What You Need To Know About Film Acquisitions

The old model of film acquisitions meant that you would give up your film to a distributor for years at a time, in exchange for a cash advance and a back-end percentage.

You would then move on to your next project, and the distributor would do “all that business stuff” and send you a quarterly statement. This film acquisitions model worked for generations.

Back then, the value of a Film Acquisitions deal revolved around access.

Distributors could get your movie into theaters, video stores and big box retailers like Wal-Mart. And because placement in these marketplaces required significant upfront investment, only a select few movies garnered a distribution deal.

Digital video on demand distribution has forever changed the film acquisitions game. Suddenly access is no longer exclusive. And as a result, filmmakers can get their movies in popular marketplaces without a traditional distributor.

But just because you can access the marketplace doesn’t necessarily mean your movie will sell. But if you take time to plan out your marketing, sales and distribution strategy, you might just make a little money.

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Film Acquisitions

It is at this point when filmmakers ask me: “How much money can I make in digital?” While I understand why someone would want to know how much can be made in digital, this is a very misguided question.

Because inexpensive production technology affords aspiring filmmakers with the tools to create technically sound backyard indies, the marketplace is flooded with competing goods. And since video on demand marketplaces have no physical costs, traditional film acquisitions professionals (who once played it safe) now grab anything they can.

So let me be clear…

Film distribution is NOT your problem. In fact, film distribution is a commodity. Virtual shelf space is infinite. And as a result, your movie revenues will be determined by your ability to source an audience.

This means, if you are going to explore a traditional film acquisitions deal – your distributor better have a much better gameplan for reaching a desired target audience. Tweeting and sharing your movie with other filmmakers won’t cut it. Your distributor needs to have a segmented audience list.

Hubris will not sell your movie.

To become a successful filmmaker, stop incorporating the prospect of film acquisitions into your business plan. Instead, think of yourself as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. 

sell your movieThis means you must become fully invested in the promotion of your movie. At the very least, this includes building a strong social media footprint, a robust mailing list, Facebook and Twitter following.

You must take time to think about movie as your business, complete with a marketing strategy. You must think of yourself as an entrepreneurial filmmaker. And if you have a movie you are looking to distribute, check out our sell your movie resource.

Episodic Funding Model

Brian Norgard is the founder of Chill. And today he stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to share news about the Vigilante Diaries, which is also the first series ever to use the “episodic funding model.” In full disclosure, I manage film acquisitions for Chill – at the same time I thought the filmmaking community would benefit from the Episodic Funding Model, so I included the interview below.

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Jason Brubaker
Tell us a bit about your new series, the Vigilante Diaries.

Brian Norgard
The “Vigilante Diaries,” is a new series starring bombastic Jason Mewes (“Clerks,” “Mallrats” and “Jay and Silent Bob”) alongside a knockout cast.

Jason Brubaker
When did you guys start working on the project?

Brian Norgard
We started development on the Vigilante Diaries two months ago, and it’s finally available.

Jason Brubaker
That’s an amazing turnaround… From development to release in two months!

Brian Norgard
This is an exciting milestone at Chill. Prior to this we focused solely on distributing and marketing films and comedy specials.

Jason Brubaker
Where did the idea come from?

Brian Norgard
It was Jason, Christian (the director) and Paul (writer/actor) – They came to us with a great concept, yet didn’t want to shoot another traditional TV or Web series pilot. They wanted to bring the audience closer to the collaborative experience.

Jason Brubaker
Having seen the cut, it looks you guys figured out a narrative that helps Jason connect with his audience.

Brian Norgard
We were certain that Jason’s hardcore fan base needed to be a integral part of the creative process. Jason’s always maintained a very honest and open relationship with his fans.

Jason Brubaker
Why not go the traditional route for this?

Brian Norgard
The old entertainment platforms simply don’t offer a true two-way engagement channel — in fact they absent of this notion. And that’s a significant disadvantage long-term. The Web has all the properties that can aid in the formulation of world-class entertainment: real-time feedback, rich engagement, niche community, immediacy, personalization and on.

Jason Brubaker
The delineation between the web and TV is increasingly blurred.

Brian Norgard
The great Shane Smith (founder of VICE) further influenced my thinking here with this extemporaneous rant last year, “We just have to do it better. Online is a revolution. The Internet is a revolution and we should be revolutionary when we think about the content we put on it rather than derivative and mimic the shit on TV and make it worse. Let’s say fuck it because the Internet isn’t TV. It’s different. It’s better.”

Jason Brubaker
So how does Vigilante Diaries make the viewing experience different and better?

Brian Norgard
We are being totally public about how much gross revenue the first episode of “Vigilante Diaries” generates. The money counter will increment in real-time. (I know. I know.) What if we bomb? What if we make $5M? So be it. I think Jason’s fans will appreciate our transparency and, more importantly, see that we’re all in this together. Because we are.

Jason Brubaker
That’s a bold move. What else?

Brian Norgard
Jason and the entire cast and crew have agreed to make at least two more episodes — provided they reach $50,000 in gross sales in less than 30 days. We call this episodic funding.

Jason Brubaker
How does episodic funding work?

Brian Norgard
The idea is simple in theory. Audiences will rally around creators. They will support ongoing production with true, old-fashioned patronage. Our episodic funding model represents a new direction for digital series. We’re working outside of the ad-supported world, which lets the creators take risks without answering to brands, networks or agencies. In its purest form, this a model for series that cannot be cancelled as long as viewers are willing to support them.

Jason Brubaker
You’ll know if the audience is engaged or not.

Brian Norgard
Everyone involved with this project is incredibly open to real-time feedback. We are literally going to be asking for help in making each new episode, and it’s clear to all of us that our greatest asset is our audience. We can’t wait to make this series with them. We’ll soon be rolling out more tools to make this process easier.

Jason Brubaker
This sounds a lot like crowdfunding. What makes episodic funding different?

Brian Norgard
Let’s be clear: episodic funding is not crowdfunding, but the model does share some similar psychological properties.

Jason Brubaker
And this is because a portion of the series has already been produced?

Brian Norgard
Correct. This is not a promise for a future product. If you support “Vigilante Diaries,” you are buying the first two episodes and will be able to view them on demand via the Chill platform. “Vigilante Diaries” will be available immediately.

Jason Brubaker
In addition to watching the episodes, what are you guys doing to amplify word of mouth?

Brian Norgard
To help Vigilante Diaries be even more successful, we’re launching a new feature called Patronage, which lets you support the creators even more. Viewers will have the ability to gift DRM-free copies of the episode to friends.

Jason Brubaker
So this means, if I buy an episode, I can also buy additional copies and gift them to my friends?

Brian Norgard
Yes. For example, you can choose to support Jason and the crew at the $14.99 level. This will allow you to gift 3 copies to friends.

Jason Brubaker
Sounds like an exciting way to quickly spread word of mouth.

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Brian Norgard
We’re fascinated about this approach to social distribution but frankly, we don’t know it if will work. Can you imagine a film or series going viral in this way? I can. Could that be you?

Jason Brubaker
What happens if things don’t go as expected?

Brian Norgard
If we fail to reach these goals, it will be on full display for all of you to chuckle at. But that’s okay. We’re open to risk. Countless creators have come through our doors and are interested in this new model because they too see the power of what can happen when an audience gets behind something special.

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Brian Norgard is the founder of Chill. He is a successful serial entrepreneur, investor and product designer. You can follow him on Twitter.com/BrianNorgard or Instragram.com/BrianNorgard. If you’d like to discuss your film with Brian directly, he will personally buy you a Corona at The Standard Hotel.