GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – IMAGINE A FILM’S JOURNEY

Hi Everybody! Greetings from Cannes! The last few days have been quite a wild ride, getting here. The whirlwind started for me last Friday at 5:30 AM, when I cruised my car up to San Francisco to see Roger Waters perform “The Wall,” at ATT Park. I was going with my old college roommate, and we were both content with having painfully distant nosebleed seats. However, just as the concert was starting, our friend texted us that he had arranged dead center, 20th row floor seats for us. Naturally, we bolted the upper deck and experienced the amazing orgy of sound and vision from the 20th row!

Saturday afternoon I drove back to Los Angeles just in time to catch the Lakers win game 7 of their first round playoff series against Denver (my beloved Lakers haven’t lost a game 7 at home since 1969). I then pulled all-nighter packing for Cannes, and barely caught my six AM flight that took me to Miami, Dusseldorf, Germany, and ultimately to Nice, which is the airport for Cannes. But now I’m here. My body may not know what day it is, much less what time it is, but I am ready for the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival and Film Market.

Today we’re going to do something a little different. We are going to imagine that you are your film. That’s right, I’d like you to imagine that you are the actual film that you, the filmmaker, have created. Okay, so close your eyes and become your film. Are you there yet? For those of you who are resisting, just go with it. I know you’re creative, so put your creativity to work! Okay, now that you’re playing along, let’s guide you, as your film, through the film sales process at Cannes this week.

Posters and Placement
One of the first things you should concern yourself with is if your poster makes the cut to be displayed at your sales agent/international distributor’s sales booth. Many distributors handle 75+ films, but the walls of their booths have room for only eight to 10 posters. Naturally, distributors want to display their newest acquisitions, especially the films they believe have the best shot of selling well. Thus, as a new film, you must make sure your poster art kicks ass and is visually captivating. Remember, thousands of buyers walk by booths every day during the Cannes, so an attention-grabbing poster is a fare more powerful sales too than you think.

Great Trailers Reel In Notable Buyers
Assuming your poster intrigues a few buyers and they stop into your sales agent’s booth to inquire about you, (the film) you are now entering phase one of the “sales dance.” As the buyer settles into a chair waiting for your distributor to load your trailer, all he or she can think about is the other 29 trailers they have to watch before their next scheduled meeting. So, when your trailer starts, the buyer will have a reaction within 10 to 30 seconds. Their comments are usually not personal, but rather they know what they have been given the green light to buy, and if you don’t fall within their needs, then they need to move on. Thus, your filmmaker should understand that if your sales agent/international distributor asks for a recut trailer, it’s not personal. It’s just an attempt to get you seen and make your filmmaker more money.

DVD Copies Should Be Protected
After a series of buyers see your trailer, let’s assume one of them wants a copy of your DVD. This is a good sign, as it means that they are going to submit you to the entity they are buying for. What it doesn’t mean, however, is that a deal is eminent.

Your filmmaker should know that most seasoned buyers prefer hard copies of you on DVD, so make sure they provide their sales agent with at least one “protected copy,” on DVD. What this means is that while buyers are watching you, a notice comes up on screen every seven minutes or so that states, “for screening purposes only,” or “property of (insert your company name here).” This way nobody can duplicate you without your filmmaker’s knowledge and permission.

As DVDs Go, Region Zero Is Your Hero
Most international buyers need PAL copies of you on DVD, not NTSC (which is the format in America). One easy solution is to make sure your DVD is created in “Region 0 (zero)” which means that the DVD will play for any buyer in any country. One way to lose an otherwise fruitful sale is to give the buyer a DVD that doesn’t play for them, so make sure your DVD can play!

Links Are For Younger Buyers
Younger buyers hate carrying DVD’s, and thus prefer the link to you online. However, make sure your filmmaker understands that it’s paramount not to include cumbersome passwords for the buyers who are trying to open the link to you. Nothing will piss off a buyer more than having your password fail. Thus, the link to you should open you up directly. Not doing so will cost you at least a few sales opportunities.

Fate Is Rarely Decided Immediately
Unless you are a one in a million cinematic gem that buyers will break their checkbooks to buy, your fate, and more importantly, your financial worth, will be decided about three to six weeks after the market ends. This is because the buyers that fancied you sent your information to the places they’re buying for. Decisions that involve several thousand, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and or millions of dollars, all require careful consideration and strategic planning. Thus, be patient. Just think about how long it took your filmmaker to create you. Think about the years it took him or her to develop the idea of you, then write you, finance you, produce you and run you through post. It has surely been a grueling process to make you what you are, and quite a few people sacrificed to make you happen, so you need to relax and let the sales process run its course, so you can hopefully achieve the heights you were meant to reach when you were conceived.

Okay, people, you can “open your eyes” now and stop being your film. Here’s to each and every one of your films barreling through the process I’ve just laid out, and reaching all of their ultimate goals. Until then, I thank you once again for lending me your eyes (and imagination this week), and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Have a great week!

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal




Posted on May 15, 2012 in Features, Going Bionic by
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One Comment on "GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – IMAGINE A FILM’S JOURNEY"

  1. shamim Zaidi on Tue, 15th May 2012 10:41 pm 

    Very nice. Keep writing.


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