Minimum Guarantees for Indie Films

Picture this. Your movie is in the festivals. People like it. They are buzzing about your movie and for the past three months, you have been getting calls from distributors. Exciting right? Except the distributors are not offering minimum guarantees. And as a result, you finally realize that 2005 really is over.

Digital has shifted the filmmaking paradigm. Advances in inexpensive production technology has allowed backyard indie filmmakers to flood the market with cheaply produced movies. As an analogy, this is similar to what happens with sweat shop labor. Suddenly once rare and premium goods are no longer as valuable. And as a result, it is difficult for people to make money – especially distributors.

While the days of huge MGs are not completely behind us – getting upfront cash for your movie is very rare (as I’m sure you know) because success of a project is no longer influenced by moving physical product. This explains why you don’t hear about minimum guarantees… It is simply too hard for distributors to predict the success of a digital movie.

With this said, if you want to increase your chances of success, you may consider focusing on the following criteria. Whenever I look to acquire a movie, I’m asking the following questions:

  1. Can I define the audience in 5 seconds?
  2. Does the filmmaker have active and strong social media?
  3. Is the filmmaker invested in the project?
  4. How can we add value to the movie?
  5. Are there merchandising opportunities?

The bottom line is this – A reputable digital distributor is more concerned with the success of your project. So digital distribution agreements are increasingly geared towards revenue share. And because the digital distributor has skin in the game, it behooves them to help make the project a success.

Keep in mind that my specialty is digital distribution. So if you can still find a great DVD deal, you should go for it and take the deal! If not, you should consider some of the modern distribution models.


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