Getting a film distribution deal is exciting. You sit down and read over the paperwork. You agree to the terms and sign on the dotted line. You’ve reached a “destination” for your film, and you feel like everything is fantastic… That is until you hear that dreaded “D word” movie delivery.
No matter which distribution company picks up your movie, you must “deliver” the film after making a deal. And make no mistake. This can be a significant undertaking. Many filmmakers get it wrong and delay the launch of their movies. And in a worst-case scenario, some filmmakers find they cannot deliver their films, which skunks the distribution deal. To avoid common pitfalls, I find it’s best to start thinking about the delivery of your movie before you go into production.
Film QC: Distribution Deliverables
Regarding deliverables, most distributors will request a Quicktime ProRes 422. It is usually okay to deliver a higher resolution. You can have ProRes 444 (a 4k film), but you can’t go lower. QC will reject even ProRes 422 LT for most video-on-demand platforms. The bitrate of ProRes 422 is where you need to be regarding delivery.
When it comes to delivering a movie, in addition to the actual motion file, you’ll also need the following deliverables:
- Photo Stills
- Closed Captions
- Dialogue List
- Music and Effects (M&E) Track
- E&O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance
Here is a quick video on delivering a movie to a distribution company. I give an overview of the process, including different formats and file types to use. I also discuss how to get ready for quality control and some common problems filmmakers face when delivering their movies.
In this video, I talk more about what is involved in delivering a movie. I review some steps involved in the process and what pitfalls to avoid. I also discuss the importance of meeting all the delivery requirements and how this can make or break your movie distribution deal.
Sometimes distributors and sales agents cut their trailers for the film. But if you have a trailer that you miss, you need to deliver that trailer in the highest quality format, just like the motion picture.
For the poster, you will need the format to be PSD, a Photoshop document. That would make it a layered file of the poster. You can’t just give a high res image jpeg of the poster. It needs layers of different sizes that can be made for other platforms. Sometimes distributors and sales agents will re-create the poster and artwork. But if you’ve created a sign they can use, you’re in good shape. Many sales agents and distributors love when you give them usable artwork.
Getting photos while you’re on set is super helpful. Ideally, you want actual stills from a high-resolution camera. I’m not talking about behind-the-scenes stuff. I’m talking about capturing images of actors while they are in a scene. You want it to look like a frame of the movie. These will ultimately be used for the artwork and promotion of the film. (And yes, if you failed to capture these images, you could pull stills from the motion picture file – but this is not ideal.)
Closed captions are for people with hearing impairments. Affordable captions can be created quickly on Rev.com. In addition to dialogue, closed captions also describe sounds in each scene. Once complete, Rev will deliver the file in the SCC format. If you need English subtitles (just the dialogue), Rev can also provide the file in the SRT format. Once complete, you’ll want to review your captions file for any corrections before you deliver.
If your film requires complete translations for other languages, you will often need to include a dialogue list. For example, I’ve had to produce a dialogue list for past deliveries to Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China. The good news is that you can also get dialogue lists using Rev.
Music and Effects (M&E) Track
Including an M&E track is something filmmakers miss a lot. An M&E track is simply the music and effects for your film on a different track than the dialogue. This could be two tracks consisting of one music track and one effects track. Or it could be a single track of music and effects. This is essential for international distribution, especially when the film needs to be dubbed in a different language.
You might argue that subtitles would suffice. But there are countries like Germany and Spain where audiences do not favor subtitles. As a result, distributors and sales agents for these territories will want dubs. So again, if you have an M&E track, you will open your film to more international sales potential.
E&O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance
E&O could be a potential cost down the road. ($3000-6000) Some distributors will provide it for you, and some won’t. Some will require it, and some won’t. It’s an obstacle you’re going to have to face.
With all these delivery elements, it’s best to be on the safe side and be as organized as possible. I suggest you plan for all of this ahead of time. This means you’ll need to factor the cost of delivery elements into your budget. Doing this will put you in much better shape for the eventual delivery. And trust me, distributors and sales agents LOVE it when you have a film that’s very simple to deliver. They will be more excited about that movie and appreciate working with you.
If you want to learn how to find sales agents and distributors, here is my training in film distribution.