Tag Archives: moviemaking

6 Film Distribution Myths You Need to Know

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Jerome Courshon

One of the major Achilles’ heels for film producers and directors is the distribution game. Once you’ve made your movie, what do you do? How do you play the game? What strategies do you employ? Is there even a strategy?

Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is there are indeed strategies to use and employ. The bad news is that most filmmakers don’t know what they are, and flounder around trying to figure them out. What’s even worse is too many filmmakers throwing in the towel and just dumping their film online, hoping it “hits” somehow.

Myth #1: I’m a director, a filmmaker, a creative person. Telling stories is my thing and if I make a good movie, I don’t have to worry about the business stuff or the marketing because someone else will do that.

Truth #1: There are of course some people who get lucky and either have a producing partner who does all the business & marketing (and is good at it), or they have the money to hire the right people to do everything.

However for most this isn’t the case, especially if one’s film career is in the early stages. You need to become a businessperson once your movie or documentary is done. At least until it’s sold (or until you’re done selling if you’re DIY’ing it).

Why?

Because distribution is business, and distributors don’t care if you’ve made the greatest indie film/art film/documentary of the past 20 years. What they care about is if it will make them money. (And your audience, if you’re DIY’ing your film, needs to believe they’ll be sufficiently entertained and/or enlightened before they’ll buy a DVD or pay to watch it online.) The more you can become a “salesperson” and marketing maven, the more success you will have on your quest for distribution or sales.

Yes, I know this part isn’t nearly as sexy and fun as making movies and can be downright boring at times. But what Orson Welles famously said about the film business is still true today: “It’s about 2% moviemaking and 98% hustling.”

Myth #2: Distributors are calling me and they’re excited to see my movie! I’ll send it to them and if they like it, they’ll acquire it!

Truth #2: All major distributors track the movies that have been listed in the trades under their production columns. If you were in those columns, you’re going to be phoned. Do not send them a rough cut. Do not send them a final cut. Do not send them the movie. If you do, you will not get a theatrical distribution deal, if this is what you are aiming for.

You must “unveil” your movie in the right place at the right time, such as a top film festival, to get the theatrical buyers to really want your feature. Movies do not get picked up for theatrical releases that have been sent on a DVD to a distributor. So when they call asking to see a screener, you’ll say “It’s not ready, but I appreciate your call. Check back with me in a month or two.” (And you’ll do this every time they call, until you’re ready for the grand unveiling.)

Myth #3: My movie was selected for the Sundance Film Festival! Woohooo! All I have to do is show up and I will get a deal!

Truth #3: Okay, you won the lottery and got a slot at one of the top three film festivals (Sundance, Toronto, Cannes) for your movie premiere. Guess what? Your work hasn’t even begun yet. You now must assemble a team of people: a PR firm, an agent from one of the top agencies in Los Angeles, an attorney, and possibly a producer’s rep. (But beware…most producer’s reps are useless.)

You will have to work, strategize and position your movie, before it premieres, as a very desirable movie that distributors must have. You have one shot at the top festivals for a theatrical deal, so don’t piss it away. Unfortunately, most filmmakers don’t know or understand this. They get a slot at Sundance or Toronto, don’t assemble a team or promote their film properly, and then come away without a deal and are entirely lost as to their next step.

Myth #4: I was rejected by the top festivals, so now I’m submitting and getting accepted by the next tier of festivals. This is cool. All I have to do is show up to my screenings and I’m treated like a rock star. Distribution, here I come!

Truth #4: Yeah, okay, if this is you, at least you’re having fun. But you’re not going to get distribution this way. There is a real purpose to the festival circuit beyond the top festivals that most people, even Hollywood veterans, simply do not understand. The obvious purpose is, of course, exposure. But there is actually a MORE important purpose: Building a Pedigree.

What is a Pedigree?

It is an accumulation of press coverage, interviews, quotes from critics, and awards if you can get them, which says you have a winning movie on your hands. Once you methodically build this pedigree, which takes some work on the festival circuit, you are then ready to parlay this into a distribution deal (or healthy sales). It’s a simple concept that most do not grasp; yet it is extremely powerful and effective for independent films that don’t get into the top festivals. There is real psychology involved in the “art” of selling a movie or documentary. Ignore at your own risk. However, if you learn this “art,” you will have success.

Myth #5: I’ve submitted my movie to the 15 home video companies out there. I’ve even talked to producer friends and looked at industry reference books for whom to submit to. If these 15 companies say ‘No,’ I’m out of luck for a home video deal.

Truth #5: This truth right here may be worth serious dollars to you. There are literally over 100 home video companies in the marketplace, all operating under their own labels. On top of that are additional companies that pick up movies and programming that have output deals with these distributors. So if you think you’ve exhausted your search for a home video deal and have only contacted a handful of companies, you’ve simply just begun.

And don’t buy the occasional diatribe out there that DVD is dead. It’s not. It is still the largest revenue generating segment of the entire film industry. Last year alone, it generated $16-17 billion in revenues. That’s billion with a ‘B.’

Myth #6: I’m going to bypass traditional distribution altogether, sell my movie on the internet myself and make a ton of money from DVD sales and digital streaming (VOD).

Truth #6: Not likely. For every 5000 movies being made every year, there are less than 20 who make serious money this way. WHY? It’s hard work. It takes time (a lot of it), it takes specific strategies, and you become the de facto distributor for a good year, if not longer. Which isn’t an exciting proposition for most filmmakers, who’ve already been on a lengthy and arduous journey of making their film.

However, some who go this route do it very successfully. They’re either great at marketing already, or great learners. And they’re very committed to achieving success, so they really do what it takes to win. Also, the budget of your movie can dictate if this route is viable for you. If you’ve made a $10,000 movie, it’s not that difficult to recoup this amount, with some decent work. But if your budget was $1 million, good luck making your money back using only the internet. You’ll either need traditional distribution, or a hybrid approach of both traditional and non-traditional.

So these are a few of the popular and misleading myths out there, and the truth about them. With 5000 (or more) movies being made every single year, that’s a lot of producers and directors working with often erroneous information. Not to mention an overwhelming number of movies vying for a limited number of distribution slots. These two factors combined can make for a daunting journey filled with frustration and failure.

The silver lining however, is that with the right knowledge, coupled with dedicated and diligent work, anyone with a decent film can achieve success. Anyone. But it does take the right knowledge. You do not have to have star names in your movie to get a deal or have success, and your movie does not have to be phenomenal. If it’s at least decent, you do have a real shot.

Want to learn more about the secrets to distribution? Click here for more information and to purchase Jerome Courshon’s DVD Set The Secrets to Distribution: Get Your Movie Distributed Now!

(Source:www.writersstore.com)

 

 

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EDITORIAL: Messages and meaning at the Middleburg Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Times-Mirror Editorial Board

In just four years, the Middleburg Film Festival has earned a place among such iconic film festivals as Sundance, Telluride, Tribeca, Toronto, Melbourne, Berlin, Venice and Cannes. The film festival’s quaint venues – a converted ballroom at Salamander Resort, a performing arts auditorium at an elementary school, a library-museum for horse enthusiasts, a spartan reception hall in Upperville and the barrel room of a local winery – differentiate the festival from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood’s showplaces.

Middleburg brings something more meaningful to the conversation about movies: an intimacy with the stories and the people of the movies.

The charming town tucked in Virginia hunt-and-horse country is more than just a setting for a cozy film festival. Middleburg is also a character in the movies shown there.

Over four postcard-perfect days, about 4,000 people traveled to what looks like a back lot for idyllic moviemaking. Film buffs took Route 50, the two-lane road that follows the rolling hills, stone fences and horse farms to the charming town in Loudoun’s southern tier. Nearing the town, two oversized Trump banners greeted visitors from a private parcel of land on the roadside – seemingly out of place and out of character in a setting known for its style and discretion.

The wearisome soundbites of the presidential campaign become a faint echo at Middleburg’s one stoplight, a few hundred feet down Route 50 where it becomes Washington Street. Make a right turn, or a left, and you are at an unexpected venue for a movie. Or you can follow scenic side roads to the festival’s more distant venues.

At this place, in this time, Middleburg is about movies. But something more, too.

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In Loving,the quiet and courageous love story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the Virginia countryside is both prominent and familiar, enhancing the realism of rural racism in the commonwealth at the time. The movie follows the courtship and marriage of Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who are arrested and sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 because their interracial marriage violates the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. Exiled to Washington, they sue the Commonwealth of Virginia in a series of proceedings leading to the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Loving v. Virginia, which holds that laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional.

The film, scheduled for release in the U.S. on Nov. 4, was shown at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Monday. But at a discussion following the screening on Sunday, Virginians were able to better appreciate the continuing relevance of Loving as its British producer and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave the story context. Following the program, dozens of attendees swarmed Holder, the first African American to serve as Attorney General (2009-2015).

Middleburg also had a brief role in the screening of Jackie, Natalie Portman’s riveting portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy’s private grief as she coped with her public persona and the nation’s reaction to the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.

The movie would not have been screened in Middleburg but for a photograph of Jackie attending mass with JFK at the Middleburg Community Center, which now serves as the box office for the film festival. The distributors of Jackie had initially rejected the advance screening of the movie in Middleburg, a young festival with a relatively small audience in rural Virginia. But the photo provided a meaningful connection between Jackie Kennedy and Middleburg, where she spent private time away from Washington riding at her farm.

As Middleburg presented itself as a haven away from the front lines of the nation’s capitol 43 miles down the road, the film festival also provided a conversation that played to the politics of the moment. A conversation about presidents, politics and the movies quickly turned to “the elephant in the room,” as CNN political analyst David Gergen observed: Donald Trump.

Who would play Trump in the movie about the current presidential race? Alec Baldwin, of course, came the response to a joke that was apparently known to all in the audience. Film clips from movies about past presidents then left attendees to wonder whether art imitates life or life imitates art.

Middleburg’s messages echoed beyond. The Eagle Huntress followed Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl who trains to become the first female in 12 generations of her Kazakh family to become an eagle hunter and rises to the pinnacle of a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for centuries. While there were many old Kazakh eagle hunters who vehemently rejected the idea of a female taking part in their ancient tradition, Aisholpan’s father, Nurgaiv, believed that a girl could do anything a boy can, as long as she was determined.

That idea brought cheers from the denizens in Virginia that included local Girl Scout troops that came to honor Aisholpan. The girl and her father traveled from Mongolia to Middleburg to acknowledge the cheers and to demonstrate how ordinary people could do extraordinary things. The cheers came again when it was announced that Aishholpan would become a character in a super-heroes cartoon.

So we come to superheros and the deeper meaning of the Middleburg Film Festival. In just four years, Sheila Johnson has exceeded her dream of turning her passion for cinema into a festive gathering of fellow film aficionados in the chic yet comfy venues of Northern Virginia’s horse country. The entrepreneur, philanthropist and film producer has made Middleburg a metaphor for creative endeavor with a social purpose. She has provided a lens to view the important films about our our culture, as well as perspective that is authentically Virginia.

But perhaps Johnson’s greatest gift is bringing together movies and people who make us think, feel and belong. Devoid of cynicism, these are the stories of our times. Johnson presents them as a kindred spirit in a place called Middleburg.

(Source:www.loudountimes.com)

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