Wednesday, December 7, 2011
So You Want to Make a Movie - The Nitty and the Gritty
20. The Nitty and the Gritty
If you believe in your movie and are convinced that it has commercial appeal, then set your sites for a theatrical release. The first place to start is with the six major studios who have the muscle and the whereto to put your film into hundreds if not thousands of theaters. Who are the players? They are Sony, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Disney, Universal, and Warner Brothers. If you’ve produced a Christian film, you especially want to talk to Sony and 20th Century Fox because they have Christian divisions that distribute faith-based content. Don’t just send out a screener which is industry speak for a DVD copy of your movie. Find out who’s in charge of acquisitions at the studio. Try to set up an appointment to see that person. Of course, that’s going to cost money—airfare, hotel meals, etc. You have to show the studio you mean business and that you are serious about your movie. The best case scenario is if they are willing to screen your film. Now you have a real chance.
If this approach fails, then it’s on to the small or minor distributors, and they come and go like the wind. One day they’re in the business, and the next day they’re gone. So you are going to have to watch your step. More than likely, this is going to be a straight-to-video deal. Be careful that you don’t give away all of the rights. As I said, distribution is a tricky business. The industry has a term they call windows. Basically, there are windows of opportunity where a distributor owns the movie for a certain length of time. For example, you can make one deal in which a studio distributes a movie for theatrical run and an entirely different deal in which a distributor owns the home video market rights. So if you make a deal with a minor distributor, you might want to hold on to the first window or the theatrical window. By the way, there are seven windows to consider when distributing your movie—theatrical, (VOD) video-on-demand, DVD Blu-Ray, (PPV) pay-per-view, pay cable, basic cable, and syndication.
There is one final place that you can look that is actually booming and has the potential to get you noticed. It’s called the world-wide web or the Internet. You’d be surprised how many people are watching movies on their computers. And, for a fee, they can see your movie. There are plenty of services out there that are now starting to get traction. Of course, we’ve heard about Netflix and iTunes, but did you know that Wal-Mart and Amazon are also offering services to view films online? It’s a new frontier out there for filmmakers to find an audience. Finally, you can build your own website and self-promote your movie and offer your film for a fee. The bottom line is nobody said that distribution is easy. I think there’s a simple principle—those who are determined and work hard for distribution will find it. Those who are not are destined for failure.
Finally, where do you find a list of all of the distributors for theatrical, home video, and digital media? Any search online using the words “film” or “distribution” will give you plenty of leads. Also check out list company. You will find one of the most comprehensive lists for both domestic and international distribution. I suggest you do your research and find out something about each company before you make contact. Chances are you won’t recognize most of the names on this list. Consider renting or buying some of the movies they distributed on DVD. Check for the quality. Do they look good or bad? Ask yourself if you want to be in this neighborhood. In the film and video distribution business, there are a lot of fly-by-night outfits. Avoid them at all costs. Try to get referrals. Talk to people. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you are working with reputable people. REMEMBER, you can’t make a good deal with bad people.