portion they are involved in.

You can take the e-mail method one step further and start a weekly or monthly newsletter to keep absolutely everyone connected to the production in loop on the progress of the film. It also makes sure that no one misses out on the latest news or that you have to keep replying to individual enquiries regarding the production status.

An excellent and free on-line software that can help manage your list, as well as assist with the design and subscription, is Mail Chimp.

5. Afterwards and actor showreels
Once the production is over that should not mean you cut ties with everyone involved. We continue to send the occasional newsletter even though it is over 12 months since the release of our film. Stay in touch with everybody via e-mail or the newsletter, find out their news, tell them how the film is doing.

This also includes members of the cast who may approach you in regard to their showreels. So many productions can end up unfinished and disappear. The very least an actor deserves, especially if they were doing it on a very low budget (or free), is to see some of the footage so they can use it on the showreel. Make sure they know they have a right to the footage and that you will help facilitate this in whatever way possible. Although you may want to think about having a clause in their contract delaying this by six months if you believe it may cause creative issues to release footage before the release of the film. Very few actors would want to jeopardise the potential success of a film they were in so would understand the necessity of this.

And finally, for an example of monthly newsletter, with latest news, tips and free stuff etc check out Dan-the-Cameraman -there is an edition coming this week:

Friday, 28 October 2011

Tip #96: Can I protect my copyright?

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

It is a classic Hollywood horror story that has almost taken on mythical proportions in its retelling. Someone writes a great script and submits it to a studio. The studio replies that they are not interested. A year or so later the studio releases a film almost identical to the submitted script, except that it has now been written by someone else....

But is this something filmmakers should fear, their ideas being stolen? And what about once they have made their film, does it require copyright and some form of disc digital copyright protection to prevent piracy?

Stolen ideas
Fact: Script ideas are stolen. There is the example of Reed Martin who wrote a script and a Hollywood talent manager sent it to actors he'd liked to have in the film, including Bill Murray. After initial interest, it was eventually dropped...only for a film with an almost identical storyline and characters to be released. The film was Broken Flowers starring Bill Murray...

Of course, this is not the only example and there are regular law suits and allegations. But there could be logical reasons for this, that may not be down to plain and simple theft. There is the obvious fact that there's 'nothing new under the sun' and hence very few scripts can be labelled 'completely original'. There is also a term known as "parallel development" in which similar ideas are developed at the same time. Maybe something registered on a subconscious level in the minds of the director, producer, writer and so it not necessarily blatant stealing.

Balance is necessary
If you become paranoid about your script or idea being stolen and don't let anyone near it without having first signed a NDA etc, then the likelihood is -especially if you are a first time writer- that you will come off as extremely arrogant and overconfident and will never get your script read by those who could actually make it happen. There is an interesting blog at "Scriptxray" which states: "Your ideas will be stolen...and here’s why it's okay...As a people business where everything depends on who you know, it’s best to let your work get out there and be seen – if you don’t, its pretty much impossible to start your career." The article also mentions that "it’s actually more expensive for producers to steal a script than buying or optioning it legitimately – considering the legal fees and reputation damage." (To read more go here)

How to copyright
That doesn't mean to throw caution to the wind. There are a few simple steps to copyright your ideas and script, firstly by simply ensuring that a date, name and copyright symbol is clearly printed on your script. Although a copyright notice is not required, (work is automatically subject to copyright protection under law), displaying a notice shows that you have an awareness of copyright and take infringements of your work seriously.

You can take the extra step of registering your work, such as using a copyright service:

You can also date stamp your work by simply mailing it to yourself and not opening it. This is known as "poor man’s copyright" and there are issues and alternatives worth considering (check here)

If you are talking with a producer and they are comfortable doing it then there is nothing stopping you asking for a NDA to be signed.

Here is a copy of a NDA you can use: NDA template

DVD copright
Your artwork and the film itself can contain a copyright symbol and date, as well as a copyright warning at the beginning of the film. This can be sufficient but if you are wanting to actually prevent people from physically being able to copy your disc then this will involve CSS or Macrovision copy protection, which requires a pay per-disc royalty fee, and is something only available on professionally replicated discs.

Note: Of course this can cut both ways: Make sure you are not using copyrighted material or logos in your film or artwork (for more information check here) including the use of the DVD logo which is in itself copyrighted (more here)!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tip #95: Don't forget classification requirements

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

All feature films, short films and trailers which are shown theatrically must be classified in the UK and most other countries have similar systems in place. Classification is also a legal requirement if you are selling your DVDs. The only exemption you might be able to consider is if it is for educational purposes (i.e. a documentary or school resource). But in most cases you are going to have to look at getting it classified.

1. Censorship
Censorship -sometimes defined as the suppression of knowledge or ideas to prevent the circulation of offensive or problematic material, is often in itself a controversial issue for filmmakers with the system being used and abused (filmmakers aiming for a particular classification to appeal to a certain audience) and criticized for preventing free speech.

As filmmakers however we need to acknowledge it as part of the production process. Ever since the coming of sound in 1927 there has been a call for censorship starting with the Hays Code of film classification introduced in 1934, that was later replaced by a new classification system in 1968 run by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). In Britain we have local councils and the BBFC.

2. Local council classification
If your film is screening in a local film festival then it is likely that the festival organisers will have a blanket classification to cover all the films to be shown. But in some cases the local council will also classify the film itself. This happened to us for a local screening as part of the Brighton Festival, and in this instance there was no charge for us. The film was given a 15 rating.

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) is a non-governmental organisation, funded by the film industry and responsible for the national classification of films within the United Kingdom.

At the time of writing a DVD or Blu-ray feature and trailer has a standard fee that comprises of a handling fee of £75 per submission plus £6.00 per minute for a full length of work (which would also have to include any extras such as the Making of).

Based on this rate Ambleton Delight (the film only) would have cost £723+VAT, a total of £867.60 to be classified (you might also have to take into consideration packaging and cancellation and further review fees, plus the cost of reviewing disc extras). If you are looking at self-distribution then this is an important expense to consider.

4. Certificates

There are seven main certificates that your film might fit within:

All ages admitted, there is nothing unsuitable for children over 4.

PG Parental Guidance
All ages admitted, but certain scenes may be unsuitable for children under 8.

12A (Cinema only)
Considered to be unsuitable for very young people. Those aged under 12 years are only admitted if accompanied by an adult, aged at least 18 years, at all times during the motion picture.

12 (Home media only)
12A-rated films are usually given a 12 certificate for the VHS/DVD version unless extra material has been added that requires a higher rating. Nobody younger than 12 can rent or buy a 12-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game.

Only those over 15 years are admitted or can rent or buy a 15-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game.

Only adults are admitted. Nobody younger than 18 can rent or buy an 18-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game, or watch a film in the cinema with this rating.

R18 (Restricted)
Can only be shown at licensed cinemas or sold at licensed retailers and only to adults, those aged 18 or over.

5. Exemption
While there is no legal obligation or any scheme for labelling material that might be exempt from classification (such as educational works) there is a symbol similar to the BBFC certificates that you can use here (click to enlarge):

6. Think ahead
It is important to think ahead during production to what classification your film may end up with. You do not want to alienate your audience -for example the average audience that enjoys period drama romances might be turned away by a 15 or 18 rating.

For more information on BBFC and certificates please visit their official website here.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Tip #94: Make your own DVD artwork

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

Carrying on from the earlier blogs regarding designing the film logo and poster and especially if you are looking at the option of self-distribution, you will need to look at designing and creating a DVD "wrap" and "on-body". One important thing to remember is that all artwork should be supplied for printing at a high resolution and at least 300dpi to ensure good print quality.

1. The DVD/Blu-Ray wrap
This is the cover that goes on the outside of the video box, normally underneath a thin film of plastic to protect it. The DVD wrap is often the film poster slightly altered to fit. The rear of the wrap contains some more information about the film, maybe a synopsis and technical details.

Here is the official DVD wrap for our film Ambleton Delight -notice the 3mm bleed around the edges (click to enlarge):

One thing to note is that the wrap for Bluray boxes is slightly smaller. Here is the Ambleton Bluray wrap (click to enlarge):

To help, we are here providing some templates you can use:

Here is a template for creating a DVD wrap (right/control click to save) as a Photoshop file and PDF.

Here is a template for creating a BluRay wrap (right/control click to save) as a Photoshop file and PDF.

2. The DVD/Bluray onbody
The "onbody" refers to the actual DVD or Blu-ray circular disc itself and what is printed on its surface. The size doesn't change for either the DVD or Blu-ray, but you need to remember that there is a hole in the middle which may affect the design layout.

Here is the official Ambleton Delight on-body (click to enlarge):
And here is a template for creating one yourself (right/control click to save) as a Photoshop file.

3. DVD symbol
This is a common trap a lot of filmmakers fall into -using the official DVD symbol. In reality you cannot use the DVD and Blu-ray logos without permission, as permission requires a license and quality control. For more information check this website:

So to make things easier, feel free to use our own logos for free (click to enlarge):Or you can download the Photoshop files (right/control click to save) here: DVD logo and BR logo.

For information on DVD masters check here and for some tips on duplication and replication of your DVD, check our earlier blog here.

If you find any broken links or file format issues please let us know here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Tip #93: Get distribution

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

Distribution - when your film is released commercially to the public either theatrically or for home viewing via DVDs, VOD or TV broadcast - is probably the most asked question we have received and also one of the most difficult to answer, even though we did end up getting a distributor. However, from our experience in producing the feature Ambleton Delight we see there are 3 basic distribution options you have available:

1. Get a sales agent
As mentioned in the previous blog we highly recommend acquiring a sales agent first as a means of getting into the right festivals and approaching the right distributors. This was our single biggest mistake -not getting a sales agent. We tried approaching as many UK distributors as we could find and garnered a lot of interest in our film but the unorthodox approach did not help. Most top distributors would not take a second look at a direct approach from the filmmakers themselves as it is too amateur a method. It is similar to approaching actors directly regarding a role and bypassing their agent. Except that distributors, unlike actors, are primarily commercial operations with too many risks at stake to be making 'creative' choices. So if you are aiming high (which you should be) go through the proper channels and start looking for sales agents as soon as possible.

2. Independent distribution
The happy news is that one indie distributor we approached did say yes -Renderyard Films- and so we can now say that we have actually succeeded in getting a distributor. However, the type of independent non-sales agent distributors you will be looking at will be unlikely to push for a theatrical release or even DVD distribution as this can be expensive, so it will be more likely be limited to on-line and VOD. Which may make you think, well, why not do it yourself?

3. Self-distribution
We have done this in the past and have to say it is something you should look at as a last resort. Although the idea of complete control over the marketing and profit is attractive, there is a tremendous amount of work involved and it can also be expensive and yet be very limited in its scope. Here in the UK you will need to think about classification (which can be expensive, more coming in a later blog) and also duplication/replication of the discs, and then the charging of VAT (tax) and end of year accounting. If we were looking to self-distribute in the future, we would probably narrow that to on-line/VOD.

Be careful
If you are accepted by a distributor make sure you read the fine print. Some distributors will have wording in the contract which essentially means that they will only pay you any returns minus their marketing costs, which in some cases could actually leave you owing them money!

In regards to distribution, the next three blogs will look at DVD artwork, classification and copyright protection.