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Evolving out of a recent presentation and interviews with members of Film Independent, leading distribution strategist Peter Broderick has written an important set of guidelines for anyone seeking to negotiate a distribution deal for their movie. Shorter versions of this post have also run on IndieWire and Film Independent, and we’re happy to run the complete post here in three parts on Hope For Film. Read PART ONE BELOW. PART TWO Friday. And PART THREE Next Week.
You’ve finally finished your film and have just received your first distribution offer. Now what?
Negotiation is an essential but little understood part of dealmaking. To make fair deals with good distributors, there are mistakes you must avoid and steps you need to take.
I recently gave a presentation on the secrets of negotiating distribution deals to a full house of Film Independent members. My subsequent interview for the Film Independent newsletter evolved into this Bulletin. It supplements my Special Report on festival and dealmaking strategies. It is not a comprehensive guide to negotiating distribution deals but does highlight key dos and don’ts. [...]
Often when I go online to look for a film to watch, I end up feeling kind of dirty. I grow depressed. It is not just about the movies I find (or fail to find), but much more so about how they are positioned. Films are sold online the same way that shoes are sold — in a grid with no community interaction. We create jewels and then discard them as garbage, never unlocking the true power they hold. Granted, this is what we are aiming to change at Fandor, but it is still the state of the land when it comes to online cinema. We can do better.
I don’t like always being sold to — and I don’t know anyone who does. Yet, I feel that my humanity frequently is only acknowledged because I have money to spend. This is how it feels generally when it comes to online cinema. It feels that what is valued most about a film or an experience is its ability to generate profit. We are failing to recognize cinema’s unique attributes, let alone emphasize them to consumers. If we reduce a film’s value down to its potential for consumption will limit the business it can do.
Film is a transformative experience — at least good films are. They change us. They change how we perceive things. They can even change the world. Very few things are available legally, that can create a shared emotional response amongst strangers in the dark. Cinema compels us to discuss it afterwards. Movies build bridges of empathy across great divides of difference. Film can be a community organizing tool, uniting people amongst shared values, and keeping them gathered over long periods of time. How incredible is all that? We have such a powerful thing all around us, but we still only discuss it generally about whether it will pull the money out of our wallets.
Beyond ticket sales, the only business built on cinema’s back is selling a 15 cent bag of popcorn for six dollars. We can do better. For the longest period of time, it has felt that one of the only way we could measure a work’s value was by the money it generated. But it no longer has to be that way. We can now measure something’s impact, reach, engagement. We can build new works collaboratively around it. Hopefully we will start to recognize film’s greater utility — and promote that around the film.
When we reduce people down to wallets with eyeballs, we extract our humanity from what is otherwise a life-affirming experience. We are ruining life by simply encouraging people to just consume, instead of demonstrating we respect their engagement and see what a powerful force it is. Film remains a truly revolutionary tool. When will we release it? So many other benefits will bloom in the windfall from the recognition of cinema’s power.
One of the reasons it cost so much money to market a film is we have to keep bringing the same people together over and over. We spend money doing what has already been done. With cinema, we have an incredible tool that brings people together, keeps them united, helps them express whom they are, and expands their sense of the world and their place in it. Cinema is the glue to community and if we actually used it to build community, we could reach the people who love such cinema more economically and effectively. If we unlock cinema’s utility, we improve the film ecosystem for all.
Cinema is our passport to other cultures. It take us on journeys across the globe. Film brings us closer together, and whether we seek world peace or simply better travel experiences, cinema can be used to get us there.
Neighbors gather in book clubs, enjoying group learning as well as many a pot luck dinner. Where is the equivalent for films? Is it because book notes are available and we don’t have similar study guides for cinema. Books often take more than 90 minutes to consume, and although they have that advantage that they can be held in one’s hand when time comes to review, movies available online have that same benefit. Wouldn’t you like to know your neighbors better?
If we start to acknowledge that we are now able to move beyond profit and consumption as the way we measure and value engagement, we make all of our lives richer. Let’s stop speaking of cinema as a product and trumpet its incredible power to make our lives better. In the end it may also help to make the movies a bit better too.
The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) are holding their Interviewing & Recording Workshop in New York City on Wednesday, September 17 from 10am to 1pm at WNYC Radio. The three-hour session is designed for people who want to acquire and hone their skills for an array of audio projects: radio, online, podcasts, storytelling, oral histories, audio slideshows, family histories, news, investigative reporting, documentaries and other multimedia platforms. [...]
American TV is written for the most part by (white) men. The same applies to American movies, as well as European movies and European TV. Is it then a surprise that male characters outnumber females at least 3 to 1, even though females comprise over 50% of the population? Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio remains the same since 1946! According to Stacy Smith of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female – in contrast, of course, to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce. [...]
Indie filmmakers must change how they do things. Too many filmmakers’ actions are predicated on antiquated business practices. These old ways limit a filmmaker’s ability to build audiences and earn revenue. It is time for a serious change.
We now live in an era of cultural abundance and all of our practices need to take this into account. Audiences are overwhelmed with demands and options on their leisure time. It is harder than ever to get people to commit to doing anything. If you accept this is a reality why would you take your film to a film festival (other than the five leading market ones) without having your next steps well planned? [...]
Film festivals have done an incredible job aggregating their local film loving communities. They have invested years into becoming trusted curatorial brands to that local audience. Yet festivals have many challenges — and I witnessed this first hand last year when I ran the San Francisco Film Society.
Most festivals have very limited bandwidth. They are committed to running their successful legacy programs. Even when they have experienced attendance drops or limited growth, they find it challenging to launch new programs and revenue streams for fear that their historic offerings might suffer. They can barely do all that currently do, let alone increase their capacity. Every non-profit suffers from financial limits, often operating with next to no cash reserves. How can they change with the times or expand their offerings? [...]
In reviewing my book, Nick DeMartino captures a great deal of what I am feeling these days. I think we can move things forward and build it better together. Nick spots how my love of cinema drew us forward and then how that same love drew me away from a focus on project producing.
“At a certain point, living an […]
I hope film fans everywhere find my book and dig it. It is so hard to get the word out that I am particularly grateful whenever anyone writes something good about the book. Evidently it makes a huge difference when someone posts a five-star Amazon review. Hopefully those of you who read this blog and recognize how much effort has […]
Check it out! As the site says:
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