The World of Movie Distribution Is a Tough Place

The world of movie distribution is a tough place. After fighting and sweating to finish a movie you’re mentally and physically exhausted.

You just want to take a break and rest, but you can’t because finishing a movie is only half the battle. It’s time to enter the world of movie distribution.

Movie distribution is a tough place for filmmakers new to the grind. It’s hard to switch off the creative mind to deal with the business side of selling movies.

What I’ve learned the hard way is the movie distribution really starts with promoting and marketing a movie.

Social media is an inexpensive way to get the word out about your movie and create a killer viral buzz online.

It’s cool to go the film festival route to get your movie seen by viewers and potential film buyers, but over the years from talking to other filmmakers there is a common feeling that the film festival scene is too crowded now.

U.K. filmmaker Wayne Daniells from LiarDice Films told me his last trip to The Cannes International Film Festival was a ruthless feeding frenzy.

There were a glut of movies and producers were fighting to get the attention of movie distributors.

All in all Wayne expressed that it was a waste of time and money pitching his film there. I’ve heard the same opinion from other filmmakers that are frustrated with the film festival scene and no longer see it as a good way to secure movie distribution.

I personally like the direct route of contacting movie distributors to see if they’re interested in being sent a screener. This is where it helps if you have already been promoting and marketing your movie online using social media.

Movie distributors are more interested in acquiring movies that already have a strong online presence.

I’m strictly speaking from a true independent movie perspective. Studio budget movies are an entirely different animal when it comes to the world of movie distribution.

When it comes to movie distribution for an indie produced film the way it normally happens are independent producers and filmmakers take the risk making the movie without any guaranteed movie distribution deal in place.

They usually have to shop it around to sell it. That’s been my personal experience so far. I’ve never created content with a movie distribution deal in place.

It’s like writing a screenplay on spec, but you’re dealing with a movie. Promoting and marketing a movie through social media is an absolute must.

Start early before you’re movie is even finished. That way when you begin contacting movie distributors you’re movie will already have more appeal because people are talking about it.

Movie distributors that cater to releasing independent movies do very little marketing for most of the titles they release.

If you’re movie doesn’t have any actors or celebrity names attached to it then it won’t get marketed outside of the standard insert in a movie distributor catalog.

So once you do secure a movie distribution deal you’re already giving your movie a boost by promoting and marketing yourself.

My mind is all over the place today, so let me get back to finding a movie distribution deal. Hold up please. A nice Miller Lite would help me focus right now.

That’s much better now. There are different ways to land a film distribution deal. You can spend the money doing the film festival route. Deals get struck all the time at film festivals.

But honestly there is a glut of film festivals. The number of film festivals is way out of whack compared to the number of movie distributors that release independent films.

Skipping the film festival circuit works for many independent movie producers that don’t have name actors in their film or know their story won’t appeal to an art house crowd.

Hiring a film sales representative is a good call if you skip the film festival scene all together. A film sales representative or producer’s rep has contacts with movie distributors to get your movie screened.

Plus many of them can get you into magazines like Indie Slate and MovieMaker to make your movie look more appealing to movie distributors.

They also watch your back when it comes to movie distribution agreements. When filmmakers look at movie distribution agreements it can be overwhelming.

There is lots of legalese “mumbo jumbo” in there designed to lessen the amount of money you make from movie royalty payments or a straightforward buy-out of your movie.

Unless you have experience reading movie distribution contracts it’s easy to get taken advantage of. I’m in the habit know even if I have a films sales representative like “El Tigre” watching my back I still read all contracts completely.

You will be surprised at the hidden fees and costs some movie distributors try to get over on a filmmaker with in of all places, the contract definitions section.
My film sales rep and I once found a flat fee of $50,000 for marketing costs in the definitions section.

Hiring an entertainment attorney is another good move, but usually is too costly for a truly independent filmmaker. Plus from my own experience an entertainment attorney is not as helpful as a film sales rep with securing a movie distribution deal or getting you some press.

That’s not really the job an entertainment attorney. They’re great when it comes to negotiating your movie distribution contract. But most won’t get you a deal like a film sales rep. You can bring them in after you have a deal on the table.

I had two sharp entertainment lawyers that saved my ass from getting burned when it came to sell a reality show I produced called “America’s Wildest Bachelor Parties.” They got me a producer friendly contract and got me paid on time each quarter. I’m glad I hired them.

If it’s just not in your budget to hire a film sales rep or entertainment lawyer you can still secure meaningful movie distribution hustling hard yourself.

Promoting and marketing your movie online is followed up by putting together a clean and neat film package to send to movie distributors. Keep it simple with a DVD screener, one-sheet artwork, tight synopsis, tagline and very short bios for key cast or crew that have previous IMDB credits.

To get a list of potential movie distributors see what companies are releasing movies in the same genre as yours. The Internet makes it pretty easy to find contact information nowadays.

Movie distribution companies usually have a contact page for film submissions. Follow the guidelines and mail off your film package. They get a flood of film submissions, so be patient if you don’t hear back right away.

Movie distributors have certain times they are aggressively seeking films to fill their catalog and other times they have all they need for now. I have the buying months written down.

Once they get your film package they will Google your movie. That’s where having been promoting and marketing your movie online really stands out. It takes more than only having a website or blog.

You need some press and backing from online film bloggers to make your movie standout in the eyes of movie distributors.

I dedicated a chapter about movie distribution in a book on indie filmmaking I wrote. It might help you with more detailed movie distribution information. All the best with marketing and selling your movie.

My Most Anticipated Movies of 2011

As we kick off a new year in cinema, I thought I’d take time to look ahead at the films we’ll be hit with over the course of the year. In this article, I’ll be going over what my 15 most anticipated movies are for the year. Now it should be noted, these aren’t the movies that I feel will be the best of 2011 necessarily. Rather, they’re the ones that, as of the time of this writing, I am anticipating the most. So without further ado, here are my most anticipated movies of 2011.

1. Sucker Punch

Director: Zack Snyder

Writer: Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya

Stars: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish

Release Date: March 25, 2011

Genre: Action Fantasy Thriller

What is it: A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.

Why it should be good: Really hot and badass chicks wearing schoolgirl outfits and other skimpy clothes, with swords and guns, coupled with Snyder’s awesome visual flair? Yea, definitely count me in. The trailer for this thing just looks completely awesome. From the style to the action, even the story (while seeming a bit out there) seems cool. I’m beginning to thoroughly enjoy Snyder’s work. If The Adjustment Bureau could be this year’s new Inception due to its mindfuck story, then Sucker Punch could absolutely be this year’s Inception meets The Dark Knight meets 300 meets Inglorious Basterds due to it’s style and epic adventure, yet dark tone with alternate realities. This movie just oozes style and badass-ness and I really can’t wait for what is sure to be an absolutely entertaining, epic adventure.

Why it could suck: Snyder can be a bit off his mark sometimes. While Watchmen was enjoyable, it did get a bit boring. And Legend of the Guardians is said to suffer from some pacing issues as well and has drawn mixed reviews from critics. Though to be fair to Snyder, he wrote neither of those movies, but is responsible for the writing (or at least screenplay) of the badass 300.

2. Sherlock Holmes 2

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writer: Kieran and Michele Mulroney

Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry

Release Date: December 16, 2011

Genre: Action Mystery

What is it: Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.

Why it should be good: I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan. The Doyle stories still stand as my favorite books today. I love Sherlock. He’s such a badass. And finally, a movie seems to have captured that pretty well. The first was one of the better portrayals of Sherlock I had seen. Rather than being portrayed as a snooty, ‘proper’ and sophisticated Englishman, he was shown with all the rough edges that Doyle wrote him with. While the movie was indeed Hollywood-ized beyond anything you’d find in the books, it was a fun adventure and quite an enjoyable movie. Guy Ritchie is a very good filmmaker as well. For these reasons, and my love for Sherlock, I’m very much eager to see how Part 2 turns out, especially as they go head-to-head with Moriarty. Also, I’m eager to see how well Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,etc) does in her Hollywood debut.

Why it could suck: New writers. The original writers from the first aren’t coming back instead Kieran and Michele Mulroney are taking over the job. So let’s see how they handle it. Relatively new to writing, the two previously wrote Paper Man which didn’t fair so well with critics.

3. Paranormal Activity 3

Director: Tod Williams

Writer: Christopher B. Landon and Michael R. Perry; characters by Oren Peli

Stars: Katie Featherston

Release Date: October 21, 2011

Genre: Horror

What is it: Well, we have no idea what this one is going to be about as nothing has been given. However, the first movie followed a couple that were being haunted by an evil spirit who possessed Katie. The sequel (which was more of a prequel) followed Katie’s sister’s family as that same spirit haunts them and their baby. This all culminates to the two stories converging at the end of Part 2 where it gets to the point where Part 1 ends and we see what happens after the whole event. Undoubtedly, Part 3 is set to pick up where Part 2 and 1 left off. What happens from there? Your guess is as good as mine.

Why it should be good: The first Paranormal Activity became something of a cult phenomenon/sensation. Hailed as the scariest movie of the year, people flocked to the film making it a huge success. And rightly so in my book. It was a minimalistic horror movie that took it back to the roots of the genre by using tension and suspense to really instill fear and terror in the minds of the audience. Part 2, while some people seemed to not like it as much as the first, did more of the same. I actually thought Part 2 was pretty much right on par with the first. And the ingenious storytelling that created a parallel prequel to the first was definitely cool. The creator and writers of this franchise have really shown that the horror genre can be revived and doesn’t have to be all about gore and such. They’ve done a good job with instilling that fear in the audience as well, tapping into that fear, leaving the audience’s imagination to run wild while being completely captivated. I expect no less from the third.

Why it could suck: If you feel the second was worse than the first, then you may be in for some disappoint when you find out the same writers and director of the sequel are back. However, like with Part 2, Oren Peli (the creator of the franchise) is still very much involved and is serving as producer on this film.

4. Paul

Director: Greg Mottola

Writer: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg

Stars: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Seth Rogen

Release Date: March 18, 2011

Genre: Sci-fi Comedy

What is it: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America’s UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town-a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost). Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes.

Why it should be good: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost back together again. That should be enough. Seriously. When these two guys get together it’s gold, as evidenced by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This might be my favorite duo around these days. They’ll also be pairing up to write this which is always a good thing as well (well, this will be Frost’s first real writing job, but Pegg has been responsible for their first two outings together). Now, they won’t be reuniting with Edgar Wright for this one, instead they’ll be teaming with the director of Adventureland andSuperbad, two movies which I definitely enjoyed. On top of all of that, they have comedic star Seth Rogan joining them. Sounds like quite the team really and I’m rather excited for what I’m sure will be a very funny movie, and possibly end up being the comedy of the year.

Why it could suck: You do have to wonder if some of that magic from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will be lost as Frost and Pegg carry on without Wright. I think they’re great comedic talents though and can stand on their own. And the somewhat all-star get-together should compensate.

5. The Adjustment Bureau

Director: George Nolfi

Writer: George Nolfi; Based on Short Story by Philip K. Dick

Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Terence Stamp

Release Date: March 4, 2011

Genre: Thriller

What is it: Just as he is on the brink of winning a senate seat, politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets a ballerina named Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). Though David is smitten, mysterious men conspire to keep him away from the beautiful dancer. David learns he is up against the powerful agents of Fate itself, and, glimpsing the future laid out before him, must either accept a predetermined path that does not include Elise, or defy Fate to be with her.

Why it should be good: Honestly, this sounds like it could be this year’s Inception. With plenty of mindfucks going on, it’s a thriller involving different levels of reality and mysterious forces. Matt Damon really tends to shine in these types of movies. The trailer has me rather intrigued and looks like it could provide quite an enthralling adventure. While this is Nolfi’s directorial debut, he did write The Bourne Ultimatum, thus will be teaming up with Damon once again. The movie is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, whose work has been the grounds for such movies asBlade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck and A Scanner Darkly. So with presumably some good source material, and a writer that can definitely do the part (as illustrated with The Bourne Ultimatum) we could be in for a real treat.

Why it could suck: This is Nolfi’s first time in the director’s seat, so we’ll have to wait and see if he’s in over his head. Furthermore, it is being billed as something of a romance thriller. So let’s hope they don’t go overboard with the romance part and make it some sappy romance film for which they sacrifice some of the plot to focus on the romance.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Director: Rob Marshall

Writer: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane

Release Date: May 20, 2011

Genre: Fantasy Action-Adventure

What is it: Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.

Why it should be good: Some people have hated them. Some have thought they’ve gotten worse as they went along. I’ve found the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to be a fun adventure. Just a fun movie with plenty of adventure, some cool special effects, and just good times. And maybe it’s my man-crush I have on Depp, but I’m absolutely thrilled to see him back as Jack Sparrow. The character is so much fun and always provides for some entertainment. Should be interesting to see how they go about freshening up the franchise as well as they get a new cast of characters while Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are out.

Why it could suck: It’s a Hollywood sequel, those always have chances of sucking. Also, the exclusion of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann could put a damper on things. While there is a chance that it could freshen it up, there is just as much a chance that some of that magic might be lost as they look to replace those characters. Also, while we do get the same writers back, we have a new director taking on this sequel. Pirates seems to be out of Rob Marshall’s comfort zone (best known for Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago) so we’ll have to wait and see how he can handle an action adventure of this scope.

7. The Hangover 2

Director: Todd Phillips