I’m sure you didn’t make your film for just you, your friends, and family to watch. You want an audience. The entire reason that you spent the time and money to enter your movie into film festivals was to find a distributor. Let’s face it. You don’t have the money or the ability to get your film into theaters. And do you think you could collect the money from the theater owners anyway? What a distributor does is to help you find an audience. They finance the P and A, which is an industry term for prints and advertising. You don’t have a movie until somebody is willing to pay $10 to see it in a theater. Distributors have the means to market and promote your film. In other works, they convince the public that your film is a “movie”.
For every dollar Hollywood spends to produce a movie, they spend an additional 51 to 57 cents to promote and market the film. And you thought making the movie was hard. The truth is the real battle is finding a distributor and, hopefully, an audience. In some cases, the process could take up to five years. You really have to be committed and believe in your movie if you have any chance of finding a distributor.
So what happens if you don’t get a distribution deal at the film festivals? What do you do next? The first thing you must absolutely do before talking to any distributor is get expert advice from an entertainment lawyer. If somebody offered you a deal, how would you know if it was a good deal for you? The entertainment industry is notorious for distributors who have taken advantage of filmmakers, promised them the moon and delivered absolutely nothing. In some cases, they stole their film and left them at the altar, never seeing one red cent.
I’m not going to go into detail for each of these deals; however, I do want to highlight the 50/50 net deal which is basically a standard distribution deal within the industry. It pretty much goes like this. You and the distributor form a partnership. They agree to distribute your movie for a standard distribution fee plus all expenses. Then they will split the profits 50/50 with you. The problem is nobody can define what the standard distribution fee is because it’s always a moving target. And the funny thing is the expenses always seem to eat up the profits. So when they get to the 50/50 split, there’s nothing to split. The expenses magically go up.
The only problem is this deal is rare. A few years ago, distributors were willing to take more risks. Now they want you to take all the risks. They expect you to do the work that they used to do. Distributors want you to find your audience, and market and promote your film. And, if you are successful, they collect all of the rewards. Doesn’t sound fair, does it?