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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Independent Filmmaker – Why make movies?

Bowling

Image via Wikipedia

Some of my independent filmmaker friends consider independent film to be sacred and they avoid the studios like the devil. Other friends think studio movies are the ONLY movies that count. And they discount indies as a passing fad or a calling card to simply get noticed by the studios. But for me, I don’t care if my movie is produced by my team of indie producers or a studio – as long as my movie gets made.

Let me tell you a story: A few years back, long before I lived in LA and before I produced my first feature – I had written a screenplay with my friend Jared Tweedie. It was this coming of age comedy about bowling called Seven-Ten-Split. I was still living back east at the time. Anyway, after writing the script, I sent it to my actor buddy Jimmi in Los Angeles.

Weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything.

Then one day I got this call. It was Jimmi. He read the script. Loved it. Jimmi offered to get a bunch of his actor friends together for a reading. Asked if I would like to visit Los Angeles. (Twist my arm.)

So the next thing you know I was flying across the country. At the time, it was only my 2nd time in LA and I was super excited. And on the day of the reading, Jared and I walked into a room full of “known” actors we had only formerly seen on TV. (Jimmi is one of the most talented actors I know – and he’s in a lot of movies and TV shows.) Anyway, to say it was a surreal moment would be an understatement.

As these actors read the script and acted out the characters who had (up until this point) only existed in my and Jared’s imaginations – Well, during that time I was transported to a world full of possibilities… A world where my work meant something and had merit with people I respected. I envisioned myself flying all around the world to watch screenings of our movie. I envisioned flashbulbs and fame and fortune… (Come on, you’ve had these thoughts too. Admit it!)

Having someone appreciate your work is a drug. Having some “known” Hollywood players appreciate your work is a better drug, offering a higher high. And when this happens, intense idealized imaginings of success can be your biggest addiction. That was 2003. And I was hooked on getting my movie made.

So what happened to the project?

Nothing.

The truth is, I was too inexperienced. I had a business plan and a private placement memorandum. I had an initial breakdown and a budget… I was even good enough to cold call rich people and get meetings. At the time, I was trying to raise a mere 250K – and my prospective investors kept asking me the same question:

“How do you plan to recoup our money?”

I didn’t have an answer. Back then, the only distribution strategy I could offer was something like this: “My friends are actors on well known TV shows. When we make this movie, we will take it to festivals and because we have name actors, our probability of garnering a distribution deal is pretty good. If we get into festivals and create buzz and get noticed by a distributor, we might have a chance at recouping the investment.”

So why have I decided to share both the good and the not-so-good?

Because, unlike 2003, thanks in part to companies like iTunes and Amazon, you can now incorporate both a marketing plan and a solid VOD distribution plan into your movie business planning. You do not need festivals, name talent or some 3rd party distributor to give you permission.  You can make your movie now! And just as importantly, you can sell your movie now, too.

Does this mean your movie is guaranteed to sell? NO WAY! But it does mean you can finally have a solid business conversation with a prospective investor – in his or her language.

Does this new era of filmmaking mean filmmakers are now responsible for their own marketing, distribution and sales? Yes it does. And while this extra responsibility adds another heavy hat for most of us, it is also extremely liberating to the entrepreneurial filmmaker inside of you.

Think about it – if you can create a plan and answer the “how are you going to recoup my money” without depending on traditional distribution, then talking the talk just got easier. And that should be super inspiring. Because under all the glamor and promise of fame and fortune, the most important part of this process for all of us is the work. And speaking from experience, making movies is a lot more fun than talking about making movies.

And just in case you’re wondering – every-so-often I pick up Seven Ten Split, read a few words and once again experience the “high.” And that is all the motivation I need to pick up the phone, make another call, get another meeting and cultivate another relationship.

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Jason Brubaker is a Los Angeles based indie producer and an expert in Video On Demand Distribution. If you like his articles, you’ll love his book – which you can grab for free by going to www.FreeFilmmakingBook.com

5 Awesome Filmmaking Websites

After exploring all the wonderful filmmaking information here at Filmmaking Stuff, you may benefit from putting some other blogs on your reading list. So to that end, I’d like to point out a few of my filmmaking favorites:

Jon Reiss’ Website
Jon Reiss wrote the famed book Think Outside The Box Office. Like most feature filmmakers, Jon realized that the world of independent film is evolving. I recommend both his book and his blog. Make sure you pay special attention the NEW role of PMD. Jon believes (as do I) that a producer of marketing and distribution is now essential for all modern productions.

Peter Marshall’s Action Cut Print
Peter has been in the industry for a long, long time. His site Action-Cut-Print is updated frequently and it’s full of useful filmmaking tips. Peter is very willing to help filmmakers improve their filmmaking business.

Jurgen Wolff’s Screenwriting Success Site
If you’re looking for advice on screenwriting, I can’t think of a more robust resource than Jurgen’s site. But more importantly, Jurgen is very kind and really wants you to write the best projects you can.

Sheri Candler’s Marketing Site
Sheri is a marketing guru. Her business is totally focused on helping modern moviemakers create an engaged and robust online community for their work that can be used to monetize effectively. So if you have a movie and you are looking for marketing tips, I recommend her site.

Ted Hope’s Truly Free Film Site
Ted Hope is a very well known indie producer. And I think his filmmaking blog provokes a ton of discussion between other filmmakers. Once you get into the conversation, making comments becomes addicting.

Hopefully these resources help you increase your modern moviemaking knowledge. And if you’re new to filmmaking stuff, make sure you instantly download your modern moviemaker tool kit.

Thanks for reading.

Make Filmmaking Your Next Small Business

Quiet please…we have speed…ACTION!

A new website is being launched today that will help take filmmaking out of Hollywood, and put it into the hands of everyday, creative people so that they can combine their life’s ambition of being a filmmaker with owning their own business.

makeyourmovienow.com is the brain child of Jason Brubaker, a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. He has hosted another filmmaking website, Filmmakingstuff.com for years and is taking his experience to the next level.

“makeyourmovienow.com is focused on helping YOU make, market and sell movies more easily,” he says. “The ways movies finally make it to market has changed. makeyourmovienow.com is specifically designed to help grow your fan base, build “buzz” and create community around your title.

“If you want to make a living making movies, you need to realize that your library and the subsequent audience 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,” he emphasizes.

For filmmakers in need, makeyourmovienow.com covers the four key areas of film production: screenwriting, film financing, filmmaking and distribution.

Tell your filmmaking friends!