IFH 267: The RAW TRUTH – Self Distribution vs Traditional Distribution



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LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE, self-distribution vs traditional distribution!!! I wanted to finally create an HONEST resource for indie filmmakers to learn the TRUTH about both forms of distributing their films.

I get into the weeds on this one and talk about my experience self-distributing my film, This is Meg, what my experience was working with multiple domestic and international distribution companies and give examples on how and why self-distribution is a great path just not for every film.

It’s a knowledge bomb packed episode so get ready to take some notes. Knowledge is power. Enjoy!

Alex Ferrari 1:26
Now over the years, I've been talking a lot about self distribution and the power to the people. But I've also talked a lot about traditional distribution. And I think there's a lot of misinformation about both ways of getting your movie out there. So this episode, I wanted to talk about self distribution, the pluses and minuses and traditional distribution, the plus and the minuses. So we could get really clear about both ways of getting your movie out there. So let's define self distribution. Self distribution means when you are going to put your movie out there to the platforms yourself. Now that could be doing your own theatrical release by a company like tug, or doing for walling where you actually rent out a theater and put your movie there, which I don't recommend you do. But that's, that's a form of self distribution. You going through an aggregator like distributor to get your film on iTunes on Amazon on Google Play, and pitch to Netflix and Hulu and all those platforms online and do svod t VOD, and a VOD, which are subscription subscription video on demand transactional video on demand and advertising video on demand. And that basically, is the definition of self distribution. Now, I want to do a little bit of plus and minuses. Now, on the plus side with self distribution, you will have almost all your money back, you control your movie, first of them for first and foremost, you control your movie, you are the captain of your ship, you move it however you want to do it. So your complete control. You pay an aggregator upfront fee, and you put your movie on these platforms after that whatever the money that comes back from those platforms is 100% yours, minus whatever the platform, you know, the ducks like iTunes takes 30% and Amazon takes whatever percentage out of what they rent or sell on their platforms. And that sounds fantastic. You're like, Wow, this is great. I Why wouldn't I go to self distribution? Why would I want to go to a traditional distributor where they're going to take a bunch of money and, and I'm not going to control my movie, and it's going to be locked up for years and bla bla bla bla bla. That's great. Now in theory, that self distribution model works wonderfully. Now, with my first movie. This is Meg as you guys all know, have been listening to me for a while, I went through the self distribution route. For the most part I self distributed, I was able to go through the stripper, submit my movie to Hulu, which it got sold to Hulu wasn't on their advertising, or any advertising model or anything like that it was a straight up licensing deal. So they actually paid me a check or multiple checks to to license this as Meg over the course of a year. I also was able to get it up on iTunes on Fandango on Sony PlayStation on Xbox on Google Play everywhere that you can get a movie to be watched, they pretty much put it up there for me. And I was able to make a good amount of money from that I was easily able to be a profitable film. Mind you my my budget was extremely low, but I was able to make a profit on my film. Now a couple of negatives here on self distribution you if you are going to self distribute a movie you've got to look at the ROI the return on investment. So let's say you have $150,000 feature film with no stars attached no stars in it at all. Just maybe some faces of people I recognize like I did with this is Meg and and you go down the self distribution route. Well, I'm going to tell you from my experience and also from a lot of filmmakers and people I've talked to in the industry. Getting $150,000, just getting it back through self distribution is extremely difficult, it's not impossible, I'm going to give you examples of people who've done it, and why those people succeeded. If you're going to make a broad comedy, let's say, and, and try to penetrate the people who like broad comedies, and you're going to try to market to those people, you will not be able to penetrate that marketplace, it is too broad. And you're now stepping in the arena of what a studio would do and spend millions of dollars to get awareness of your film and see if you can get a return or ROI on that investment. It's extremely difficult. Is it impossible? No, I know anything I say here, there's always an exception to the rule, I'm talking about most of the situations when it comes to getting your film out there. If you are going to self distribute, you absolutely must. And just I can't express this enough, I need to understand marketing, you need to understand social media marketing, you need to understand internet marketing, you need to understand how to get to your core audience. And if you don't know that, or have someone who you hire that knows how to do that which are rare, to tell you the truth, I've only met a handful of people who can actually do what they say they're going to do in the internet marketing space, it is going to be almost impossible for you to recoup that kind of budget, going through the self distribution route, it's just very, very, very difficult. Now, if you are going to try to do self distribution and want to be successful, the two things that you need to have for I think for self distribution to be a success is a niche of a movie. So when I say a niche, meaning a given example, like faith, Granger, who was a guest, a few, a few podcast episodes ago, where she made a movie about hot rods, that market she knew that market very well. She knew how to market to that, that that audience very well. And she did. So it's a small audience, but it was a dense audience. And she was able to just target those people, because they wanted to see a movie about hot rods, because there was nothing else in the marketplace doing that. So that's why she was able to make a ton of money and actually turned that little movie into almost a career. She just goes around touring all around the country, you know, showing her movie screening her movie at different festivals and, and she built another company around that audience base. And now she's hopefully going to be doing more films in the future and doing other things as well. But that makes sense that makes absolute sense. Or if you don't have a niche audience, you have a built in audience, meaning that the topic of your film is going to appeal to a built in audience that's waiting and ready for your mark for your product. So there was a movie called Asperger's R Us by a great directors name's Alex Lehman, who was on the show many many eons ago, with his movie that he directed with Mark duplass. And Sarah Paulson. And he did a documentary about an autistic comedy troupe. And that movie was has a built in audience people who are interested in, you know, the subject matter of autism and how people deal with autism and move forward with autism. And it was a very unique story. And they were able to penetrate the marketplace, literally just by posting in a handful of Facebook groups, you know, targeting a handful of people who are interested in that topic, and the movie went out and made gangbusters it did a lot of money. Even Netflix bought it afterwards, because of the subject matter. So had a built in audience. Now I want to talk a little bit about Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, the big streaming platforms. There's a lot of misinformation about Netflix specifically, but Hulu for that matter as well. But let's talk about Netflix. First. People think that you know, you just submit your movie to Netflix and Netflix is going to pay you $100,000 for your movie $200,000 if you move $80,000 for your movie, understand that right now, the business model of Netflix is not to acquire or license other product, they are in the business of creating their own original content, because that is what is going to be beneficial to them in the long run. They pay once and they have the rights to it for ever, and they can continue to use it and use it on their platform. Currently, Netflix has over 700 original programs and movies in their library and they're spending $8 billion this year alone on original content. So they do license stuff obviously still they still bring on big movies. They do still they still bring in indie films, documentaries, specifically comedy specials, all They still do it, but it's much smaller. The other little secret that people don't say very often is that Netflix has really penetrated the US market, they really control. I mean, there's like 110 million people in the US that uses Netflix and growing every day. But they're starting to get to a point where they know that their growth is not going to be in the US, their growth is going to be worldwide. So if you have content that is specific to the US, that's something that they're not even going to look at. They're looking for content that can translate to other cultures to other countries, because that's where they want to start growing. The India's, the China's, Europe, South America, all these other places, where they're trying to start breaking in and expanding and growing their company. So understand the mentality of what Netflix is trying to do. Not saying you don't have to pitch to them, pitch to them, if you can get to them great pitch. But think like that when you're going in. So you don't go in with weird expectations that Netflix is going to buy something from you right away, understand that this is their business model. Now, Hulu is a little bit different. They are licensing a bunch of stuff, but they are starting to go towards the Netflix model of creating original content. So they can control it, it is a much better business model than licensing other people's product. And continuously doing it again and again. And again, it's just outputting of money and money, money when you get up, put money once and have that content forever on your platform. So know that that's where these big streaming services are going. They are still buying. And I think they'll always be a portion of what they do. They will be licensing and buying from other people. But understand that your competition to get into those to those services is really, really difficult. Amazon is the exact same way. Now another negative about self distribution is the international reach. Yes, if you go through an aggregator, you'll be able to get on iTunes, and Amazon and you'll be able to be put in, let's say 1012 different markets around the world. But if you're not marketing in those in those territories, really doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. From my experience. When I put my movie out internationally on this is Meg, most of my money was coming in from the US because that's where most of my followers and listeners are. But I did get some sales. But then I put the movie up on Vimeo pro where anybody no matter what territory they are in the world could rent it on Vimeo pro and watch it there. And I did get a handful of sales through Vimeo as well. But overall, I'm not selling my movie internationally. I'm not selling territories like China or the UK or Germany or anything like that. Self distribution doesn't allow for that yet. It might in the future. But it doesn't right now in 2018. Now I'm going to discuss a few success stories of self distribution. First of all, this is Meg, my film was a success, I was able to definitely make a good amount of money on the film, I'm not retiring off by any stretch, and I'm still making money on it every month is still growing all the time. It was a success, but understand why it was excess. This is magazine drama, it is a comedy drama about an actress comedian, trying to make it in Hollywood. Now you're saying Alex, that's not niche? How were you able to be successful? It wasn't niche. But I did have an audience, which is you guys, the indie film hustle tribe, and people who follow me and listen to me. So I was able to bring them along my journey with this is mag to the point where when this is met was finally released, everybody was curious on what it looked like how it made it what's going on. A lot of people watched it for free on Hulu. A lot of people bought it and rented it to support me and what I do with indie film, hustle, but I had an audience that I fed and I understood what they were looking for. So I brought them along with me on the journey. There's also ancillary products that I'm, I've created am going to create in the future in regards to how I made the film, all sorts of different things, you know, that came in from out of, of just the sale of the movie. But that's why I was successful, I had an audience that I could actually sell something to, if you're a YouTube star, and you've got an audience that loves you yet to 3 million subscribers and you make a feature film. If you keep the budget to a certain level, you probably do very, very well depending on how rabid your audience base is for you. And I've seen that happen with many movies that had YouTube stars in it, they tapped into their audience, they brought them along on the journey. And it doesn't have to be a specific niche movie that that audience is interested in their niches you so if you have that kind of audience, then you can create product for that audience and continue to rinse and repeat my god guess what you've got a career at that point. But that is a way of doing and that's kind of what I did with this is Meg. Another x success story is range 50 In range 15, Nick from age 15 was on the show. And it's been one of the most downloaded episodes ever, because he was able to make over $3 million with his self distributed film. Now that sounds fantastic, it sounds great. But let's dive in a little bit to why he was able to be so successful with his movie. One, he runs a multimillion dollar t shirt company that is based around the niche of military police, firefighters Coast Guard those kind of people, and that's their brand, that brand and those people so they were able to create a YouTube channel where they made a whole bunch of funny videos that were aimed directly at their audience. So they had this built in audience they had huge email list because of an ad, these people are extremely, extremely on that audience is extremely loyal to what they were doing. So they said, hey, let's go make a movie. When they when they threw up their Kickstarter, they made a million dollars in their Kickstarter campaign for the budget of this film. So then they went out and got some stars, you know, some people that could put on them in the movie, as well as people who are from their audience, their niche people who are famous within the military community, real Purple Heart winners, and things like that. And they just completely populated their film with these people. So they were so smart. And they were like building a product specifically for the audience that they have been cultivating for the course of 10 years. So of course, when they went out to self distribute their film, they put it up on iTunes, and Amazon, and focus all their traffic on those two platforms. And they made a ton like a ton. They literally got to the number two spot on all of iTunes, which is insane. They were beating out huge studio films. That's how powerful and how smart and how good they were at their marketing and understanding their audience and getting it to it. That is when self distribution makes absolutely all the sense in the world because they kept all of that money. And they continue to get all of that money as that continues. But oh, by the way, they also built out a whole plethora of ancillary products around the movie, which is t shirts, because that's their business posters, blu ray signed autograph, a different products all aimed at their customer base, so they must have made millions off of all the other products as well. So it was extremely smart business decision on what they were doing. Another great success story is the Jake the Snake Roberts documentary. Now if you guys don't know who Jake the Snake is, Jake says Nick is an old g WWF star. And it was about what happened to this, this amazing athlete and star of the WWF. And how he had fallen on really hard times living in a trailer somewhere dealing with Drug Abuse and Alcoholism. And how he was able to come back and come back out of that darkness. And that was what the documentary was about. Now, for people like me who grew up with the WWF I wanted to see that documentary, I want to see what happened to Jake the Snake. That movie had a built in audience. That audience is anyone who has ever heard of Jake, the snake anyone who was ever a fan of Jake, the snake or a fan of the WWF that is a huge audience. And all they did was they did the exact same thing. They self distributed a put it up on iTunes, and on Amazon. And they all they did was like let the community know, they knew where their community was hanging out. And they marketed to that community. And once that came out, it blew up was the number one documentary on iTunes for a while, and they made millions of dollars off of that film. So you see the pattern here. Either you have your own audience that are fans of you. And you could sell something to them because it's content that they want to see. You either have a built in audience that is not wrapped around you but wrapped around what you do your brand things like that, or you have a built in audience that exists out there and you're just creating product for them. Like I've always said I always use the same thing the vegan chef movie, if you make a romantic comedy about vegan chef meets a meat eater all good. Why wouldn't you make you know courses on how to make Vegan Cuisine and all this stuff and target all of those all those huge audiences like vegans and and vegetarians and paleo people people want to be healthier and all that kind of good stuff. You target an audience and you build a con you build content for that audience it same thing with faith based films. It Same thing with children and family films. dot talking dog movies huge by the way dog talking dog when you make a talking dog movie, you're gonna make money. But all of those kinds of products, you just identify a niche and you can go after that niche. I mean, obviously, the ones that just said were a little bit broader, like the talking dog movie or family movies, but faith based movies, things like that you can self distribute, you can be successful in those cases. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And one last thing about self distribution. Generally speaking, when I, when I put out this as mag, self, itself, distributed in the US and a little bit overseas, through through distributor not didn't have a big reach. So I then decided to go with an actual traditional distributor for my international rights, that is still a possibility, where they pick up just the international rights and you control domestic rights. And then from that, I was able to sell huge territories like China, like the UK, like South Africa, and many other countries that bought this is married, which I was just shocked about, I didn't even think China, I mean, seriously, China, how is that I didn't understand. But it did, it happened. And we made money doing that. That's something you can't self distribute, you don't have those kind of relationships to get to that. So let's that will kind of bring us right into traditional distributors, industry and distribution companies. So let's define traditional distribution, traditional distribution means that you as the filmmaker have a product, that product is your film and you go to a distributor, that distributor will either buy your movie, or gather the rights to that movie, so they can go off and exploit the rights of that movie. Depending on the territories that they have, whether it be just the US market, or international, they generally just split it up like that, I don't see many distributors cutting up like oh, I'm just going to take care of over Canada, it does happen. But generally speaking, unless they're Canadian distributor or something like that. But generally speaking, distributors like to either have worldwide rights so they can export everything, including s VOD, and all that kind of stuff. or cut it up in like big chunks really very, very big chunks. Now, let's talk about the pluses first on traditional distribution, some distributors will give you a limited theatrical lease, that sounds like magical, oh my god, my movies gonna be in the theaters, oh, my God, I'm gonna be like, you know, the Avengers, but different. No, it's not like that. What they do is they either rent out or have a relationship with as a theater chain here in Los Angeles, or New York, or in a couple of big cities, and they'll put your movie out for one weekend, and just say, boom, it's out there. By doing that, it does a couple of things. One, it, if any money comes in from it. Great. That's a big plus. But it's mostly a marketing ploy. It's mostly, so you can get reviewed by big publications in those cities. So if you're in LA, you do a limited theatrical, you're gonna more likely get the LA Times, you're more likely to get the Hollywood Reporter and variety, and those kind of big publications, which are really good and helps the cachet of the film. And also, by having a limited theatrical release, it adds value to your movie. So now when you go internationally and go, yes, this was a theatrical release in the US, all of them, all of a sudden, the price of your movie goes up a little bit, it just seems a little bit more because they know how expensive is to get a movie theatrically played in the US nowadays. So some distributors will do that. Not all, and not all for free. But some of them will do that as part of their marketing expenses, which we'll get to in a minute. Now, traditional distributors have a much farther reach then you can ever have. Now if again, if you're in the range, 15 kind of world, you don't need a large reach because you have a large audience that you can funnel into one platform. But if you're trying to reach a larger audience, especially an international worldwide audience, traditional distributors if they have those relationships, can do that. Now, one of the reasons you want to work with a distributor is because you're leveraging their relationships. They have spent years sometimes decades building relationships with buyers with companies from all around the world, that they're able to just make a phone call and go, hey, I've got this new movie. How much do you know how much you willing to offer for China and the Chinese contact that they have, like, we'll give you 20 grand for China, great, we'll give you 100 grand for China great. And then he calls up the Germany guy and makes it really makes a call to the in the UK guy and I know and then also calls up Netflix because they have a relationship with Netflix, or Hulu or Amazon and they just make those those relationships are what you're trying to leverage when working with a traditional distributor. Now, a lot of people put their movie up on Amazon by themselves like You know what, I could just go to Amazon Video direct and put my own movie up and drive traffic to it and rent it sell it or put it up on prime? Yes, you could. But the only thing is you're going to get into two markets now. It used to be four markets. Now it's basically the US and the UK. Those are the only markets that Amazon Video direct really works with. Now, they used to have Japan and Germany, it might might, they might come back might not I don't know. But there's 120 territories that Amazon is in. And you will not be ever to ever get into that many territories by yourself or with an aggregator. It's just not possible yet. But some distributors have those relationships, where you could put up your movie on Amazon and be automatically in 120 different territories, which means what hopefully more money to come in because you have more opportunity for more people to see your work. Now let's talk about the negatives. Now traditional distributors have a horrible orrible rule, just reputation just horrible. And for good reason. Because for many, many years, and even up to this day, there are many scam artists, there are many distributors that will literally rape and pillage filmmakers, it is just the way it is you can look at these contracts, you can look at these agreements, and you're just like, oh my god. So what they do is they take a naive filmmaker, they they make them sign a deal for seven years for 15 years, they take 30%, sometimes even more. And they basically just own it now for that time. And if they make money for you, great if they don't, they don't really care, it's part of their library now. And they could do whatever the hell they want with it with really no say from you. That is a scary, scary, scary proposition. They also are not very transparent. You don't see their reports very often from the bad ones. I'm not talking about the good one, talk about the good ones in a second. But you don't you're not very they're not very transparent. It's kind of like this old boys club, where everything is shut down, closed behind closed doors, they don't give you numbers, they don't give you things. Sometimes they do. But a lot of times they have this thing called creative Hollywood accounting. Now, hollywood accounting, let's just make it I'll give you a perfect example. The Hollywood accounting is, you know, the Oscar winning movie Forrest Gump that made hundreds of millions of dollars, according to paramount. It never made its money, it lost money, according to its accountants. And that is complete and total BS, obviously, but that's what Hollywood does. It's an old way of doing business. And it's just entrenched in this the culture of distribution companies, especially old school distribution companies, another way that traditional distributors really just screw you over is huge marketing costs. And this is where the big mistakes happen, where they'll just have an open ended marketing cost, meaning that no matter how much marketing that they do, it's gonna come out of your pay, it's gonna come out of your side, period. That's it. So if you they say, Look, your movie made $150,000. But guess what? It cost us 160,000 a market itself, we're still losing money on this side, I'm sorry. That's the way it goes. So if you are going to sign a deal with a traditional distributor, you have to put a cap on marketing expenses. Marketing cap expenses are generally anywhere between 20 and $30,000. For a normal film, that's generally what they look at. And it's a cap, but understand, if you have if you do sign a deal with a $30,000. Cap, there is no way in hell that that distribution company is just going to go, Oh, we only spent $10,000, don't worry about the rest. It's gonna go right to the top. It's just the way it is. It's the way they're going to deal with things. Another thing you have to be careful of is the terms of an agreement, how long are they going to lock up your movie, if they're not paying you anything upfront, there's no reason to go in for 20 years, sometimes I've seen some distribution contracts like that. Average is between five and seven years for a distribution contract, that's generally enough time for them to be able to exploit the rights for the film and then the rights revert back to you after that term. Make sure you also and this is extremely important that you put a clause in the contract that states if the distribution company goes out of business, or is bought out by another company that the rights revert back to you trust me on this. I've heard horror stories of filmmakers who won Sundance actually, there's one filmmaker I'm talking I'm thinking of, and that distribution company made a deal with them, but then they went bankrupt, and then his film was stuck in arbitration. For years. He couldn't get the rights back out for his film. It was a nightmare. So make sure you do that. Honestly, if you can get a contract some some distributors Believe it or not do a three year contract. It's rare, but they do five to seven is as the Seven being the max, no 10s, no 15th. Because at that point, you're locking your movie up with these people in this company for the term of the contract. Some distribution companies also have clauses that can help benefit you is if they don't perform to a certain extent, the rights revert back to you. Those are things that you need to talk to an attorney about, see if you can work into your agreement as well. But be very, very careful about those terms, because it can lock your movie up for many, many years. And you will never see a dime, I'll tell you a horror story of my own where I actually had my my a compilation of my shorts called lipstick and bullets. And it went out to a distributor and it was signed by a traditional old school distributor who will remain nameless. But it was just such a bad deal that I was able to wiggle my way out of that deal, finally, but it was so horrible deal, they owned it for X amount of years, there was like, they were changing things left and right without any consent without any consultation, anything. And you know, what if the if I was making a ton of money, I might have said, Alright, cool, no problem. But I wasn't I didn't make a dime off of that deal. So I was able to finally get my rights back and control my own property again, it was a horrible, horrible, horrible experience. Now, would you want that you must be telling asking yourself, Alex, what do we do? I mean, you've told us that traditional, it's not that great, and it's hard. And this and that, look, there's a bunch of good distribution companies out there, you have to go and look for them, you have to go and find them. Because they are available you this is what you have to look for. You have to look for transparency, you've got to look for their marketing expenses, you have to make sure to never pay upfront fees to any distribution company. If a distribution company goes fine, we'll take your movie on but it's going to cost us 10, it cost you 10 grand, it's going to cost you five grand, No, do not do it. It is a trap, it is a scam, don't do it. If they're taking your movie on they will incur any cost to finish to to sell your movie. Now, if you haven't made a trailer or something like that. And that is part of their deliverables list, you either provide them a trailer, or they're going to charge you for a trailer. That's understandable. If you haven't done closed captioning. And those are part of the deliverables. And you haven't done those. They're going to charge you for them. And I promise you, they're going to charge you more than rev comm which I recommend highly to do closed captioning would charge you. So those expenses Make sense? Because if you don't do it, you can deliver and we'll talk about deliverables in a minute as well. Now another big plus of working with a good traditional distributor is is that they go to AFM they go to can they go to MIP? Do they go to all of the big film markets. This is where people go to sell and buy movies, and shows and content, original content. Generally speaking buyers from international buyers to domestic buyers, they do not want to deal with individual filmmakers. And it makes perfect sense. Imagine if your Netflix, would you want to deal with 5000 filmmakers with 5000 different movies? No, you would want to deal with two or three companies that represents all of those films. And you could deal with them on a movie by movie basis. It's not emotional, because you know, US filmmakers, as creatives can get emotional about our products, sometimes about our films or buy our baby sometime. So generally speaking, those distributors or those buyers, at these markets do not want to deal with individuals, they want to deal with distribution companies, and preferably with distribution companies that they have a relationship with, that they've bought from in the past that they know they're not going to get screwed on these kind of relationships, or what Bill are built up over time at these markets. This is something that you cannot do by yourself, you do need a traditional distributor, as I did with my international distributor. And because I would have never been able to sell China by myself, I would never I have no relationships or I've just no way of doing that. But they do because they had those relationships. So I hope you guys have a better understanding of traditional distribution versus self distribution. And here are my closing thoughts on both. Self distribution is a perfect model, but not for all films. First, some films for specific films, you need to understand marketing extremely well. You either need to be a niche yourself a popular person that an audience that you feel that you can sell a product to, you have to either make a movie for a specific kind of niche and target that niche or you make a movie that has a built in audience like as burgers or us or the vegan chef movie or something along those lines. It is a great, great way of getting your movie out there but it is extremely hard. And you have to keep your expectations in check. Your just because you put a movie up on iTunes doesn't mean you'll make a god damn dime, you need to get that clear, unless you market it towards you unless you market it towards iTunes unless you push people towards the platform that you're trying to sell or rent your movie. Okay, so please understand that it's very, very clear. I loved self distribution. I loved having control all the way through. But then I also had a good time and understanding of the international distribution company that I worked with, where I just got checks, and I didn't have to do any work. That was nice. That was extremely nice to be able to do that as well. But again, you have to look for honest distributors. And now for my closing thoughts on tradition distribution. Look for an honest and transparent distributor. That is so key. How do you find that Alex? Well, this is how you do it. When you find a distribution company that you want to work with, go to IMDb and check out the movies that they've represented in the past, call up those filmmakers find their contact information, call them up and ask them how it was to work with them, and how they were treated. And if they actually got paid. And if they were transparent, because I promise you, if you call up a filmmaker that has worked with this, the distribution company you're looking at, they will tell you the truth, they will be emphatic with you in either one way, shape, or form. Whether it be positive or negative, they'll tell you was the worst experience ever had, or the best experience I've ever had, I've never run into a filmmaker did not want to talk to me about it, they all want to talk about it. I've been called multiple times, from different filmmakers, who saw that I've worked with certain distribution companies in the past and wanted to know the truth about them. And I was just extremely candid, extremely raw about my experiences positive or negative, that is a way to kind of cut through the crap and find a good distributor, make sure that there are no upfront fees when dealing with a traditional distributor, you know, no upfront fees to take your movie or anything like that, if you again have to pay for some of the deliverables that they're asking for. And I'm going to talk about the deliverables in a second, then that's something that might have to come out of pocket. But that's general with any distributor that you go with, or even self distributor, you're going to have to have these deliverables in mind. Now, if you are lucky enough to find a distributor that is willing to give you an upfront minimum guarantee, that's amazing. What that is means is they just give you, let's say $10,000 for the rights to your movie, because they know they're gonna make money on the tail end, but they're giving you an advance that is kind of like a unicorn, it generally doesn't happen in today's world, you hear about it at at festivals and big movies, with big stars at Sundance or South by Southwest, things like that, that they bought it for a million bucks, they bought a half a million bucks about 300,000 you know, Amazon when you was just if you got into Sundance, you got $150,000 right away from Amazon, right for Amazon streaming rights, you know, just because you were in Sundance, you know, those, those deals are, are there, but they're very rare and don't expect them. But if you can find it, and your movie warrants it, awesome. Now look for a payment schedule high and how transparent their reporting is going to be. And you'll find that out by calling those filmmakers who have worked with them in the past. Also look out for ridiculous marketing expenses, make sure that you have if there are marketing expenses, which more likely they are, always have them kept. If you have an open end marketing expense account, like meaning that they can spend as much as they want to marketing, you will never see a dime on your movie. And also check to see what kind of international reach they have. If they're going to represent you internationally. A lot of domestic distributors say they have very deep dish, you know, international connections, but at the end of the day, they might not so you're going to have to do your due diligence and really figure it out do research IMDb Pro, IMDb Pro, IMDb pro that has so much information about what movies they represented, where it was sold, and and what kind of relationship that that company might actually have. So definitely check that out. Now, I want to also talk about deliverables. deliverables are one of the biggest pains in the axes of this entire process of filmmaking. Now I'm not talking about just the technical deliverables of making sure you movies on Apple pro res, four two to HQ attended EP and at 4k if you're gonna do 4k, making sure you have surround sound files all that stuff m&e tracks, for international your closed captioning, subtitling files, your tactless all that stuff. All the technical stuff is something you're going to need. You're going to need a trailer, a G rated trailer at that For the different platforms that these are things that you're going to need period, either you go self distribution, or you go with a traditional distributor or a combination of both, it's going to be needed to be done, no matter what the other kind of deliverables you have to deal with our paperwork. The paperwork means Suzanne Lyons, who has been on the show many times have discussed deliverables and the paperwork that comes with it. It's such a pain in the butt. But it's something that needs to be done things like E and O insurance, title reports, having all your credits written up, cue sheet for your scoring music, all the contracts that you signed with your actors with your cat, or with your cast, with your crew, with locations, all of those things, the copyright, the chain of title, all of it, these are all big pains in the ass, but you have to have all that stuff ready to go. And there is cost involved with some of those like having no insurance. No insurance can be costly, but something that most of the times the distributor will pick up and then just charge you for that on the back end, when money comes in. Generally, they're not going to charge you upfront, but each distributor is different. So you have to look into that. I know guys making movies is not easy. It's not a fun process all the way through the creative part is great. But this is the business side of things. And you really need to have either someone who understands all of this, or you need to learn it yourself. And I would suggest you as a filmmaker, as a director as a, as a screenwriter, as anyone who's working in the business understand this process. Because if you don't, you're gonna get screwed, you're not gonna make any money. And if you don't make any money selling your movie, you're not gonna be able to make another movie. And that is horrible. I want you guys to be able to make your movies, I want you to be able to tell your stories and get them out into the world. Like I've always said to so many times on the show before, you never know the impact your art your film your screenplay will have on an individual in the world, it's your responsibility to get it out in the world. And I'm going to add to that it's also your responsibility to get paid for that. Because if not, we can't keep making more movies. It's a very expensive art form. And we need to learn how to create a sustainable business model in order to move forward in our careers. Now I know a lot of you are asking Alex, do you know any traditional distributors are good? Do you know anybody that I can call or recommend that you could call? Well, I'm going to put links to a few distributors that I've personally worked with or had experience with in the show notes in the show notes are going to be at indie film hustle.com, forward slash 267. And there you'll be able to find links to those companies. And they might be a good match for what you're trying to do with your film. And by the way, I don't get a dime from any of the companies that I recommend any of the people I recommend, as far as traditional distributors are concerned. But I want to be completely transparent. I do get a small affiliate fee if anyone goes through my link to distributor at indie film hustle.com forward slash distributor and want to check out them if you want to go with them. I do get a small fee. doesn't cost you guys anything else. But just wanted to be straight and clear with you guys about that. And speaking about distribution and all this distribution companies AFM is coming up guys, and I'm going to be there in full force this year. I'm not going to be there just for a day or two. I'm going to be there a bunch. So if you guys are going to go to AFM and you're there hit me up let me know maybe we can grab a coffee maybe we can meet at the bar, have a you know have a talk Have a drink and and meet up while we're at AFM. So definitely reach out to me and let me know what you guys are up to. You know, I always love meeting the tribe out in the real world and not just in the podcast universe. Guys, thank you again so much. I really hope this is valuable to you. I think I needed to talk about this something was telling me you know what, there might be a lot of confusion out there. There might not be a lot of misinformation out there about these two topics. So I wanted to clear it up for at least from my point of view, so everybody have a better chance of making some money with their film. And that is it for another episode of the indie film hustle podcast, guys. Thank you again for listening. And as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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Film Distribution Crash Course

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In this crash course film distribution expert Alex Ferrari shows you the top 5 distribution agreements and pitfalls to avoid, what a standard deal looks like, and much more.