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    Trials and tribulations of distribution...
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    Hey guys. I have finally gotten a 'tentative' release date from the distributors of JULY 14th 2006 for the North American rental/sale release of my film LIMBO. We signed the deal months ago and I cannot tell you how hard it has been getting to this point from then. I thought i'd share some of the VERY important points you should ALL be aware of when making your films so that you do NOT fall into the same mess we have had to clean up after the fact.

    GETTING DISTRIBUTION IN THE FIRST PLACE:
    Okay, so you have this amazing idea. You believe in your vision and you feel, you know what, screw the world if they don't appreciate my masterpiece. This is fine if you're established and a Kubrick. You will get distributed. If you are not however, and you're a new guy, why would a distributor take a risk on a nobody with a film too far out there to be appealing to anyone (at least on first glance). Think of your target audience before you even put pen to paper for a script. Decide who you want to buy/rent your film and tailor everything to appeal to them. The trick is, keeping a lot of your vision of what you want in your film intact, while infusing it with elements that will attract the group of people you want. LIMBO was WAY out there. Too out there for a lot of distributors. Though we had a string of great reviews, and were an official selection of one of the major festivals in the world, we had trouble getting a distributor to take it on. It just wasn't obvious who would want to watch the film. At least not to the business first minded distributors, which is 99.9% of them.

    Now why do this? Because when it comes time to get a distributor, even if you win 10 awards at festivals, they STILL want to know HOW to market and sell your film. If you make it obvious who will want your film, it just makes finding a distributor easier.

    If you want a late twenties, male urban audience, make sure you know what guys like that like to see in their entertainment and INCLUDE it in your film. Be creative in how you do it in order to maintain the integrity of your project. Just remember, when you're at the bottom of the ladder, it is not the time to be strong headed about making the film YOU want. Make the film DISTRIBUTORS will want, and when you command respect and a hefty paycheck, or at least have a foot in the door, THEN make the film YOU want.

    ACTORS:

    Listen guys when you make your movie you will want the best actors you can get. If you live in a state like New York, you will have actors beating your door down to be in your film. Now, you will notice that many professional actors belong to unions. The two main ones we dealt with were SAG and AFTRA.

    Unions try to get the best deals for their members. Often this is at the expense of who ever is employing them. Some movie makers exploit their actors, so this makes sense. However, if you're just some kid making a movie, then this can be a pain. You will have to sign some sort of waiver saying you will defer payment UNLESS you have a real budget and you can pay them their $655 or so day rate. We took the waiver.

    When you get your deal, you will discover you are on the hook for thousands of dollars in wages that you MUST pay when you sign the deal. If your deal does not include an advance of say 50 g's, or more, then your movie cannot be released. You may then have to beg all your actors to sign a wage reduction letter and then it is really touch and go, because they don't have to.

    Advice. Either pay your actors up front. Get non SAG or AFTRA actors, or get them to sign a contract that reflects how you intend to pay their wages (ie when profit is made). SAG now have a new low budget plan for tiny films which I think looks at this very problem. It is a common thing that is overlooked by many filmmakers. We did it. You could also fall into the trap.



    MUSIC

    This delayed us A WHOLE YEAR!!!

    Do NOT put unlicenced music in your film saying 'i'll take it out later.' You won't. You'll put it off till before you know it, you're done and some top ten hit is in your film with a licencing fee of 15 grand. Get musicians, make your own songs or get bands who sign their music to your film up front. Pay a composer for original music and avoid this MAJOR problem. It's cool for festivals, but if you are going for the gold ticket of distribution, then you have to have all your music cleared.



    DELIVERABLES

    You sign your deal and your jumping up and down and so forth. Then the distributor slaps you with a two page list of things to send to them. You're seeing items you've never heard of in your life. You know what an M&E is? If your movie cost 9 grand, then you probably don't. Without it, 75% of the world sales for your movie goes caput.

    MAKE AN M&E AS PART OF YOUR POST PRODUCTION!

    It stands for Music and Effects. They must be made separate from the film so that foreign countries can dub their language into it.

    In addition, get a dummy deliverables list before you shoot your film. make sure that you incorporate every element into your filmmaking process. It will save you some major headache AND money in the long run.

    Things like a dialogue list, NTSC AND PAL versions of your film on Digibeta, contracts from every major player in the project (writer, director etc). A copyright for the movie (this costs money and isn't even close to being free). Textless titles ( a real pain as this means if you didn't do it originally, you will have to reconstruct your opening WITHOUT the credits. Imagine if you did all your post and locked picture, then found out you had to go back and do this???? We did).



    CONTRACT

    READ THE FINE PRINT. ASK QUESTIONS. KEEP ASKING TILL YOU GET ANSWERS.

    You need accountability. You will find that distributors may not tell you about things TILL you ask them. That is not concealing if they don't HAVE to tell you OR if it is written on line 53 in the contract. Make sure you know exactly what you're getting into.

    Oh, and get a good lawyer. Don't be an idiot and think you can do this without legal representation. If you do, then it is 50 50 you get burned.

    I'm happy with the deal we got, but it had to be negotiated. You should do the same.



    REALISTIC GOALS

    We'd all love to have the next Blair Witch, but we know that is unlikely. Don't turn down a deal if you think you're worth more. Try to see if the deal on the table can work for you. Leverage the opportunity, especially if you don't have other offers. You may never get one.



    I hope these points help. I could go into more detail, but these were the major things that really affected our process. We very nearly lost the deal because of these issues, and we definitely ended up paying a lot of money to get these things done.

    The thread for LIMBO is in the Canon forum. LINK:

    http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?t=34380

    The film is now available on DVD: http://web.mac.com/themerc01/iWeb/BU...er%20Ends.html
    Last edited by ROKOKO; 02-16-2007 at 10:32 AM.


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    #2
    Look ma no hands HorseFilms's Avatar
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    Wow! Thanks for the info. This should be a sticky somewhere. Maybe the business forum?


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    #3
    Producer Mod Brandon Rice's Avatar
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    Thanks for the heads up on this, as we're trying to get our next project sold.
    Please subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL to see all of my projects.

    New short film THE APPOINTMENT now available to see!


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    #4
    Senior Member Isaac_Brody's Avatar
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    Great post. I'm moving it to business and sticking it. And Rokoko, please add to this too if you can. It'd be great to get as much information as possible so users don't get burned.
    __________________________
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    #5
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    I wish I knew that before we started our film project... I'm dealing with those very headaches right now with our distribution deal.

    SmithHouse
    DVX Feature, Vigilantes, now available for purchase at: www.vigilantesmovie.com


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    Thanks Rokoko. Perhaps you could share your experience on the trials and tribulations of scoring distribution too.


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    Quote Originally Posted by PrestonH
    Thanks Rokoko. Perhaps you could share your experience on the trials and tribulations of scoring distribution too.
    How do you mean?


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    Quote Originally Posted by ROKOKO
    How do you mean?
    Meaning, compared to getting distribution, filmmaking is often the easy part. I think a lot of people would be interested to learn the ups and downs of scoring a distributor - unless, of course, it was easy for you. Congrats on no small feat.


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    Quote Originally Posted by PrestonH
    Meaning, compared to getting distribution, filmmaking is often the easy part. I think a lot of people would be interested to learn the ups and downs of scoring a distributor - unless, of course, it was easy for you. Congrats on no small feat.
    ok i updated it.


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    Senior Member TheThe's Avatar
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    Congrat's ROKOKO

    I am (hopefully) in the same journey, only at the begining. I have one question though...

    Did you have to pay for E&O insurance (Errors and Omissions) or did the distributor pay that as part of the deal? And if so, how much was it?


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