Independent Film Distributor Report Card

If you’re an independent filmmaker focused on finding a great distribution deal, you know it’s a tricky world. As a result of VOD as well as declining retail options, many traditional DVD distributors are offering some really bad deals.

This week’s guest post comes from  Sheri Candler. Sheri is an inbound marketing strategist who helps independent filmmakers build identities for themselves and their films. Sheri stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to tell us about a new service for filmmakers called the Distributor ReportCard™.

The Key to Choosing the Best Distributor? Research

We’ve all heard many horror stories from filmmakers who were thrilled to find a distributor for their film only to find the film was mishandled, shelved or the company went under with no recourse for the filmmaker to claim their rights back. There are also distributors so coveted for their professionalism and skill at finding the right audiences for their titles that everyone wants to work with them.

How to separate the wheat from the chaff?

There is a new tool being developed to help independent filmmakers research backgrounds, complaints and recommendations before choosing a distribution partner. The Film Collaborative (TFC) has aggregated all of the information you will need to inform your decisions before you sign agreements and they have called this free resource the Distributor ReportCard™ (DRC). It is an open source wiki anyone can use to voice opinions, experiences, questions and recommendations for both filmmakers and distributors.

The DRC is meant to be an online guide much like Yelp is for restaurants and shops.  TFC founder Orly Ravid says, “For the same reason people really find YELP useful before choosing where to go to dinner, we know that feedback from filmmakers who have worked with distributors will be useful to other filmmakers. We always advise filmmakers to get and check references before signing on with a distributor and this is just an even more unbiased way to get feedback.”

At present, the DRC’s list was pulled together by TFC, but they want that to change. “We had to start somewhere so we listed distributors that we have either worked with or know about. It will take some time before it’s completely thorough and contains plenty of feedback. The more filmmakers and distributors we reach to encourage company submissions and feedback, the faster it will done,” said Ravid. Distributors representing all forms of distribution are included as well as some international sales companies and digital distribution platforms. The list is human edited and vetted regularly to provide the most up to date information on currently operating distributors.

Experiences both negative and positive are encouraged. “The more information and perspectives the better. Just as people rely on Consumer Reports and Yelp and Blue Book to make informed decisions, the DRC is meant to help filmmakers by having information all in one place and rated according to their colleagues’ experiences.” Distributors are also encouraged to participate by answering any questions, misunderstandings or concerns on their respective pages.

The instructions for using the DRC are as follows:

1. Log into/create a wikispacesaccount, The site utilizes wikispaces so you should use a unique username and password. If you are already a member of The Collaborators site (www.thefilmcollaborators.org), you’ll need a different username and password than your Collaborators membership. If you are creating an account, a Wikispaces MY ACCOUNT page will appear.

2. Go to MY WIKI (near upper right-hand corner) and type in FILM DISTRIBUTOR GUIDE. A small window will pop-up underneath with FILM DISTRIBUTION GUIDE. (You can later add this to your favorite wikis and not have to type in the name each time you log in.  You will still need to go to MY WIKI link to select it. Click on FILM DISTRIBUTION GUIDE. The DRC front page will come up.

3. On the far LEFT-HAND SIDE column, select the DISTRIBUTOR you wish look up or to comment on.

4. Once you are on the chosen distributor’s page, click on the DISCUSSION tab.

5. Click the NEW POST button (located just under the distributor’s name, upper left side) if you wish to comment.

6. A NEW POST window will pop-up.

7.  Fill-in your SUBJECT and type your MESSAGE in the pop-up window.

8.  If you want to receive an email when others respond to your post, click the box  “MONITOR THIS TOPIC”.  If not, proceed to #8.

9.  When you are finished entering your missive, click POST.

10.  Your post is complete!

TFC encourages factual and constructive information attributed to named individuals. Acknowledging that some filmmakers may not feel comfortable registering complaints or low opinions of their past or current distribution partners, Ravid said there is an option to post anonymously. “We have a user handle for anyone who wants to use the DRC anonymously and also we are happy to post the comments on anyone’s behalf. You’ll just need to contact the site administrator with your details. We will post that the person making the comment wishes to remain anonymous so those who are doing research can take this into consideration.”

To access Distributor ReportCard, please visit the site

www.distributorreportcard.com

About The Film Collaborative

The Film Collaborative (TFC) — the first non-profit devoted to distribution education and facilitation for independent film. We offer a full range of affordable educational, distribution and marketing services to independent filmmakers looking for distribution sustainability and to reach traditionally underserved audiences. Launched in early 2010 TFC has already provided its services to more than 75 independent films such as Sundance Award Winners We Live in PublicGasLand and Undertow, and SXSW Award Winners Made in China and Weekend.

 

About Distributor ReportCard™:

Distributor ReportCard™ gives filmmakers and producers a chance to SCHOOL THE DISTRIBUTORS. Write reviews, share your experiences and learn from other filmmakers’ successes or mistakes.

Simply click on one of the distributors and you’ll be taken to the info page for that distributor. All information is gathered from their respective website and is not based on a TFC review.

Speak your mind. Create or join a discussion about a specific distributor.

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Filmmaking For a Living

Hollywood Sign

Image via Wikipedia

As a filmmaker, you are expected to make a product (your movie). The money invested to create your product should be less than the eventual sales of your product. If you can not figure out how to achieve this goal, you do not have a business. You instead have an expensive hobby and probably a good demo reel.

There are a lot of filmmakers who attempt to raise money without first considering how their movie will recoup the initial investment. These filmmakers say things like “I have a vision” or “I’m going to make this for the love of filmmaking. Then I’ll get into festivals, get noticed and garner a great distribution deal!” And while it is true that passion, tenacity and blind optimism play an important role in getting your movie produced and seen and hopefully sold, this alone is not enough to drive the masses to your screenings.

This happens in Hollywood all the time. A filmmaker creates a typical business plan that focuses on film festivals as the most viable distribution strategy. And played out, the filmmaker gets the money, hires a crew, makes a movie and then enters the festivals. But months after wrap, well into the festival circuit, these filmmakers realize that the market has changed. The days of awesome DVD acquisitions deals and huge upfront advances are over. And when the last frame flickers off the silver screen, these filmmakers take their dashed-dreams back to their day job.

The veterans of the industry tell us that all this distribution deal disappointment is a result of improved technology. They optimistically tell us that our lost DVD revenues will be recouped by Video On Demand. Some refer to this as simply a market correction, implying that someday, somewhere, someone will figure out how to once again pay the big bucks for movies. But this is a pipe-dream.

Here is the flaw. Most filmmakers depend on DVD distribution for a return on investment. And with deteriorating DVD sales channels, filmmakers are currently left with iTunes, NetFlix and Amazon as the most prominent VOD sales options. My question is this. Who on earth is going to pay a major advance to get your movie into a marketplace that YOU can easily access without the middle man?

This approach to the marketplace changes everything. Your business is no longer dependent on production and capital gains. Nope. These days, the focus for the filmmaker lies in creating multiple streams of movie income over the long term. And if you want to make a living making movies, you need to realize that your libary and the subsequent auidence you source (over your career)  are your major assets. And as a result, your most important filmmaking focus (aside from doing good work) is to acquire and keep a customer.

Like it or lump it, filmmaking has become a small business. The same rules now apply.

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Jason Brubaker is a Los Angles based independent filmmaker and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. If you are one of the many filmmakers seeking movie distribution, you might want to check out The Independent Producer’s Guide To Distribution.