Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When Should an Independent Producer Consider Distribution?

I can easily understand why so many producers focus on story first, cast second, production funding third, and distribution a distant fourth.  After all, why consider distribution when there isn't even a project to distribute?

Once again I turn to the wealth of  information clarified in the recently published Producer's Business Handbook from Variety.

Major producers fund the development stage of their projects.  That funding covers the project's legal groundwork as well as initial contact with potential distributors.  In fact, major producers go as far as to form separate business entities, usually an LLC, for the development stage of their films.  That way at any time, even though the project is still in development, the project can be valued and sold to another company.

Naturally your goal is to obtain a distribution commitment, as would be possible when developing a film like The Da Vinci Code where the book enjoyed a substantial proven existing following.

So if you are going to consider distribution during your development phase, you are going to have to think like a distributor -- demographics.  Who is your film's audience?  How will your story be received across the US, and in foreign countries?  What are the personal demographics of your audience, and why will your film appeal to them over all of the others available to them?  In other words, how will your distributor make money with your film?  If you answer these questions, and provide the info to your potential distributors, you'll enjoy a great advantage over all of the other producers looking for distribution who are focusing solely on story.

Of course obtaining any level of distribution agreement during the development phase has a positive effect on the availability of production funding.

But what if you don't obtain a distribution commitment during development?  Then you want to continually stay informed of which companies are acquiring which films, so you'll always know who has an interest in your style of film.

As your film continues to take shape, keep all of your potential distributors informed of attachments, as any one of them may appeal to one of your prospects.  As you move into production, you'll want to continue to keep those potential distributors informed, for the same reason: at any time one may develop a serious interest in your project.

And what if they don't respond?  Distributors, particularly acquisition executives, are extremely busy, listing to pitches from every media, day in and day out.  Even if they don't respond, they are likely still aware of your project, and can therefore always respond to you when conditions change on their end in a way favorable to you.

I would advise anyone interested in developing and producing a film to pick up a copy of the Producer's Business Handbook from Variety.  It's a great resource for gaining an understanding of how the larger established producers work profitably, and it will provide you with inspiration on how you can reach your goals in a minimum length of time.

Order a copy of Variety’s Producer’s Business Handbook at www.focalpress.com/producer Use discount code 46436 to receive a 30% discount with ordering through Focal Press.

Learn more about the marketing services I provide to producers at: www.thomcomm.net/featurefilmmarketing.html

E-Mail me directly at steve@thomcomm.net