AFM this year will be interesting. Here’s the current state form someone who’s been going for 10 years, and has been a Practicing Producer’s rep for 6 years. Two quick things before we get started. First, You should definitely go to AFM at least once. It’s eye opening, and if I hadn’t done it I probably wouldn’t have a career.
Second: These opinions are mine alone, and have not been approved, endorsed, or otherwise condoned by the International Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) owner of the American Film Market. (AFM is also a Registered Trademark of the IFTA.)
Much of my job as a producer’s rep is negotiating deals on the behalf of filmmakers. However, now that I’m doing more direct distribution, I’m realizing there are several things about this process that most filmmakers don’t understand. As I tend to write a blog whenever I run into a question enough that I feel my time is better spent writing my full answer instead of explaining it again, here’s a top level guide on the process of negotiating an independent film distribution deal.
Filmmakers Ask me about Recoupable Expenses all the time. A lot of filmmakers think that recoupable expenses mean money they have to pay. Except in some VERY limited circumstances, that’s not the case.
A recoupable expense is simply an expense that a distributor or sales agent fronts to your film. Another way of looking at this is that your distributor is your last investor, as they’re putting in a zero interest loan in the form of paying for fees and services necessary to take the film to market. Most of the time, the distributor will need to get that money back before they start paying the filmmaker. Distributors and sales agents have businesses to run and general put money into anywhere between 24 and 60 of films every year. Without the ability to recoup what we put in, distributors would not be able to continue to invest in new films.
Its no secret that may think film distribution is broken. While there are many reasons for it, part of it is due to the rapid change in the amount of money flowing to distributors, and what constituted effective marketing. What works for marketing films now isn't what worked in the past, and the systems distributors built themselves around have fallen apart. Here's an elaboration.
So most filmmakers are at least passingly aware of the importance of genre in independent film distribution. (If you’re not, read this.) But even while most filmmakers have a cursory understanding of what defines a genre, the lines are often less bendable than many filmmakers think they are. So with that in mind, here’s what distributors mean when they say a certain genre.
Last week I shared a few different types of printed materials to use at film festivals. This week, I thought I’d follow up with a post on the essential components of Indiefilm Electronic Press Kit. I will say that this is one thing where reasonable people can disagree, so if you think there’s something I missed, comment it below and I might change the post to include it.
Most filmmakers only think about festivals when they’re getting ready to market their film. There are lots of reasons that this line of thinking is flawed, however it would take far more than a 600-800 word blog to even begin to touch on them. However, if you’re going to have ANY level of success from your festival run, you’re going to need some bomb printed materials. This blog outlines a couple of examples I’ve used personally and had success with.
Seeing as how a majority of my business still comes from representing filmmakers to sales agents and distributors, it’s unsurprising that a question I get at my events and in my inbox quite often is when is the best time to approach a producer’s rep, sales agent or distributor. Well, as with many things I tend to blog about, there’a a short, true, and mostly unhelpful answer to that question. There’s also a longer, more nuanced, and more correct answer. This blog attempts to answer both in under 800 words.
This is a topic that’s a little basic, but it’s a fundamental building block of understanding how to market your film. So I thought I would do a breakdown of why genre is so important to independent filmmakers in terms of marketing and distribution. I do touch on in my book The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget, but even there I only cover it in a sense as it pertains to the market. Let’s get started.
Even though the delivery materials in the first 3 parts of this blog seemed pretty thorough, there are still more that may be required to fulfill an international sale. Generally, these deliverables are only required if requested at a later date, and sometimes they’re created by the sales agents as an additional recoupable expense to be paid before the filmmaker begins taking their cut.
Distribution deliverables are far more than simply technical requirements. As we saw last week, there are also substantial marketing materials that you’ll have to provide to the distributor, and more that they may have to generate themselves. This week we’re covering the basics of legal distribution deliverables.
Last week, I covered the basics that are required as deliverables for almost every U.S. Distribution or International Sales Contract. This week, I’m going through the servicing lists. Most of these servicing requirements are for internationalization of the film, be they subs or dubs. Some are more for marketing purposes, but in the end it’s what the sales agent need to effectively put together a package and the film to where it needs to go.
A few weeks back I did a post on how to get a Letter of Intent from a Sales Agent. You can read that post here. However, I realized it might not be a bad idea to step back and examine the differences between a Letter of intent and a Pre-Sale. While I touch on it in the Rules for getting a Letter of intent blog, It seemed like the topic was worth a little bit more explanation.
To Celebrate the launch of the Second edition of my book, The Guerrilla Rep, American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget, I'm giving away the first chapter for free. This blo represents a small fraction of the 58 additional pages in the second edition. The book is currently the only book that currently exists on film Markets. So without further adieu, Here's the first chapter.
After the prologue, you have a 50,000 foot view of AFM. Let’s zoom in a bit, and check out a bit more about the total landscape of Film Markets in general, as well as the sales cycle for them.
What’s the difference between a Film Market and a Film Festival?
When speaking, I get asked this question more than any other, with one possible exception that will be covered in the next chapter.
My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of Producer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.
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