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March 20, 2015#

The Travails of Distribution

film reel

So you made a film… that’s quite a feat. It took a lot of gumption to take an idea to script to financing to fruition. After the pats on the back have faded, and the festival lights have dimmed, you now have to concern yourself with making sure that film finds an audience. You are about to come into contact with the “D” word: distribution.

Make sure you have a top notch sales agent on your side, but Cinetic won’t necessarily come knocking on your door unless you’re a darling at Sundance, or you happened to have secured some name actors that register on IMDB’s Star Meter. Now you’re in the trenches with the hundreds of other films that are vying for distribution, hoping that perhaps yours is one of the lottery winners that gets a theatrical release, which may improve its chances of a better VOD/streaming deal down the line.

If all of this sounds disconcerting, it’s because it is. The realities of today’s film distribution are such that there is a glut of product due to the democratization effect of filmmaking technologies (namely, anyone can make a movie with an affordable HD camera, or even an iPhone), which in turn means a very crowded marketplace. The only way to offset this, and stand even a remote chance of recouping your investment (I’m not even being optimistic and talking about turning a profit) is to ensure from the get-go that your project has the right mix of concept and talent that will make it attractive to top-tier festivals, and ultimately strong sales agents and distributors. Otherwise, get ready for a long and possibly disappointing road ahead.

Or, your could try and self distribute, which is a bold step but one not to undertaken by the faint of heart. You will need an excellent grasp of social media to muster viral and grassroots support for your film, and get people to either see it in the independent cinemas that you book, or buy it as a direct download or DVD.

But don’t read this and despair — you made your movie because you were following your passion, right? I hope you didn’t tell your investors that when they were buying equity in your passion, they would be repaid in kind. Just be smart and have a solid game plan before you even contemplate making it to that first day of production. Thinking ahead and plotting out things like star power and distribution strategy might just mean that you won’t end up being just a Netflix subscriber, but a part of their catalog.