BY ELLIOT GROVE
Filmmakers need to get a good, rock-solid understanding of how film distribution works. Successful filmmakers – and by that I mean filmmakers who successfully recoup their budget and repay investors, are the ones who develop a distribution strategy before they embark on the filmmaking process, and sometimes before they write the script.
I have been meeting filmmakers, sales agents and distributors since 1993 at the Raindance Film Festival. In 2011, nearly 30% of the features or feature documentaries screened found a distribution deal following their festival screening. Although I am not privy to the fine details of their specific deals, I do have a pretty good idea how things are shaping up in a very competitive marketplace.
And though I am not a lawyer, I have grasped enough over time to know how distribution deals are structured.
Consider these 10 essential points filmmakers need to be aware of:
1. Forget the global deal. Split rights is where deals are at
Gone are the days when a major distributor would swoop down on your movie post-Sundance, Toronto or Cannes and offer you a universal all-media buyout.
Sure there are exceptions like Fox Searchlight‘s acquiring Another Earth at Sundance 2011, but it would be a foolish person to make a film on the hope that a global deal will happen.
Commonplace are split rights deals, where distributors cherry pick territories and then decide which national rights they want. It could be they are interested only in TV, or DVD for example, leaving the other pieces of the distribution window to the producer to try to max out money-wise.
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