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.
Generally, the next step is for the distributor to watch the film. I have a 20 minute rule, and that’s pretty common. Generally, if I make it through the entire film, I’ll make an offer. If I don’t, I won’t ever make an offer. If I’m requesting a call, I’m normally doing so to size up the filmmaker and see if they’re going to be a problem to work with.
This is not an uncommon move for the distributors that actually talk to filmmakers and sales agents. Generally, we want to discuss the film as well as size up the filmmaker before we send them a template contract.
Generally when we send over the template contract, it will be watermarked and a PDF so that the filmmaker can understand our general terms. This also won’t have any identifying information for the film on there. We’ll also attach. Few appendices to the contract as those can change more quickly than the contract itself. My deliverables contract is pretty comprehensive as of right now, but honestly I think I’ll pare it down soon as I haven’t had to use much of what’s in there yet.
The next major step in the process of the distribution deal is going through and inserting modifications and comments using the relevant function on your preferred word processor. Most of the time they’ll send it in MSWord, but you can open word with pretty much any word processor and this unlikely to be too affected by the formatting changes that happen as a result of putting the document into pages or open office.
What you should go through and do is make sure track changes is turned on, and then then comment anything you have a question about and cross out anything that simply won’t work for you.
Generally, distributors and sales agents will review your changes, accept the ones they can, reject the ones they can’t, and offer compromises on others. After the first round of negotiations, it’s often a take it or leave it arrangement. If it’s good enough, sign it and you’re in business. If not, walk away.
Most sales agents distributors will have you send the film to a lab to make sure the film passes stringent technical standards. If you have technically adept editor friends, you’ll want them to do a pass first, as each time you go through QC it will cost you between 800 & 1500 bucks. You will need to use their lab, but it’s best for everyone if it passes the first time.
Thanks for reading! I was going to include what you can and can’t negotiate in this blog, but Im decided to make that it’s own thing once I got started. Check it out next week!
If you need help negotiating with sales agents, or just need distribution in general, check out my form using the button below. If you want more content like this, sign up for my email list so you can get content digests by topic in your inbox once a month, plus some great film market and film marketing resources. Finally, blogging is something of a public service from me. If you like it, and find it valuable, consider supporting it on patreon. (there may be some SEO benefits in it for you as well)
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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.