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.

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