Selling Your Film Outside the US by Sheri Candler
These days selling your film outside the US is easier than ever. For example, it is easy to get films from the US onto iTunes and then distribute them in many territories all over the world. However, there are also financial reasons not to do this.
If a sales agent or distributor will offer you a good MG (minimum guarantee) or advance payment for control of a foreign territory, it could make better financial sense to do that deal rather than put the film on iTunes yourself.
How many sales would you need to make on $3.99 rentals to get to $20,000? A LOT and it could take a lot of time to get there. Plus a distributor will work in their territory to promote the film and you may not want to or be able to do this.
There isn’t a distributor in the world now that will take film that won’t give them digital rights on the main global platforms. You wouldn’t be able to just give a distributor theatrical rights, for instance, or only theatrical and broadcast, but not digital.
Digital revenue is increasingly important and a deal without it won’t make financial sense. So putting your film on every iTunes/Amazon/Google Play store in every territory may negate your ability to make possibly more lucrative deals where the money will come to you right away.
Selling Your Film Outside the US.
If your film is not a candidate for international sales or will not receive an MG from a foreign sales agent, you now have options for selling your film outside the US, yourself.
Think about it. A foreign sales agent that will not offer an MG, but will put your film up on global platforms is only cutting themselves into the revenue without offering much else. And for these reasons, you would only want to enter this type of deal if the sales agent is going to cover promotion, work with the platforms and get the film better placement than you could.
That may be worth a cut of revenue.
But if all they are doing is working with the same digital aggregators you could access on your own, while doing little to market the title and then passing the cost back to you (while taking out a cut of revenue), that’s not a good deal!
Our book, Selling Your Film Outside The US talks about this. In fact, there are a myriad of digital options in Europe. It isn’t only the big 6 digital players. There are broadcasters with online outlets, telecom providers with digital outlets, services that don’t exist in the US and while they will make up little bits of revenue (probably not even tens of thousands), all of it can add up for the right films.
Territorial Distinctions Are Archaic
From a consumer’s point of view, windowing and geoblocking of content is archaic.
Now that global audiences can be reached via the internet, they see marketing for projects online and wonder why they can’t see them when they are released. It is very frustrating to know something is building up good word of mouth and has been released somewhere, but isn’t available where you live.
Consumers don’t understand or care how film distribution works.
They don’t know how filmmakers or distributors or sales agents get paid. They just know when they want to see something they’ve heard about, they should be able to. And likely they can find it somewhere online whether that place is legitimate or not.
These hungry consumers would pay if that is an option, but most of the time, this option isn’t available and they are forced to wait for it. Patience is not a virtue of the modern audience. Herein lies the conflict.
The main stumbling block to releasing all at once, in all territories is MONEY.
That is why the system is slow and unresponsive to change. The current system of producers, studios, festivals, agents, distributors, exhibitors, home video outlets is all predicated on taking out money along the value chain of release. Each is protecting their cut and they don’t want to see anyone get skipped over. This is also why creators are loathe to experiment with new forms of storytelling on the new technology tools.
Everyone fears not getting paid. They all want to know how this will make them more money. While a few are experimenting, it is mostly creators trying to find their feet. The more established you are, the more you have to lose and the less you are willing to risk. That goes for business and the creators.
There is nothing stopping any creator from putting their work online as soon as it is ready.
It will be able to reach a maximum audience (if the audience knows it is there), but it won’t ensure that anyone gets paid. That’s why people don’t tend to go this route.
There are case studies in Selling Your Film Outside The US that speak to distributing in territories all at once in multi formats, but the success of these cases all come down to having an audience in the first place and rallying their support. This is still the main problem for most indie films. The creators are not actively engaging an audience around themselves and their work.
They aren’t cultivating an ongoing relationship. Creators still hope to put their work through the system that has been in place so they can get paid and move along to the next project. It does work for some creators, but it is working a lot less than it used to.
For those whose work hasn’t been chosen by the system, they will not find much better success on their own if they aren’t willing to put in the time to cultivate an audience and build up value in their work.
Telling stories, making work does not have value to an audience in and of itself, not monetary value anyway. There are millions of ways to tell a story and almost everyone thinks they are good at it.
The competition for attention is very fierce and vastly underestimated. If you can manage to hold the attention of even a few people with your work, you are doing better than the majority of creators. Don’t treat these people as disposable. They are very precious to your success and you should value their support.
For examples as to how some creators have managed to connect with an audience, get their work seen and make revenue from it, read the case studies in the book. All of these creators were working with limited funds, did not receive help from big studios or distributors, and managed to find audiences through sweat, time and perseverance.
It can be done, but you’ll have to change your outlook on what reasonable success looks like. It isn’t a fairy tale, they aren’t rolling in cash, but their small accomplishments could not have been reached without the tools that are available to everyone today. In all cases, small success begat more success. That is the recipe for even bigger success.
Sheri Candler is an inbound marketing strategist who helps independent filmmakers build identities for themselves and their films. To find out more about Sheri Candler’s services, visit her website.