When it comes to distribution there are many possibilities out there for you to explore. You have everything from a strait sale to a studio, an independent platform release, all the way to your own personal DIY and online VOD distribution campaign. A lot of this is going to be very technical so hang in there, and try to keep up; it’s ok to watch this episode a few times.
Check out: SMarchive #7: Kev Implodes at Sundance 2011 or The R for Kevin Smiths full explanation on Studio Distribution and his Red State experiment.
“Here’s my first born, take care of her!”
In a straight sale, worldwide distribution rights are sold outright to the studio, and the success of your film is in interest of the studio. Studios have extensive resources with which they can finance a number of prints, and have guaranteed exhibition of their product. It is the quickest return for investors, and provides the movie the longest “legs” a term referring to how long a film lasts in theatres. Studio distributors may bill standard rates for their in-house distribution services, profiting off their P&A and other distribution expenses. These expenditures are then deducted from the gross profit of the film after the distributor takes its studio overhead charge and distribution fee. Therefore, the picture’s profit is already diminished by the distributor’s share, and then hit with expenses that make it hard for a film to earn a profit.
An advantage to the studio distribution system is that as the studios merge with larger corporate conglomerates, they often add arms of television stations and cable systems: witness Time Warner, which owns HBO, AOL, Time, Inc., Time Warner Cable and Warner Bros., which in turn, owns the independent network, the WB. Time Warner also owns Ted Turner’s media empire, including CNN, Turner Pictures and New Line Cinema. Viacom owns Paramount Pictures, which owns UPN (the United Paramount Network) as well as CBS, MTV, VH1, Showtime, BET, King World, Paramount Home Entertainment, Infinity Broadcasting, Famous Music Publishing, Simon & Schuster Publishing, Viacom Outdoor Advertising, Spelling Entertainment (Aaron Spelling’s company) and Blockbuster Entertainment.
“We’ll give it a go!”
There is an active market for completed motion pictures with virtually all studios and independent companies seeking to acquire completed films. Distributors began to spread the risk of bringing a film to market by profit sharing. For the most part, every distribution agreement is different, though there are similarities common to all. The distributor receives a distribution fee, which is the distributor’s percentage of the profits it will receive from gross dollar one. The distributor is then entitled to recoup its marketing costs and its distribution expenses. The remaining sum is due to the producer/investor, and is generally called the producer’s gross or net sum. Distribution rights to a variety of media channels for the picture’s exploitation can be sold or licensed to independent distributors by market ownership.
Independent distributors have an advantage in releasing low-budget films, as they have the experience and patience necessary to handle the slower “platform” method of release. A platform release strategy encompasses opening a film in a few cities, eventually building on a film’s notoriety, and adding more cities to the picture’s schedule. Positive word of mouth, festival success and strong reviews all add to a film’s platform. “Sling Blade,” and many other smaller films, have benefited greatly from this type of release strategy. “Sling Blade,” released by Miramax, started in a few cities, and as it gained popularity (even winning an Oscar for Best Screenplay adapted from another medium,) it grew to more cities and theatres, eventually growing from a smaller “art house” film into a mainstream hit, playing in multiplexes across North America.
Independent Lasagna Production’s should plan to negotiate a distribution deal with a smaller studio, such as Fox Searchlight or Focus Films. Smaller studio systems have the patience to get the most money out of low budget movies, and specialize in utilizing their limited resources far more efficiently than studio conglomerates. The opportunity to provide a limited release (with or without a distribution deal) generally creates a better return per screen ratio. While conglomerate studios’ films are available everywhere, this limited release plan is ideal for the less available smaller budget films. Couple that with notoriety from institutions, film festivals, film critics, and press releases; your film is now in an opportune position for favorable bidding war.
“Do it yourself!”
Your film should be submitted to several important institutions and film festivals to be considered for nominations and awards. Check film festival web sites for submission dates.
Because raising money for a film is hard enough, the majority of filmmakers are not prepared to distribute their film on their own, nor do they plan in advance to do so, and are thus dependent upon the classic distribution deal. Seasoned Directors, such as Ron Howard, are being turned down for distribution today by Universal because of their high budgets, incalculable market receptivity, and inability to influence negative risk factors to their distributors. The self-distribution plan for your film relies on creating a following through an online community prior to principal photography. This online community will be the place to create a buzz to identify and engage the film’s target market. The pre-release buzz power must be channeled with online marketing methods to identify the geographical demand for an exhibition.
I recommend trying to get your film onto as many online platforms you can. DIGI Distribution, who is now combined with Distribber is a paid service for independent distribution across platforms including iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, TV VOD, Redbox, and are now including theatrical for certain films. The total payout to submit to all platforms is currently approximately $5,000 for filmmakers. The online store makes DVDs to order; zero-inventory equals zero-risk. And the only deliverable you will need is a Closed Caption file for submission to iTunes.
Check out: DiGi Distribution Intro Video
“This is the end!”
That’s a wrap! Thank you for experiencing this guide, I hope it has been helpful in progressing your movie making aspirations. If you are successful in your endeavor we would love to join in your process, so please send me links to your blogs, YouTube Videos, Facebook pages, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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We look forward to seeing all the movie making magic happen!
Finally look at J.J. Abrams: On Filmmaking, just for fun.