What you will learn
- What a film distributor does
- Landing film distribution
- Designing an approach plan
Functions of a Film Distributor
Generally speaking, distributors distribute your movie to an audience or consumer. But let’s dive deeper into the details of how that actually works.
It’s important to point out that distributors are businessmen. That may already be obvious but, keep in mind that they are in the business to make money. They may be passionate movie-goers, but they are not creative artists. Every decision they make depends on if they will make a profit off your movie, not because they want to be a part of your movie because of how brilliantly it was shot and executed. So with that in mind, always select the BEST business distributor who will get you the best deals, widest release and exposure rather than someone who loves your movie but probably doesn’t have the resources, knowledge or connection to distribute your movie effectively.
Acceptance or Rejection
A distributor will accept or reject your movie for distribution based off the following criteria (among other criteria):
- Production quality (picture and sound)
- Level of violence
- Level of sexual content
- Market conditions
- Perceived appeal to current audiences
Start of promotional campaign
If you successfully landed a distributor with an agreed upon contract, film marketing will begin immediately. The distributors will begin working on a promotional campaign, developing essential posters, logos and trailers to begin sending out to media outlets. Public relations will kick into high gear as they begin writing, arranging and planning press release, interviews, and press kits up to the premiere of the movie. Distributors will also contact major entertainment companies (magazines, websites, and producers) to arrange exclusive promotional content.
Among the basic sales and marketing effort that goes behind a theatrical, video, broadcast and internet release, a distributor also provides additional support to help with the marketing and distribution of your film which may include:
- Collections and Payments
- Subtitling and Dubbing
These ancillary systems are dependent on the distributor’s resource capabilities and connections within the industry. With a studio distributor, it’s pretty straight forward. You give them the movie, they bring you the audience. They nearly handle everything for you. Whereas, an independent distributor or smaller distributor may not have the ability to provide such a turnkey operation. If you are considering to distribute your movie yourself, well you just got a good glimpse of what goes into movie marketing and distributing a movie. And you might’ve thought getting the movie financing and producing it would be the hardest part.
Landing Film Distribution
The chances of a distributor calling you out of the blue when you’ve done zero marketing is close to zero. It has happened on the rare occasion to some lucky filmmakers who may have been at the right place at the right time or other forms of luck, but that’s like winning the lottery.
Typically, you’ll have to go head hunting and promoting your movie to land the best distributor you can find who believes in you and your project (meaning, it’ll make them a ton of money).
There’s 3 simple steps you can take in helping you land a distributor:
- Collect information about potential distributors
- Refine your list of best distributors to land
- Design an approach plan
A good place to start, is of course the internet. Jump onto Google or any other popular search engine and begin searching for distributors. Search for keywords like, “motion picture distribution”, “video distribution”, “film distribution”, “independent film distribution” and the like.
There’s also the library, bookstore and magazines that may contain contact information regarding film distributors. Including specialty directories, that may have a giant list of potential distributors.
Once you got a nice list of distributors, start giving them a call one by one and begin asking key questions. Don’t waste their time and be respectful to them and their time. These companies are typically extremely busy making deals every day of the week.
Here’s a typical flow of what you might expect when you first call a distribution company:
First, you’ll be introduced to the main secretary taking in all types of calls. This is where you want to ask to speak with someone in ‘acquisition’. They may ask for your name and company to learn more about you before proceeding you to the next agent.
Next, you’ll speak with a second-level secretary who will want to learn specifics about your project to see if it’s a good fit for their company. If it does sound like something they would potentially acquire, you’ll get to speak with the acquisition director (this is a big deal).
Lastly, you’ll be on call with a very important person who can make or break one of the biggest deals for your movie. It’s important to be extremely prepared before taking this call.
Use the following as a guide to what you should have available and memorized while speaking to an acquisition officer:
- Your power sentence
- Audience profile you created earlier
- Cast highlights
- Reviews, awards, festivals
- Marketing support
- Budget (if asked…)