Now that you’ve completed your first film – blood, sweat and tears – how do you get it to market? Preparing for this moment should have been taken into consideration throughout the production process. The time has come to focus on marketing and distribution. Your film may be distributed in various forms: theatrical and non-theatrical exhibits, television and cable broadcast, videotapes, DVDs, CDs of the soundtrack, the Internet, ancillary products (remakes, sequels, television series or stage play) and merchandise (books, posters, games, dolls, toys, t-shirts, etc.). It may be distributed in domestic and foreign markets. Domestic includes the United States and Canada, while foreign includes all other.
Producers seldom (although it is not entirely out of the question) market their films directly to the consumer. They market their product to distributors who market to exhibitors, retailers and sub-distributors, who ultimately market to the end consumer. The Hollywood Distributors Directory lists more than 800 companies and 5,000 individuals that you may contact. To narrow your search, you may make a list of featured films that have reached the target audience for which your film was made and contact the distributors of those films directly.
One of the best methods of getting your film noticed by a distributor (major, mini-major or independent) is by participating in film festivals and film markets. “Film festivals are consumer events that help promote a film to a niche marketplace. Film markets are trade events that promote a film to the distribution channel; they frequently have a public element as well to give distributors a taste of public appeal. More business is conducted at markets than festivals.”
For example, the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), held annually during the month of February, promotes cultural and racial tolerance through the exhibition of film, art and creative expression. Over 100 quality films from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the South Pacific and Canada, are featured each year. One of the primary goals of the Pan African Film Festival is to reinforce positive images and to help destroy negative stereotypes.
Independent filmmaker, Luis Moro has had three films featured at the Pan African Film Festival: “Anne B. Real”,”The Unseen” and “Love and Suicide”, in 2003, 2005 and 2006, respectively. To date, he has created 5 films and 1 television show. His latest film “Love and Suicide,” was shot on the beautiful island of Havana, Cuba. Historically, it was the first film in approximately 47 years shot by American filmmakers on this picturesque island. This unforgettable story about life, love and courage, portrays positive images of its people and offers a different perspective of the rich culture and heritage of this country. Moro and his wife, Barbara, balance a family of 5 children, while self-marketing and distributing their films. One hundred percent (100%) of their DVDs are sold online at www.morofilms.com. “When you buy our movies you are literally feeding our family,” says the couple during a recent panel discussion at the PAFF. Moro made the following suggestions while sharing his experience about the difference between self-distributing and obtaining a distributor:
- Distribution is not an issue; focus on delivering a quality product.
- Create a marketing system and build your own network of people.
- Learn the Internet and how to build and promote your own website.
- Whatever you do for income, try to do it in the industry.
- Keep the rights to your movie.
Although, Moro would sell the rights to his movies for the RIGHT price, he’s learned from experience not to sign over his rights too quickly. The meat of a distribution deal generally includes: 1) An advance paid to the producer by the distributor in exchange for the right to distribute the film. This advance is usually deducted from the producer’s profit participation in the film; 2) An explanation of how the box office receipts will be disbursed; 3) A commitment by the distributor to spend a specified minimum amount of money on prints and advertising; and 4) The territories covered by the agreement and the minimum box office guarantees for these territories. Depending on how the deal is structured, however, the filmmaker may receive a seemingly large advance Depending on how the deal is structured, however, the filmmaker may not receive an advance, or may receive a seemingly large advance with no subsequent payments and no rights to future distribution. As a novice in the business, it is advisable to seek legal and accounting advice from parties experienced in motion picture contracts.
Some of the most prominent festivals and markets include:
- Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah (www.sundance.org)
- Berlin International Film Festival, Berlin, Germany (www.berlinale.de/)
- Cannes International Film Festival and Market, Cannes, France (www.festival-cannes.fr)
- Los Angeles Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA (www.lafilmfest.com)
- AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA (www.afifest.com)
- Palm Springs International Film Festival, Palm Springs, CA (www.psfilmfest.org)
- Pan African Film Festival, Los Angeles, CA (www.paff.org)
- Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (www.tiffg.ca/)
- MIFED International Film and Multimedia Market, Milan, Italy (www.mifed.com)
- MIP-TV International TV & Video Market, Cannes, France (www.mipcom.com)
- American Film Market, Santa Monica, CA (www.afma.com/afm/home.asp)
- New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, New York, NY (www.nyfilmvideo.com)
Each organization has a specific audience to which featured films are marketed. They promote films in a particular genre. Prior to submitting an application or sending your film for viewing, conduct your research to determine which festivals and markets best serve the target market that you’re trying to reach.
Sherice L. Bellamy, SLB Associates,provides business planning and development services to small businesses and entrepreneurs.
References for this article include:Goodell, Gregory Goodell, Gregory (1982). Independent Feature Film Production: A Complete Guide from
Concept to Distribution. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Levy, Frederick (2000). Hollywood 101 The Film Industry: How To Succeed In Hollywood
Without Connections. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
A biography and credits for Luis Moro can be found at:
www.loveandsuicidethemovie.com * www.morofilms.com