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Why so pessimist about distribution?

People here have given good advice. If you submit your film to enough top tier festivals (25 is a good number) if your film is really good as you say it is, a distributor will find you. But if you don't get into any of these festivals, a chance for even a 10-pack deal is ZERO. You'll have to self-distribute.

How about a trailer?
 
If you submit your film to enough top tier festivals (25 is a good number) if your film is really good as you say it is, a distributor will find you.

There is a problem with this too. If accepted into the festival, do you attend and accrue extra costs? If so, who do you bring?

What happens if only one distributor is interested in your film after you've made it into the top festival(s)? Do you accept their indefinite all territories offer with an advance of $10k or do you wait and risk even that offer to evaporate?

Just remember, he only acknowledged that his film was good.
 
You ask why people are so pessimistic about distribution, but maybe the question is really why are you so optimistic?

I believe if you have a good film, sooner or later It will be discovered and you will get a fair distribution deal. What do you think about this?

I think that's what almost everyone who makes a film believes. And yet, year after year, thousands of filmmakers prove it isn't really true for the majority of them. So, given that, why be optimistic?

And - is optimistic really the best thing to be? When you say the film will eventually be 'discovered' it sounds very passive, as if your optimism is leading you to expect that you can just wait around until it happens. Yet many of the common examples of indie films getting great distribution deals were exactly the opposite - somebody did everything they could to make the film a success long before it was 'discovered'. So it seems like a little pessimism is a good thing if it drives you to work harder to beat the odds and really make the film a success. Film distribution isn't really a meritocracy - and I'd lay money that a mediocre film made by someone who really knows how to hustle is going to do better in terms of distribution than a very good film made by someone who's just going to wait to be 'discovered'.
 
OP, I will say that I have read hundreds of amateur screenplays. 99% of those folks strongly believed their scripts were either good or great - mostly great.

I can tell you that only a fraction of those were up to professional quality.

Most authors and film makers are not objective on their own work.

I hope you're one of the exceptions. Why have you not uploaded a trailer though? If you want to market your work, surely you have a trailer?
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
and I'd lay money that a mediocre film made by someone who really knows how to hustle is going to do better in terms of distribution than a very good film made by someone who's just going to wait to be 'discovered'.

So true.

I go to a lot of film festivals - something very few filmmakers do. I
suspect Amir hasn't been to very many. Even the majority of films
accepted into festivals are not that good. There are so many films
that get into top festivals, get a distribution deal and fail with
audiences. "Good" isn't enough.

And that is filmmaker128's premise - that sooner or later a good
film will get picked up.

Being realistic about the business and about ones movie is not being
pessimistic. It's essential for a filmmaker to understand the business.

If Amir's film is really that good and gets accepted into several festivals
there is a possibility that it will be picked up. All films have that possibility
which is why there are 5,000 submissions to Sundance each year. And
that's why there are thousands of film festivals around the world. Filmmakers
pay a LOT of money to them each year for that dream.
 
Film distribution isn't really a meritocracy - and I'd lay money that a mediocre film made by someone who really knows how to hustle is going to do better in terms of distribution than a very good film made by someone who's just going to wait to be 'discovered'.
AAAAAA-MEN!

20120325FilmitAndTheyWillCome.png




Even the majority of films accepted into festivals are not that good. There are so many films that get into top festivals, get a distribution deal and fail with audiences. "Good" isn't enough.
Yup.

In fact, most films that show at festivals, even the big ones A) don't receive distribution, and B) even if they do few make any money over production costs = financial loss.
I suspect those shown at smaller festivals fare considerably worse.

http://www.indietalk.com/showthread.php?t=34549
http://www.indietalk.com/showthread.php?t=37696
http://www.indietalk.com/showthread.php?t=45836

Just because a film receives distribution DOESN'T EVEN mean that it makes money.
A distributor might easily pay only a thousand bucks for the rights to distribute a film no matter its cost, $5k, $50k, or $500k.
I hope your is the $5k film. ;)
 
There is a problem with this too. If accepted into the festival, do you attend and accrue extra costs? If so, who do you bring?

What happens if only one distributor is interested in your film after you've made it into the top festival(s)? Do you accept their indefinite all territories offer with an advance of $10k or do you wait and risk even that offer to evaporate?

My answers:

Attendance: Sundance, yes, you hock your grandma's jewels to get there. Don't pay anyone else to come, period. Festivals not known for attendance by distributors can be safely skipped.

Distribution deal: If you've 2 distributors talking to you at the same time, both offering cash up front, hire an entertainment lawyer.

If you've only one distributor offering up-front cash talking to you after several top tier festivals, take the 10K and ensure all rights revert to you in 3 years and the right to do individual sales. (Make sure you get a bucket full of points but don't expect to make money beyond that initial $10k, ever.)

If distributors are only offering points and no cash, send them out the door.

Agree?
 

Not really.

Sundance, Toronto, Cannes are worth going to. Agreed. If you're good at marketing and networking, then you're probably right, in saying no need to pay anyone else to come. Otherwise, you may be better off bringing a publicist (or finding one who will be there)

+1 on the entertainment lawyer. If you get to be hot property, you'll be able to find an entertainment lawyer easy enough.

In regards to the single distributor offer, this is the main area where I disagree.

There are many factors to consider that (in my opinion) are more important than the up front payments, though these do depend on the situation for those involved and their goals. For instance Bankruptcy escape clause, minimum performance exit clauses, minimum marketing spend and expense caps. Distribution fee's and percentages is also something that should be a concern. If the film is of that high a quality, consider milestone minimum payment clauses. These are also other conditions like release date before so they don't simply tie up your film for 10k and let it sit there on a shelf.

The rights reverting back in 3 years virtually means that any deal that you get won't be a deal with a real distributor. No distributor in their right mind would agree to that if you're looking at a cinematic release. If you can find a distributor stupid enough to agree to that, all the power to you. Most DVD rights last 5 years, sometimes even longer. There is often a lead in time for cinematic release. Then there is time between theatrical and other windowed releases. 3 years is just unrealistic. If you want to know more about why, please let me know and we can discuss it. If you're talking straight to DVD and/or VOD, then maybe. I just don't think it's good advice.

The right to do individual sales. This may cause issues. It'd be something that I'd talk with them about but if selling DVD's on your website is something that you'd throw away a distribution deal over, then sure, feel free to keep it as a deal breaker.

In regards to the points. You get all the points anyway. So demanding a bucket full of points could only serve to dilute down your ownership with any unscrupulous distributor.

The thing to think about is what if it's a run away hit? Protecting yourself from the downside isn't going to change your life too much. Is $10k really going to set you up for life? Capitalizing yourself for the upside is where you should put the time and effort into. If you make a movie that turns out to earn $100mil at the box office, you don't want to be stuck with a deal where you got a $10k advance (carrot) with 70% distribution fee (stick) after expenses. You'd be much better off with a $0 up front with 35%/20%/40% for the windows.

Every movie is different though. Just something to think about. Just my opinion too, it doesn't mean I'm right.

If distributors are only offering points and no cash, send them out the door.

If the deal is right, suits your movie and your situation, I disagree.

Here's a situation. You've made a movie for $15k. A studio likes it, but doesn't know what to do with it. They offer you $325k to buy it outright. All rights worldwide, indefinite. What do you do?
 
Here's a situation. You've made a movie for $15k. A studio likes it, but doesn't know what to do with it. They offer you $325k to buy it outright. All rights worldwide, indefinite. What do you do?

SOLD! The number of other projects that could be financed by that money offsets the possibility of never seeing the $15k film again.
 
Here's a situation. You've made a movie for $15k. A studio likes it, but doesn't know what to do with it. They offer you $325k to buy it outright. All rights worldwide, indefinite. What do you do?

$325k for an investment of $15k. Yep, I would jump at that offer too.

I would only hesitate if I really believed I had another Paranormal Activity or Saw on my hands - I know, a very unlikely possibility that one...

Anyway, great advice on this thread. I'm bookmarking this one. :)
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I would only hesitate if I really believed I had another Paranormal Activity or Saw on my hands
Here's the way I look at it:

If I got an offer that did not include points and the film ended up
making $200,000,000 I would be the guy whose $15k movie made
$200,000,000. I know that would mean a lot to studios both
independent and majors.

However...

If I really believed I had another Paranormal Activity or Saw on
my hands and took, say, $50k and points and the movie tanked even
thought I really believed I had something special I would be the
guy whose $15k movie tanked and I took $50k for it.

For me I'd take the chance and miss out on a lot of money for a career.
 
$325k for an investment of $15k. Yep, I would jump at that offer too.

I would only hesitate if I really believed I had another Paranormal Activity or Saw on my hands - I know, a very unlikely possibility that one...

This is the basic story of Paranormal Activity. If I remember right, bought by Dreamworks and left in their archive until Paramount(?) bought their library/company. So yes, it would seem that jumping on the opportunity is a great thing, and on the other hand, did they miss out on the upside of a huge hit? Probably not. I don't know, but I suspect the studio wouldn't have got behind it so much if it wasn't their property.

If it would have gone wildfire without Paramount completely owning the movie is speculation. If it did, how much of the approx $200mil would have gone back to the filmmakers? More than the $325k? It's really hard to say as I don't know the marketing costs associated with this film, but my guess would be a strong yes.

Another consideration. How much of that $325k was kept by Oren himself? Did he end up distributing it among the crew in return for the sweat equity that went into the film? You don't get to make a film for $15k without sweat equity.

For me I'd take the chance and miss out on a lot of money for a career.

And that's the other point. It does depends what situation you're in and the others who are in the same boat with you.
 
Great thread folks; thanks a ton for sharing your time, experience and opinions!!

Festivals not known for attendance by distributors can be safely skipped.

@GuerrillaAngel
Do you, rayw, or anyone know of a good way to find out which festivals are distributor favorites, beyond the obvious (Sundance, etc.)?

Thanks again!
 
Do you really believe all these indie films can be considered as "competitors".

Yes and no. Yes, they are all in competition for the very few slots available out there in the market, but no, the movies are not in direct competition like it's a sport. Some movies get picked up and others do not.

I think most of them doesn't mean anything even to their target audience. I believe if you have a good film, sooner or later It will be discovered and you will get a fair distribution deal. What do you think about this?

You're right, it has to be a GOOD movie. Now "GOOD" is incredibly subjective. There is no objective way to determine what is GOOD and BAD, especially with art. Take the art as commerce and then this gets even more convoluted.

A crappy B-Movie might be "GOOD" for the market place and get distribution because it happened to be at a time when Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez re-popularize the grindhouse genre. Whereas a great drama with an incredible production and script might flounder in the marketplace if there is a scene with a shooting at a school or terrorists blow up a building and then something in the real world attaches a stigma to your movie that no one wants to touch it.

The reality is that some "GOOD" movies never see the light of day, and sometimes even crappy movies DO get released and distributed and make money (IE "Sharknado"). Distribution and the quality or merits of the film seldom have anything to do with each other, and sometimes they do and the good stuff rises to the top.

There is no exact science to it and no guarantees either way.
 
And how do you think people like Oren Peli did? Did they spent millions for marketing right after they have completed their 15.000 dollars budget movies?


Oren Peli won the lottery. He screened at a film festival and Steven Spielberg's personal assistant saw it, told him about it, then Spielberg requested a screening. Liked the film, not enough to buy it himself, but brokered a deal with Paramount for all of $300,000. Paramount's intent was to remake the movie with name stars, then include his original version as a DVD extra. Oren convinced them to do a test screening of the movie as is (but including Spielberg's edits and alternate ending that he supervised against the director's intentions). The test screening did well enough they attempted a national college tour of midnight screenings and viral campaign.

Paramount then spent millions on marketing those midnight screenings and expanded it into a national ad campaign with tens of millions spent on that.

So yes, they spent a lot of money to market the film, but they only reason we ever heard of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY was because Steven Spielberg got involved.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Beyond the obvious (Sundance, etc.)?

There aren't any. The (obvious) festivals where the distributors go
are the top six. Beyond that few distributors attend. The festival
Sonnyboo mentions above was "Screamfest" - an assistant went
(I was there too) in 2007 and saw "Paranormal Activity" but there
were no distributors there. For the next three years (I go every
year) some minor distributors showed up. For the last three; none.

So beyond the big six distributor attendance is very, very low.
 
btw, even if I only got $325,000 (or $15,000) for a film that someone else eventually makes a $100 million with, I'd still be the person who made that film. A savvy person would be able to turn that into a few bucks or a project.
 
btw, even if I only got $325,000 (or $15,000) for a film that someone else eventually makes a $100 million with, I'd still be the person who made that film. A savvy person would be able to turn that into a few bucks or a project.

True, but if you agreed some points as part of the deal, the end result would be even sweeter.

But indeed, making a hit movie - that would be one great situation to be in. A lot of doors would open and played well, further opportunities should come your way.
 
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