My Process For Getting Distribution
A walk through the process I use for finding distribution for my own films, as well as Distribution Consulting client films.
It’s been hectic over here as I prepare to go into two back-to-back productions (hello Covid backlog!) but I wanted to continue our conversation on distribution before moving on to other topics because in the lead up to AFM, I’ve started getting more and more questions about things as it pertains to getting your completed films out to the market.
If you remember, we started off a few weeks ago talking about The Changing Face of Distribution, and I thought from there, I’d walk you through the process I use for finding distribution for my own films, as well as Distribution Consulting client films.
So what’s my process for getting distribution?
Step 1 - Create trailer and other assets
A surprising number of films come my way without a 1-2 min trailer which is an essential tool in distributor submissions. I don’t recommend spending a ton of money creating one (unless you’ve got money to burn) but sometimes it’s worth it to hire someone, other than yourself, to cut something together even if it means the distributor creates a different trailer later for their needs. Other valuable assets at this stage include a simple website and/or pitch deck to showcase what you’ve got.
Step 2 - Organize primary deliverables
Distributor deliverables lists are notoriously long and you can tackle that later. But initially, I recommend at least having your video master, M&E tracks (if you’re pursuing international), and all your music (and other clearances) buttoned up or negotiated, even if you want to wait to actually pay for them until you get a deal (or just get festival rights to start and negotiate your upgrade to All Rights in advance). Oh, and don’t forget your hi-res still photos! Get those on to a Google drive or Dropbox for easy linking and downloading.
Step 3 - Research prospects within trusted network
For me, I have a trusted network of distributors and sales agents that I have long relationships with, but if you’re starting from scratch I recommend using database tools like Cinando and IMDB pro to research which distributors release films similar to yours - not just in genre, but budget and actor level too. I’m careful to curate a list of people and companies who I know will respond to what I have, and don’t bother the others with genres or films that I know aren’t a fit. Armed with my ‘hit’ list, I proceed to the next step…
Step 4 - Outreach
Finally it’s time to email my chosen contacts - short and sweet, with a link to the trailer and/or website first to entice them. Ask them if they would like to see a full screener. Yes? Great, send a Vimeo link to the screener and make it as easy as possible for them to watch.
Step 5 - Follow up and close
Give it a week and send a follow up email to see if they’ve watched your screener. If they haven’t, this will ‘nudge’ them hopefully. For anyone interested in pursuing, I get on the phone and ‘meet’ them - let them pitch me on their release strategy and compare what they’re offering with other prospects. Who are we aligned with better for the goals of the film? Review deal memo and have the lawyers run their eyes over it. Negotiate basic points and make sure there aren’t any hidden ‘gotchas’ like sky high recoupable expenses or commissions. Then sign deal and get ready for the real work - full delivery of the film and promoting the release!
Obviously this is abbreviated but I’ve also done this so many times that I’ve boiled it down to a simple process that takes us from finished cut to signing with a distributor and a release date in the calendar.
The process can take as little as a couple weeks to a few months depending on many factors but is repeatable and gets easier over time. And hopefully along the way you build relationships with distributors who you want to do business with again, so you’re not reinventing the wheel each time.
What questions do you have on this process? Pop them in the comments section below and I’ll answer you!
AFM Consulting (two months to go!)
I’m still taking on a few select clients for Distribution Consulting for AFM, so if you want to work together and have me take you through this process from beginning to end, click here to learn more and fill out the application.
On that note, I’ll wrap things up for today. I hope you have a wonderful day ahead and I’ll look forward to hearing from you down below (or by email!).
To your success,