WHO THIS IS FOR?
- anyone with a completed film and is looking for distribution.
- anyone trying to increase their chances of their film being picked up by a distributor.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN?
In this blog post you will learn the #1 reason that film distributors reject films. If I made a list of the top 5 reasons films are rejected then this would be #1 on the list. (If you take this into account when you are in production and the distribution phase it will make your life a lot easier)
THE #1 REASON FILMS ARE REJECTED
It may come as no surprise to some of you but #1 reason independent films are rejected for distribution is that they have “No Cast”.
In the film world cast is everything. 95 percent of the marketing effort will be cast driven. Also how much you receive per territory depends heavily on the cast members in your film.
The distributors mindset is this,
“no one wants to see a film with a bunch of no name actors”.
Which is true 95 percent of the time. (Although there is a way to get distribution for a film without any major cast members but I will tell you about that later in this post)
Indie filmmakers spend money every year to attend the American Film Market without a clear plan of action. If they would have spoken to me first I probably could have saved them a couple thousand dollars in hotel fees, travel, Etc. (Not to mention the hours of time wasted)
A low budget film with no cast is almost always a no-go. Without big name actors the chances you receive a second meeting with reps is quite slim.
The goal of your first meeting is to get the acquisitions rep to view your screener. Plain and simple. And the most important factor that will determine whether they watch your screener or not will be who is in it?
You could have the greatest story in the world but without major stars attached to the film, it will be hard to even get an acquisitions representative to even watch it.
To them there is nothing worse then a 2 million dollar movie with a bunch of no name friends and family as actors.
WHAT IF MY FILM HAS NO BIG STARS IN IT? (OR ANY STARS FOR THAT MATTER)
The information you just read applies to a traditional distribution deal. 90% of indie filmmakers films do not fall into this category of traditional distribution. Fortunately for them there is another option. That option is called “self distribution”.
Gone are the days of physical video stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood video. In those days the distributors held a monopoly on the physical shelf space available for films.
Back then the only way get into a store like Blockbuster was to go through a distributor. With the invention streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu the old business model is a thing of the past.
In the old days the major benefit to signing with a distribution company was to put your movie in these stores. (a minimum guarantee is pretty much out the window unless you had a A-list celebrity in your film).
With everything going digital, the benefit of these traditional distributors are almost non-existent. That coupled with the horrible deals that were structured at that time, for 9 out of 10 filmmakers I run across I tell them to choose the self distribution option.
Yes a distributor can put your film all major platforms but most offer no marketing or advertising budget. What is the point of being on all of those platforms if no one know its there?
Secondly since all of the shelf space is now digital you can get on most if not all of those same platforms all by yourself.
**I know Amazon direct allows you to upload your film yourself to the platform. The process is a little complicated but very doable. For iTunes and Google Play the filmmaker cannot upload their film directly but has to go through what’s called an “aggregator”. **
An aggregator acts as a middleman in between the filmmaker and the platforms like iTunes.
So your choice is to either go with traditional distribution and give away almost all you’re rights for 17 years, or to pay an aggregator upfront to put yourself on the same platforms but keep 100% royalties.
Even if your film is picked up by a distributor you will have to market and promote it yourself.I know it sounds great to say to all your friends and family that your film is with so-and-so distribution company, but if nobody watches your film what’s the point?
Now that you know what a distributor is and what it does you can make your own decision on whether to self-distribute or not.
What if your film doesn’t have a bunch of big names in it is there anything you can do?
Yes there is.
Without the household names in your film you will have to show the distributors the demand for your project and that people genuinely want to watch your film. You do that by putting your movie on the platforms and then marketing it yourself.
Just like music has the Billboard Charts, film has the IMDB.
Films are categorized popularity. If your film makes it to the top 100 on the IMDb charts then trust me you won’t have to pitch your film companies will come looking for you.
Actors, producers, writers, ect are also ranked by popularity.
With the free IMDB account you won’t be able to see the rankings but if you upgrade to the pro account that feature will become available. Along with each persons/companies contact information.
That is also a way to judge the popularity of your actors are in the film.
Take this with a grain of salt, but safe to say if your actor is in the top 5k on the IMDB you will have no problem selling your film with them as the lead role. (If it doesn’t you will almost always have to release and market the film yourself before taking even taking a meeting)
In closing the most important factor for acquisition teams to think about when deciding on whether or not to offer distribution film is” cast”. If you were blessed enough to have a budget big enough for a big-name cast then you are lucky. You will have no problem selling your film.
If you are like majority of independent filmmakers (without a budget big enough to attract A-list actors) then self distribution is probably your only option.
Lucky for you there are several ways to market or promote a film with no celebrities. (Though the concepts are a little more advanced) I have had clients that I have worked for that were able to receive a distribution deal 4 weeks after self release and marketing of the project.
For most the question shouldn’t be “how can I sell my movie”? It should be how can I find people to watch my movie?
If your movie is as good as you say it is you should have no problem finding an audience on your own.
In a distributors’ mind they are thinking
“if your film is that good then why are you not selling it yourself”?
In these days of digital marketing you don’t need an astronomical budget to reach the consumer. This is not the norm, but I have marketed for projects where we spent less than $1,000 and we were able to sell the film.
If you can prove that your film has an audience they will buy it. I don’t care if you filmed yourself coughing for 90 minutes if you can show that there is an audience for it the distributor will buy.
I know this is not what lot of you wanted to hear but this is the hard truth.
If you have no “cast” then you will almost certainly have to self distribute to get the ball rolling.