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.
The Short Answer: As soon as you realistically can
Marketing a film on a budget isn’t something you can do overnight. It takes a while to build a social media presence, as well as to build up a base to market your film to. It’s not something that can be done efficiently overnight, so you’ll want to get some marketing support on your project as soon as possible. That’s why you hire either a producer’s rep or a Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD).
The Long(er) Answer: When you can afford them, and they’re willing to come on your project.
Most people tend to approach Producer’s Reps an PMDs only when their film is completed, or even after the initial festival run of the film. This can shut a surprising amount of doors for you. I had one client who submitted to Sundance, and was rejected outright. The next year, after I connected him to US Distribution, the distributor talked to a programmer at Sundance who said that they would have accepted the film and programmed had it been brought to his attention. Unfortunately they’d given premier status to another, smaller festival so it was too late.
PMDs and Distributors often have connections to help get you past the initial round of screening at major festivals, which can be all you need to actually get into the festival. 99 films out of every 100 submitted to Sundance don’t get in. 90 out of 100 of those are declined by extremely low paid (or unpaid) staffers who look for any possible reason to decline so that the submission queue is more manageable for the actual festival programmers. If you have the right rep, PMD, or distributors they can help you bypass that fist layer of screening, giving you a huge leg up.
How much will this cost you?
Producer’s reps tend to get a bad wrap for charing up front. If all they’re doing is brokering your film to sales agents, and they’re taking a commission, then they really shouldn’t need to. I don’t. However, if I’m writing a business plan, deck, a festival strategy, or developing a marketing strategy for you, i do charge up front.
Generally, it’s wise to allot some money for marketing as soon as you create the initial budget for your film. You should do this even if you plan on raising it at a later date, say after completion of principle photography.
Related: The 4 Stages of Film Finance
If you’re raising money for prints and advertising, then you should allocate some of that money to a Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) or Producer’s Rep to help you execute your marketing plans efficiently.
Essentially, if you’re looking for a rep to do anything other than broker a completed film, you had best expect them to charge you some money up front. Unless the Sales agent pays you a minimum guarantee, it’s unlikely that the film or the filmmaker will get paid anything for about a year after the initial signing. You can’t expect a Service provider to wait even longer than that to make any money, especially when there’s a significant amount of work involved in the creation and execution of the work you’re asking them to do.
If you have direct questions about fees for services, I recommend you either book a strategy session with me directly, or submit your project for review. Both are free, and I’ll be in touch when I’ve had a chance to look over the project. You can find more information in the images below, and you can click those images to be taken to the relevant parts of my site or Clarity’s site for scheduling a call.
Also, if you found this information valuable, you should join my mailing list. Not only will you get some great free film market resources, you’ll also get a monthly digest of information on the film industry broken down by topic. Check it out, let me know what you think in the comments below!
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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.
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