GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – PREPPING FOR CANNES 2012 – PART TWO – “WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (A SALE)”

Hi everyone. I hope you had a magical week. Welcome to part two of our series prepping for Cannes. Today’s topic, “What To Expect When You Are Expecting (A Sale),” focuses on the process during and after your sales company sells your film to an international territory at Cannes. While this article is assumes a sale will occur, recent history proves that such an assumption for an indie film in today’s market is far closer to fantasy then reality. However, assuming you made one hell of a film with a sellable cast and genre, here’s how you can expect the sales process to roll out.

Deals Take Longer Then The Length Of Cannes To Seal
While some deals come together quickly and others are agreed upon prior to the start of Cannes, most take a few weeks after the market ends to close. This is because most buyers have less money to spend, and less ability to spend it freely. See the next point for an explanation….

Most Buyers Are Buyers For Larger Buyers
These days, most buyers are buying for a larger entity (major distributors, exhibitors, networks and cable channels internationally), and those entities decide the fate of your film. Thus, unless your film falls exactly into what the buyer has been instructed to buy, then they have to submit your film to the company they’re buying for after Cannes. This process adds a week or two or four or eight to the closing of a deal.

Taking Delivery Can Add Several Months To The Process
“Taking Delivery” means the actual entity that’s buying your film is ready to pay on the deal and receive your master. Usually, that process is rather quick, once they are ready to take your film. However, if the buyer doesn’t need your film until the fall, or until 2013, the process will be undoubtedly delayed.

For example, if your film sells to a German cable distributor, but that distributor has your film slotted for a December airdate, then they my try to hold off on payment until November. The good news is, you have a sale. The bad news is you may have to wait 6 months to get the deal complete. Don’t worry though, in most cases, at least a 20%-25% up front payment comes with delayed delivery deals.

The Anatomy Of Your Film Selling Internationally
In an effort to further explain how an international film sales deal goes down, here are some bullet points to consider:

1)  You meet several sales agents and choose one.

2)  Your sales agent puts your film in their “New titles available for Cannes” e-mail blast to 3,000-10,000 buyers.

3)  Your sales agent gets several e-mails back on their e-mail blast, some of which are for your film. Thus, your film gets anywhere from 5-75+ meetings set up at Cannes (75 meetings would mean you have an incredibly well-packaged, well-made film with slam dunk stars). Thus, a more realistic number is 10-25 meetings about your film.

4)  At the meeting in Cannes, the buyer watches a trailer and then (hopefully) asks for a DVD. While younger buyers may ask for a link to the film on Vimeo, etc., most old school buyers don’t want to go to a website and put in various passwords to see your film.

5)  Three days later, when your sales agent sees the “buyer” walking the halls at the Cannes Market and asks if they’ve seen your film yet, the buyer responds with, “we’ll talk about it soon.” Translation= “I haven’t seen it yet.”

6)  After Cannes, you call your sales agent and he or she tells you that several buyers are interested, and they have an email link or DVD copy of your film.

7)  You grow a smile as wide as Texas and start looking for that new home, new car, new significant other, etc.

8)  A week later, you hear nothing from your sales agent, so you call them. They tell you that all is well, and the deal(s) for your film are progressing fine.

9)  A day later, you get a call from the car dealer you went on a 40-minute test drive with in the car you’re going to buy once your deals close. You tell the dealer you just heard your deal is closing soon, and that you should be in to pick up your car by the weekend.

10) The weekend comes and goes, and so do you – to your phone – to ask your sales agent what’s taking so long. They get slightly less patient with you, but tell you they will call you once the deal is done.

11)  That pesky car dealer is calling again, for the sixth time in eleven days. You don’t answer, or return the call.

12)  Your sales agent hears from a few buyers, but both want another DVD copy of your film. They ask your sales agent to FED EX them another copy of your film. Translation= The buyer that took your film’s DVD from your sales agent has lost (or thrown away) the DVD, but now their buyer wants to buy it, so another copy needs to be FED EXED ASAP.  *Remember, buyers don’t have to see your movie to know they want to buy it. They just have to check its quality level to make sure it meets broadcast standards. Thus, they can want something before seeing it. Of course, this adds a week or three.

13) Now you’re pissed off, and you think your sales agent is lazy.

14) Meanwhile, your sales agent thinks things are happening at a normal pace, or even faster than usual.

15) Nonetheless, you call your sales agent and either give them a piece of your mind, or “strongly encourage them” to close the deal.

16) As soon as you get off the phone, your sales agent tells their assistant not to put your calls through anymore. Your contact has been regulated to email only.

17) One week later, your sales agent gets an offer on your film. It’s less than they wanted, but they’re a bit pissed at you, so they aren’t willing to go the extra mile to negotiate an increase your sale. They just want to get paid.

18) A week after that, they call you to give you the “good news,” but all you hear is that your film sold for 10X less than you were expecting. Now your sales agent is on your shit list, and you tell your friends how shitty they are.

19) Meanwhile, your sales agent tells everyone in the international sales world that you’re a crazy filmmaker and that you have unreasonable expectations.

20) Just in case you’re wondering, you don’t make enough to get that new car, but your film got a sale and that’s more than you had before Cannes!

What to take away from this anatomy lesson is that deals take time to close; even slam-dunk fast deals. Thus, it’s better to keep your relationship with your sales agent intact, because it only hurts your film and your career not to do so.

That’s what I’ve got for you today. Until next week, thank you for lending me your eyes! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on April 24, 2012 in Features, Going Bionic by
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3 Comments on "GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – PREPPING FOR CANNES 2012 – PART TWO – “WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (A SALE)”"

  1. shamim Zaidi on Tue, 24th Apr 2012 10:18 pm 

    WEll written. Good job.


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  2. Don R. Lewis on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 9:46 pm 

    I’m excited for this plan because I gotta feeling you’re gonna sell the HECK out of WORST IN SHOW at Cannes!!!!! Go get em Hammad!


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  3. Raza Mallal on Wed, 14th Aug 2013 7:44 am 

    Very insightful and so very true. Great article Hammad, you certainly know your stuff.


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