Some big film distribution deals went down at Park City this year. Followed by a lot of whispered comments and questions like “5-9 million for the documentary!” or “Who gets six million?” and “What does that deal even mean?” And the answer to these questions, it depends…
Film festivals offer more than exposure and opportunity. They can offer insight into your business as a filmmaker through panel events, workshops and round table discussions. And these events answer some of the toughest questions.
One such panel in Park City this January was the Slamdance “Your Film, Your Deal: DIY Distribution and Marketing” presented Adam Chapnick (Founder of Distribber). Without delay, Adam demonstrated where film schools, out-of-date handbooks, and old distribution models failed the indie filmmaker.
[Full Disclosure: Jason Brubaker (founder of this site) also works full time for Distribber.]
The Shocking Truth About Film Distribution Deals
Adam Chapnick started the presentation by providing an overview of a typical film distribution deal and then explained why (as many filmmakers have already experienced) these deals do not bode well for indie filmmakers. Adam’s “no bullshit” approach to modern business models and self-distribution focused on cutting out the middle-man to navigate the modern VOD landscape, while providing attendees a checklist on how to market their own content.
Although creators often wax poetic about their art and their lack of business skills, marketing is simply another step in a collaborative process. The Distribber team outlined the creators’ basic homework in smart, unadorned fashion, peppered with ideas like “If distributors aren’t doing something for you that you can’t do yourself, then they’re not earning your dollars” and “start compiling your email list YESTERDAY.”
Adam went on to define the 3 VOD models (TVOD, SVOD, and AVOD) and provided an overview of a simplified release strategy. He encouraged you to “split test” versions of your movie trailers on YouTube (by monitoring engagement and views). And he offered tips on how to find and cross-promote with your audience and covered tech aspects like file sizes, formats and compression rates. They stressed the importance of your website “hub” and defined what to put on it
The Distribber team capped it off by issuing a few warnings about not giving all of the rights to one entity, though you will be asked for them and to be aware of versioning costs because they could, even after all your hard work and marketing mastery, potentially put you in the red. It was a wealth of information in one panel. And they threw a party afterwards to keep the conversation open.
And the shocking truth about film distribution deals? That the $5-9 million referred to earlier is called “top line revenue.” But what you care about is “net revenue.” Keep this in mind the next time you’re approached by a film distributor.
Annunziata (Nunzi) is an award-winning actor, writer, and unapologetic computer geek who works in film, theatre, television and new media in NY and LA.The sizzle reel for her upcoming TV pilot Battery Park, which she wrote and stars in, (a 2017 Women in Film mini-upfronts selection), is at batteryparktv.com. You can watch her acting reel at annunziata.com. twitter: @nunzitweets, instagram: @nunzipix